Possible Mayoral Candidates Increasing
BY DAVID STOKES
While stumpin' continues to grind daily with fever-pitch gusto within Georgia for the U.S. Senate race between Michelle Nunn and David Perdue, along with other statewide races which includes five African-American female candidates for respective Constitutional seats, the office of Atlanta mayor is heating up as well with known and unknown names who are said to be venturing into the race—at least by word of mouth—that will make the contest, to be decided in 2017, an interesting test of will and popularity that could soon alter the face of local politics.
Although Mayor Kasim Reed has just positioned himself well into the top seat in City Hall at Trinity and Mitchell streets in downtown Atlanta, after being inaugurated for a second term last January, talk of the city's next chief executive is abound with an eclectic mixture of political personalities who are African-American, as well as whites with a long history of community service within "the city too busy to hate". With another three years before city elections are held in Atlanta, names of candidates are popping up around town either in 'street committee' meetings or during dinner table conversations in political hot spots such as historic Paschal's Restaurant on Northside, Manuel's Tavern at North Avenue and Boulevard and even at the Piccadilly's in southwest Atlanta. Among the names of possible top contenders for the $200,000 a year influential office (at presstime) are city Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell, Councilman Ivory Lee Young, Jr. of southwest Atlanta's Vine City community, Councilwoman Felicia Moore of northwest Atlanta, at-Large Councilwoman Mary Norwood of Buckhead, Councilman Kwanzaa Hall of intown Atlanta, and Andrea Boone, director of Atlanta's Community Affairs unit and former executive assistant to Councilman C.T. Martin, respectively. Additionally, the most recent name The Inquirer has exclusively learned of another contender vying for the mayor's seat is Peter Ammon, the former chief operating officer within Mayor Reed's administration who resigned in 2013 to become a partner with Bain & Co., a worldwide management consulting firm, headquartered in Boston, MA. While the slew of aforementioned possibilities is a group who brings various knowledge into City Hall and for a myriad of community projects, the most noticeable fact is that within the next four years, Atlanta could very well possess a non-black mayor for the first time in 41 years, upon Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. (1938-2003) becoming the first African-American mayor of Atlanta, who was first elected in 1973. (Atlanta's last white chief executive was Sam Massell, who is now an 87 year old Buckhead resident and is president of the Buckhead Business Association of north Atlanta.) While most would provide no definitive answer of confirmation to The Inquirer this past summer on whether the mayor's seat is being sought, The Inquirer has been informed by sources requesting anonymity of various individuals' intent to go after the job in earnest for donations and endorsements following this November 4th's midterm elections battle. During a telephone conversation several months ago, Mary Norwood indicated to The Inquirer, "Right now, I just want to concentrate on being the best at-Large representative for the citizens of Atlanta that I can be," when queried by a reporter if seeking another campaign to become mayor was going to occur. (Ms. Norwood, along with Grady Hospital Foundation chief Lisa Borders, lost to Mayor Reed in 2008.) When recently reached by The Inquirer, city council President Mitchell would only state that he "would not be running for the council president's seat again," without indicating more. Councilman Young said several weeks ago to a reporter when asked of a mayoral campaign, "I believe God has called me to do the present work I'm completing within District 3." Furthermore, during her summer vacation in July, Ms. Boone, who is the oldest of civil rights activist Joe Boone, indicated via cell phone that "she did not want to talk about any work" while vacationing in the Bahamas. Also, Councilwoman Moore, who represents District 9 in northwest Atlanta, was succinct when asked if vying for the mayor's seat was an option: "No, I just ran for another council term—but there may be some interest in running for the council president's seat" in three years. (At presstime, neither Mr. Ammon nor Councilman Hall returned phone calls seeking comment; however, a knowledgeable City Hall insider revealed exclusively to The Inquirer recently that "(Ammon) has said, while at another individual's fundraiser, that he will run for mayor of Atlanta" in 2017.) Therefore, the political dynamics of and within Atlanta have changed from a dominant white majority to, beginning in the '70s, an African-American majority. However, four decades later, the pendulum may swing back to its origin if either Norwood or Ammon is victorious in 36 months. Additionally, the prospective candidacies of Ammon and Norwood led to the question for one of the city's top political scientists just where might Atlanta being headed should the majority of voters choose a white over one of color. Last week, Clark Atlanta University's political science dean, William Boone, Ph.D., took time between classes to answer several questions in reference to the political face of the city that's been enraptured by a civil rights legacy the past four decades alongside a progressive political spectrum that now captures the heart of a nation.
AI: With the possible entry of Ms. Norwood and Mr. Ammon for the mayor's race, what will politics look like, and what's the political spectrum overall, for Atlanta in the New Millennium?
WB: Well, with the change of demographics within Atlanta, politics here is definitely changing. The people living here are different today than in the '70s. There's also a different kind of people living here with no ties to Atlanta and its politics of 'norm,' per se. Therefore, they are just voting for the best qualified person in their mind. Make no mistake, too, that Mary Norwood's running for mayor six years ago ..., and the support she received from the black community means that there is some disquiet among the black community, and that kind of breaking ranks with black candidates was significant, and could be so the next time around. In Atlanta today are younger, more affluent voters who weren't necessarily here in the '70s; they are not tied to the civil rights history here or anything else that has otherwise helped shape Atlanta.
AI: What do viable white candidates seeking to become mayor of Atlanta tell you about the city and its history?
WB: The city is now less African-American than in the '70s, and whites are more open with voting, along with the more prevalent white influx into the city. The question of race no longer plays a huge dominant factor of who is getting elected into office.
AI: Why now? Why are we witnessing whites wanting/seeking to become mayor of Atlanta?
WB: Nothing really definite there, but it is depending on blacks' thinking of what any candidate will bring into the office that attracts the candidate to run, as well as the voter to cast a nod to a particular individual for the office.
AI: How do you think black Atlantans will react to whites running for mayor?
WB: A white candidate could garner substantial black support next go round, but it's the white business establishment of Atlanta, some will remember, that remains an influential force and factor with the city's politics.
AI: In this New Millennium, what will Atlanta look (and feel) like should a white candidate be elected in 2017?
WB: It would not be such a big difference with what we see today in terms of vision for the city. Really, the color of a candidate would not matter, as there are a lot of factors involved in the equation towards the city's success. However, 40 years later, the black vote is still important, and while they may need motivating to go to the polls, voting is determined by who's running for a particular office and how you get them to the polls to vote.
AI: After Mayor Reed, will Atlanta have another African-American mayor again?
WB: (Laughing) I don't know. I can't predict the future.
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‘Heartgrown’ Politics Hits Town
Former President Bill Clinton came to Atlanta several weekends ago, on Saturday, Sept. 13, to lend support to Democrat Michelle Nunn (behind Clinton), for her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Nunn is running against David Perdue, a Republican for north Georgia, for the Senate seat. Shown is Clinton shaking hands with patrons at the Homegrown Restaurant, at 689 Memorial Drive, SE Atlanta, near the state capitol. Election Day will be on Tuesday, Nov. 4.