Georgia Democrats attack 'Mary the Republican' in mayoral race

Georgia Democrats spent more than $165,000 to paint Mary Norwood as a closet Republican during her 2009 run for mayor. The party has largely avoided attacking the city councilwoman as she rose in the polls in this election – until now.

The Democratic Party of Georgia on Thursday launched a full-scale online attack against Norwood, labeling “Mary the Republican” as a far-right conservative who has a web of connections to GOP figures.

The site highlights Norwood’s high-profile Republican supporters, her hiring of conservative operatives and her refusal to endorse Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s nationally-watched 6th District race.

“Atlanta has had a Democratic mayor since 1881, and we’re not about to let Mary Norwood and the Republican Party steal that office,” said Michael Smith, the party’s spokesman. “Mary Norwood is funded by the GOP, and then she turns around and hands the money right back to Georgia’s far-right element.”

Norwood, who calls herself an independent, has held a consistent double-digit lead in polls since losing that 2009 race to Kasim Reed thanks to support across the political spectrum. An 11Alive poll this week showed she led the field among voters who identify as both strong Republicans and strong Democrats.

Norwood's campaign said she's drawn support from both sides of the aisle because voters are "fed up with corruptible politicians who ignore Atlanta’s communities."

"Democrats and Republicans both know her to be the only candidate they can trust to shepherd our city government into a new era of transparency, trust, and fiscal responsibility," her campaign said.

The Democratic site notes her campaign treasure, Jamie Ensley, is a former chair of the Log Cabin Republicans who endorsed Trump and that state Sen. Jeff Mullis hosted a fundraiser for her. She’s also raised cash from prominent Republicans, including former GOP gubernatorial nominee Guy Millner.

It homes in on campaign expenses of roughly $35,000 to a conservative consulting firm, Campaign Consulting Group, and Chris Perlera, Norwood’s political director. Perlera is a former staffer for Secretary of State Brian Kemp who ran as a Republican for a state House seat in 2012.

And it features a picture of her posing with U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, the Republican who defeated Ossoff in the June special election. It claims she “stood idly by while another Trump ally was elected” to represent Georgia in Congress.

Norwood readied her own webpage - - in response that listed campaign aides who have deep Democratic ties. They include Democratic operatives Zeda Stanley Sartor, Florence Coram and Paul Zucca.

"Mary Norwood's campaign team reflects the diversity of Atlanta," the campaign said. "The team includes members from the African American, Latino, and Asian communities as well active members of Atlanta's LGBTQ and Jewish communities."

If the 2009 race is any indication, the attack is likely the first volley in a barrage to come. And the party suggests it’s launching the assault now – rather than during the runoff phase – in hopes of depressing her support earlier among left-leaning voters.

“We can’t sit idly by and let the Republican Party pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” said Smith.

Read more about the Atlanta mayor's race:

Big endorsements haven’t shifted Atlanta mayor’s race yet

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed a force in race to succeed him

Atlanta mayor's race: A wide-open contest that will shape the region

Why Bernie Sanders is plunging into Atlanta's mayoral race

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.