Borders '75%' sure who she will endorse

Former Atlanta mayoral candidate Lisa Borders is expected Wednesday to endorse former state Sen. Kasim Reed over Councilwoman Mary Norwood in the Dec. 1 runoff.

While Borders stopped short of an announcement during an hourlong interview late Tuesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the outgoing City Council president indicated she was "75 percent" certain of her choice. A news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in Midtown.

During the interview in her council office, Borders, who finished third in last week's mayor's race, said her decision will be based on whether she thinks Reed or Norwood can best improve the city's finances.

"The question becomes for me who can actually deliver what the city needs," Borders said. "Who will be able to withstand the financial storm and who can pull the city together."

Reed spokesman Reese McCranie declined to comment, referring all calls to Borders. The council president met Thursday with Reed and on Friday with Norwood.

The council president finished a distant third in last week's mayoral election, with 14.5 percent of the vote. Her showing surprised many political observers since she was endorsed by the city's largest police union, some prominent business and religious leaders, and other groups.

Borders said she thought she was neck-and-neck with Reed for a spot in the runoff. She thinks Mayor Shirley Franklin's announcement to a national television audience the night before the election that she was voting for Reed was a major factor in the race. Borders said her polling data showed about 12 percent of voters were undecided before last week's election.

"Very shrewd. Very shrewd," Borders said of the mayor, whom she admires. "I give [Franklin] credit."

Borders did her best among voters in central Atlanta precincts, where both candidates are fiercely competing for support in the runoff. For example, on Monday, Reed held a news conference at the corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Freedom Parkway to announce the support of former Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jim Martin and others. One hour later, less than a mile south at the intersection of Boulevard and Freedom Parkway, Norwood waved at motorists.

Norwood dominated in north Atlanta while Reed led the field in southwest Atlanta. A Borders endorsement could be useful in intown neighborhoods such as Inman Park, Morningside and the Old Fourth Ward.

Borders believes her campaign suffered because Reed beat her to airing an ad on television stations affiliated with a network, which draw larger audiences than cable channels. It typically costs more money to air an ad on a network affiliate, and Reed raised more money ($1.6 million) than any candidate in the race. Borders raised $1.3 million.

Borders said she was not bitter about last week's results, although she has wanted to be mayor since she was a child. She conceded her position in the middle on some issues possibly hurt her.

The council president said she stood by her decision to withdraw from the race in August 2008, which she said was necessary to care for ailing parents. Borders got back in the race in April, saying she was in a better position to help them.

"It is difficult for me to say you can do the right thing for the city [as a mayoral candidate] if your own house is falling apart," said Borders, who didn't rule out another run for political office.

Borders said she didn't think her campaign was hurt by a controversial memo suggesting that some African-Americans wanted to rally behind her candidacy to defeat Norwood, who is white.

Borders thanked her supporters but said her biggest disappointment was the low voter turnout of 30 percent. She said her biggest campaign regret was not talking more about her accomplishments as council president.

The council president said she'll lobby the new mayor and council to assume control of collecting sales tax revenue from state government. Borders believes a private company can collect more money than the state. Norwood and Reed have been skeptical of the idea.

Borders said she would return to her job as president of a foundation to raise money for Grady Memorial Hospital, stay engaged in city issues and take a long overdue vacation.

"I think I'm due," she said.