It wasn’t the final, final exchange – that happens tomorrow on V-103/WAOK at 8 a.m. Monday morning. (Yours truly will be one of the interrogators.)
However, WSB-TV’s Sunday night debate between the two runoff candidates for mayor of Atlanta was indeed the last televised affair – and resulted in some testy exchanges between Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed.
The set-to last only 30 minutes. Anchor John Pruitt, the sole questioner on this Thanksgiving weekend, immediately asked about “the elephant in the room” – i.e., the racial stuff. Pruitt asked how the city could smooth things over after Tuesday’s vote.
Reed had the first crack. Said he:
We can start on election night by deciding that whomever wins – that if Ms. Norwood is fortunate enough to be elected mayor on Dec. 1, I’ve already committed to go to her side — if she would have me there, immediately — so we can begin healing this city. Equally, if I am fortunate enough to be elected mayor by the people of the city of Atlanta on Dec. 1, I would offer a hand to Ms. Norwood and ask her to come and join me as well
It will be vital, no matter which one of us ultimately prevails, that we immediately begin working to heal our city that is the Atlanta way, and to that I am committed.
This was Norwood’s take:
I look at our campaign as having been one of total inclusion. I look at our campaign as one that has been going for two years, where we’ve had tremendous support all across the city. So when people talk about the divide, we have not had that in our campaign.
And I will reach out to all citizens and serve them as I have served them on City Council. That’s why we have such strong grassroots support that transcends every, every division that could possibly be thought of in our city. I have had my campaign stay completely away from anything that could be considered divisive.
Reed was unwilling to let the matter rest. He asked:
In your most recent commercial, you state that some people are trying to divide our city along racial lines. When you say “some,” I just wanted to know, for the record tonight, and for the citizens of Atlanta, who you’re referring to. And would you please cite specific examples, and the individual or group that you’re referring to.
Surely you have read the news. Surely you’ve been watching television. And there have been many instances in the past several months where there have been racial decisions that have been brought up. What I have done is never to respond, because my campaign – I had national people come down to Atlanta, and ask me to respond, wanting to fuel the flame of a racial divide
But my campaign has been one of total inclusion. I love wonderful people in this town, and I am so proud to have all of them supporting my campaign. If you need specifics, I can certainly get my staff to give your staff some of the things that have been going on.
We should share specifics with the citizens of Atlanta. When you make a charge in an ad that you send out over the airwaves and you say some people are attempting to divide our city, I think that you should be courageous enough to say who those individuals are.
And if you don’t, you owe the people of Atlanta an apology after the 18 months that we have spent trying to keep a high-minded campaign. In the closing days of the campaign, you have injected an issue without being able to back it up with facts.
Norwood had her own question about her opponent’s advertising:
Mr. Reed, you say you want to clean up the mess at city hall. That’s your latest commercial. But where have you been for the last eight years — when I have fought for audits, fought for audits of the watershed department, of the finance department, forced investigations, demanded reviews of other departments. Where have you been?
I’ve actually been getting things done, as opposed to talking about getting things done. You know, you talk about water audits. That’s actually pretty funny. I co-authored the legislation that provided the [city] half a billion dollars in low-interest loans. And you know what john, as a part of that legislation, we demanded audits be included — in terms of the state loaning money to the city of Atlanta. So audits were guaranteed….In debate after debate, you say, ‘I couldn’t get the information, I couldn’t get it done.’…Where have you been, Ms. Norwood?
I would say that I’m not the mayor’s protégé, as opposed to my colleague. So I didn’t have – there are things that I was not able to get, Mr. Reed, because I was not the insider, I have been the outsider, fighting for our citizens and fighting for our neighborhoods for years. And I believe we could ask every viewer here and they would say, Mary Norwood is not part of the current regime.
And Reed’s riposte:
And not getting very much done.
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