Atlanta mayor earns prime political ‘real estate’ at DNC on Thursday

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms helped kick off the fourth night of the DNC by paying tribute to the late John Lewis.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ prime-time speaking slot at Thursday’s Democratic National Convention caps off the mayor’s explosive rise into national politics.

In just three years, Bottoms went from one of 15 Atlanta City Council members to one of a handful of women considered as potential running mates in Joe Biden’s presidential bid.

ExploreOn convention's final day, spotlight will fall on the legacy of Georgia Congressman John Lewis

“Mayor Bottoms is a rising star in the Democratic Party,” Democratic National Party Chairman Tom Perez told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “In this convention, one of the things we want to do is highlight our rising stars.”

Addressing her largest and most important political audience, Bottoms is one of eight politicians scheduled to speak Thursday night before Biden officially accepts the party’s nomination. She is sandwiched between California Governor Gavin Newsom and Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Keisha Lance Bottoms (left) and Michelle Obama
Keisha Lance Bottoms (left) and Michelle Obama

Other speakers include U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Peter Buttigieg, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang — all former Democratic presidential candidates.

“This is some of the most sought after real estate in politics and demonstrates that she is in the inner circle of the Biden team,” said Brian Robinson, a Republican political strategist and former communications director for Gov. Nathan Deal.

Although she didn’t make the national ticket, Bottoms’ newfound prominence in national politics, and her close relationship with the former vice president, could earn her a top position in his administration.

In an interview with The AJC on Wednesday, Bottoms said Biden interviewed her for the VP position the Saturday before he made the announcement, then later called to let her know he was choosing someone else.

Bottoms downplayed possibility of a cabinet post she might be offered.

“This is about focusing on November and making sure Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are elected,” Bottoms said, adding that she would see where conversations go after that. She said it was an honor to be part of VP selection the process.

Bottoms told the AJC she would speak for approximately 3 minutes on Thursday.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms participated in a digital discussion Monday, June 1, 2020 hosted by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with mayors of other metro areas about recent protests.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms participated in a digital discussion Monday, June 1, 2020 hosted by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with mayors of other metro areas about recent protests.

While it’s not common for mayors to be chosen for presidential cabinet positions, it has happened. Most recently, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro became the youngest member of Barack Obama’s cabinet when he was named HUD Secretary in 2014. Obama also named sitting Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as Secretary of Transportation in 2013.

Buttigieg is reportedly also under consideration for a cabinet post in a Biden administration.

At the very least, political experts say, Bottoms will have the ear of White House from her office at Atlanta City Hall.

And Robinson said those relationships pay off for the city and the state. He said Mayor Kasim Reed’s close relationship with Obama served the state well under a Republican governor.

Reed was given a speaking slot at the 2016 Democratic Convention, although not on the last night running up to Hillary Clinton accepting the nomination.

“These relationships are hugely important to the state’s priorities,” Robinson said.

Daniel Halpern, an executive committee member and regional finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, said that she would likely be a candidate for a cabinet position in a Biden administration.

Biden currently has a significant lead over Trump in national polls.

“It would only make sense if someone was under strong consideration for vice president that they would also be under consideration as a cabinet member,” Halpern said.

July 29, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms remarks as Congressman John Lewis lies in state in the Georgia Capitol Rotunda during ÒHonoring the Life and Legacy of Congressman John Robert LewisÓ ceremony on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
July 29, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms remarks as Congressman John Lewis lies in state in the Georgia Capitol Rotunda during ÒHonoring the Life and Legacy of Congressman John Robert LewisÓ ceremony on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Perez said that Bottoms’ leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic has been steady, strong and compassionate.

“She’s had to confront a governor who has made life difficult at every turn, who has put politics and pettiness above public health,” Perez said.

Gov. Brian Kemp sued Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council over her executive order mandating that people wear masks in public, arguing it was unlawfully more restrictive than his own executive order.

Kemp dropped the suit last week.

Perez also said that a lack of federal leadership in dealing with the virus has highlighted the need for strong local leaders.

“It is all too frequently up to mayors to keep our communities safe, to lead,” Perez said. “And that’s exactly what Mayor Bottoms has been doing. I’m a big fan of hers.”

-- Staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this story.

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