Atlanta NAACP slams Kasim Reed’s candidacy for mayor

Civil rights group breaks tradition to criticize previous administration
Former mayor Kasim Reed accepts an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134 at Reed's campaign headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Combined ShapeCaption
Former mayor Kasim Reed accepts an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134 at Reed's campaign headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

In an unprecedented announcement from the head of the civil rights organization, the president of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP strongly criticized former mayor Kasim Reed late Wednesday.

Richard Rose told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution there was agreement among the organization’s leadership for him to release “a rare repudiation” of a political candidate on behalf of the chapter.

“The NAACP typically refrains from endorsing a political party or speaking out about a specific candidate. Today, I am breaking that tacit protocol,” Rose said in a written statement. “To do anything less would be an abdication of my mission to help move Atlanta forward, not backward.”

The NAACP was previously a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and the Internal Revenue Service bans such groups from participating in political campaigns.

However, the organization’s national CEO in 2017 changed the NAACP into a 501(c)(4), which allows them to “engage in political campaigns, provided that such activities are not the organization’s primary activity,” according to the IRS.

It’s unclear what this repudiation means for the race. Reed is in a statistical tie with City Council President Felicia Moore and more than 41% of voters are still undecided, according to a recent AJC poll.

Several people and groups have publicly endorsed Reed’s candidacy, including former Atlanta mayor and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young.

In a statement to the AJC, Reed spokeswoman Anne Torres called Rose’s claims “false and wholly without merit.”

“Mayor Kasim Reed is a lifetime member of the NAACP and is committed to the mission and work of this path breaking organization,” Torres said in a statement.

“It is unfortunate that a leader of a local chapter is allowing this historic organization to be used by dark money interests. We have spoken to the national leadership of the NAACP and will await their guidance regarding this deeply disturbing matter.”

Rose donated $500 to city councilman and mayoral candidate Andre Dickens’ campaign, according to Dickens’ Sept. 30 finance disclosure. But the local NAACP said Thursday that the organization itself did not contribute to any of the candidates. The organization said “no dark money” is at play at the chapter, and the full executive board voted on the statement.

Rose’s two-paged statement strongly criticized Reed, who served as mayor from 2010-2018.

He said affordable housing “came to a screeching halt” when Reed’s administration focused on offering generous tax benefits to finance upper income condominiums and rental units along the Beltline and downtown. He then said residents lost out on an estimated $12 million from the Mercedes Benz stadium because the former mayor’s administration didn’t tax the property.

Credit: Branden Camp

Credit: Branden Camp

Additionally, Rose slammed Reed’s endorsement from the city’s police union and condemned that group for never acknowledging police misconduct. In the statement, Rose said seven unarmed Black people were killed by police during Reed’s administration, and Rose insinuated that the deaths could have been avoided had Reed embraced President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing Policy.

Rose claims Reed wasted taxpayer dollars trying to wrest land from Clark Atlanta University and Morris Brown College in “a fight that diverted substantial funds” from those schools. Rose also said Reed’s administration never tried to move or remove Confederate monuments and “other traitorous honorariums around the city” amid the national movement to do so.

In a phone call with The Atlanta Voice, the city’s Black-owned newspaper, Reed called Rose “a defund the police advocate.” He said his administration expanded affordable housing and gave Morris Brown funds to “regain their footing.”

Reed also said the NAACP’s national leadership is “flabbergasted” by Rose’s actions. The national group did not respond to the AJC’s requests for comment.

But Julian Bene, a former Invest Atlanta board member, told the AJC that the city’s money went to creditors in Morris Brown’s bankruptcy, not to Morris Brown itself.

Rose’s statement also mentioned the ongoing federal investigation of corruption at Atlanta City Hall that left several members of Reed’s administration with indictments or convictions. Reed’s personal attorneys said in a statement to the AJC that they were told by federal prosecutors that he’s not under investigation.

“Atlanta can and must do better than elect Kasim Reed again,” Rose said. “Thirteen other candidates are running, some with proven leadership ability and political experience and none with a record of administrative corruption. Please educate yourself on their records. Let’s choose wisely.”

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