Atlanta mayoral race goes down to the wire

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin snuck out of Sunday night’s Atlanta Press Club mayoral debate just as the six candidates were making their closing statements.

Asked if she learned anything new to inform her coveted endorsement, the mayor just smiled, said nothing and drove away.

If the mayor is still undecided, Sunday's debate did little to separate the top candidates. For the 47th time, Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed and Jesse Spikes traded jabs on everything from whether the state should take over MARTA to what political party they belonged to.

The line of the night came from Borders in an exchange with Norwood. Borders was asked if there was anything during the Franklin administration that she disagreed with in her role as City Council president.

"I made sure the trains were running on time. I didn't try to be 16th legislator or the shadow mayor," Borders said. "If you are looking for instances where I opposed something wrong, I have not done that because I have seen nothing egregiously wrong."

Norwood: “So I assume you are comfortable with the way things are going on at City Hall?”

Borders: “Well, you know what happens when we assume.”

But in one of the most heated exchanges, Borders and Reed battled over conflicts of interests. Borders called for Reed, if elected, to terminate any contract with his law firm, Holland & Knight. She also called for Reed to fire his brother is he is elected mayor. Reed’s brother has worked for the city for 10 years as the manager for contract compliance.

Reed said he has no problem with his brother working for the city.

Reed added that if Borders wanted him to end ties with his company and his brother, she should also end ties with the developer Cousins Properties, her former employer.

Presumed front-runner Norwood was grilled heavily about her party affiliation.

Reed said that Norwood’s voting patterns show that she has voted Republican 70 percent of the time in the past 20 years, including in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 1999.

“I have stated I have voted for Democrats and Republicans,” Norwood said. “It was always more important for me to look for a moderate candidate coming from my part of the city. Sometimes what you do is do no harm and vote for someone who is gonna stand on the general ballot.”

Norwood stressed that she is not a Republican, but an Independent. She said she can’t remember whom she voted for for president in the last few elections and can’t recall voting for George W. Bush.

Although Spikes is still lingering in the single digits, he said he feels good going into the final week.

“We are surging and rising in the polls,” Spikes said. “If all the people who said I am the best candidate will vote for me, then I will win.”

After Sunday’s debate, held at the Georgia Public Broadcasting headquarters in Midtown, the candidates immediately went back to campaigning. Reed left to attend an event with support and rapper Ludacris. On Saturday night, Borders was host of a fund-raiser with comedian Steve Harvey and basketball legend Julius “Dr. J.” Erving.