Cabral Franklin, Atlanta politico and son of former mayor, has died

Cabral Franklin, a key Atlanta political strategist and son of former Mayor Shirley Franklin, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.

Friends and associates describe Franklin as one of the state Democratic party’s most important behind-the-scenes players, an influential political operative whose work on local, state and even national campaigns stood on its own merits.

The managing partner of Franklin Communications won national awards for his radio advertisements for President Barack Obama’s re-election. He also worked on campaigns for former Gov. Roy Barnes, his mother and several other local elected officials, and played a significant role in the 2012 T-SPLOST transportation referendum campaign outside of Atlanta. The referendum passed in three of the regions under his purview.

He didn’t rely on his mother’s prominence, said Chris Carpenter, his longtime business partner.

“Obviously, being Shirley Franklin’s son had a cachet, but he carried his own weight by leaps and bounds. That was never an issue,” Carpenter said. “He just understood people and politics better than any person I’ve ever known.”

News of his illness spread quietly in Georgia political circles last year after he received the diagnosis of advanced lung cancer, though he was not a smoker. Still, many were stunned to learn of his sudden death. He was 41 years old.

Franklin is the husband of political fundraiser Candice Franklin, with whom he has two daughters. “I’ve lost my best friend and love of my life,” Candice Franklin said.

Shirley Franklin said in a brief statement Tuesday that her son was surrounded by family at the time of his death. Cabral Franklin, the former mayor’s second child, has two sisters. “He was deeply loved,” she said, thanking the public for their thoughts and prayers.

Former Barnes Chief of Staff Bobby Kahn said Franklin gleaned his sharp instincts from his mother and his late father, David Franklin, a longtime Atlanta politico who served under Mayor Maynard Jackson. Cabral Franklin, Jackson’s godson, grew up around surrounded by Atlanta’s political machine.

“When he would talk, I could hear his father and his mother,” Kahn said. “He could see the big picture, and he did not get distracted by stuff that didn’t matter.”

Kahn said Cabral Franklin was poised to play a critical role in what he described as the Democratic party’s attempt at gaining ground with voters after years of Republican control. He was a numbers guy who many turned to for get-out-the-vote efforts.

“I’ve got to tell you, things have been pretty bleak for us,” Kahn said of the party. “We’re turning a corner, and I think he would have been one of the leaders of the comeback.”

Franklin enjoyed the machinations of campaigning but preferred to stay out of the spotlight, friends said. Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Rebecca DeHart said Franklin was “brilliant, kind and calm — even in the most trying of times.”

He had been reserved about his struggles throughout his illness and had recently begun a new course of treatment when he experienced a significant setback, friends said.

Councilman Andre Dickens, whose long-shot campaign Cabral Franklin managed in 2013 against H. Lamar Willis, said Franklin had been his biggest supporter since he first spoke of running for office while both were still in high school.

“He believed in me, more than anybody else,” he said. “I’ve talked to Cabral every day since February 2013. … I’m gonna miss him, miss him dearly.”

Read and sign the online guestbook for Cabral Franklin