With the race narrowing to two, the advantage clearly lies with Willis. She has a more than 2-to-1 fundraising advantage over Howard, who currently faces three civil lawsuits from female employees past and present alleging harassment. Also, the GBI is investigating Howard for use of a nonprofit to supplement his salary.
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But Howard has shown he won’t go down without a fight, attacking Willis as a pawn of Republican kingmakers and accusing her of promising not to prosecute cops in exchange for the Atlanta Police Union’s endorsement. He supplied no proof in support of those accusations.
Howard blamed his underwhelming performance on the police union, continuing a war of words that began when he criminally charged six Atlanta Police Department officers who violently detained two college students during recent protests downtown.
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“Unfortunately, Fulton County and Atlanta have now, for the first time in our histories, joined several urban cities that are seeing police unions take major roles in the outcome of local political races,” Howard said in a statement. “The Atlanta Police Union has endorsed and is funding my opponent along with Republican Mary Norwood. Even though violent crime is down by 70% in Atlanta, Mary Norwood and the Police Union are not satisfied because I have followed my oath as an independent District Attorney who prosecutes police officers when citizens are killed without justification.”
But the veteran prosecutor has also faced criticism for his record of prosecuting police officers.
Monteria Robinson, whose son, Jamarion, was shot at 76 times inside his girlfriend’s East Point apartment in 2016 by a fugitive task force made up of local law enforcement and federal authorities, said she no longer trusts Howard.
Jamarion Robinson, 26, who struggled with schizophrenia, was being served a warrant for allegedly firing a gun at officers in a previous encounter.
“Paul Howard has failed my family and has not tried to indict the officers who murdered my son even though he’s been promising me he’s going to take action for nearly four years,” Robinson said. “Now he wants to make people think he’s going to indict the officers who dragged two students out of their car. I do not believe him at all!”
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Willis, who made her former boss’s character a central issue of the campaign, said Howard will do anything to remain in office. She doubts his insistence that he had nothing to do with a campaign flyer accusing Willis of aligning with Norwood and President Donald Trump in an effort to “lynch Paul Howard.”
“The rules don’t apply to him,” she said Wednesday. “It’s never about right or wrong with him. It’s about what’s best for Paul.”
Wise Smith, whose campaign targeted younger and more progressive voters, could emerge as a pivotal figure in the race. He has not said whether he’ll endorse either candidate, though during the campaign he was often critical of Howard, accusing him of leading by fear.
Staffers are “scared of being reprimanded, afraid of being harassed,” Wise Smith said at a debate in April.
Howard has yet to embrace being the underdog, a role he’s never had to play before. His last serious challenge came in 2000, when he narrowly defeated Republican John Turner. After that, he ran unopposed in every election until this year.
“Please help me prove you cannot purchase the District Attorney’s Office,” he said Wednesday.