Mayoral contributions still slim; money raised outside Georgia

The economic recession is continuing to take its toll on Atlanta's mayoral race -- which is forcing the candidates to search here and outside Georgia for contributions.

The leading candidate in the money race, Kasim Reed, has raised $1.4 million, campaign records show. By contrast, Shirley Franklin raised $2.65 million by this point in her successful 2001 mayoral bid.

"The donors who have typically donated [the maximum of] $2,400 are giving $1,000," said Liz Flowers, a spokeswoman for candidate Lisa Borders, the City Council president. "Not because they don't want to, but the economy is so tough."

Much of the money going to the campaigns of Reed and his two chief competitors -- Borders and Councilwoman Mary Norwood -- is coming from sources who have endorsed their campaigns or have close ties to them.

For Reed, an attorney, it's fellow lawyers. For Borders, who runs Grady Memorial Hospital's fund-raising arm, she's getting donations from health care professions. For Norwood, who began her political career as a community activist, the money is coming from retirees and some of the city's most vocal critics.

"It's the usual suspects," said Bob Holmes, a former state representative and a retired Clark Atlanta University professor. "They split their vote. They split their donations."

Each candidate is also getting money outside Georgia. About one-quarter of Reed's donors live outside the state. Records show 6.5 percent of Borders' donors don't live in Georgia. Norwood, who has marketed herself as the grass-roots candidate, had 29 contributions from donors who live in 14 other states and Washington, D.C.

Reed campaign spokesman Reese McCranie said the campaign is reaching out to donors who know the candidate best, which includes longtime friends and college buddies.

"Since Maynard Jackson, nobody has been elected mayor in Atlanta without significant support from outside of Atlanta," McCranie said. "We might be raising money out of state, but we’re spending it all in Atlanta.”

Reed, who was endorsed by the North Georgia Labor Council, received contributions from that group and several unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America.

Norwood, who has more cash on hand than all of her competitors combined, accepted contributions from Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford, Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation leader John Sherman and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Guy Millner.

Borders' donors included former state Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears and Ebenezer Baptist Church Pastor Raphael Warnock.

All three candidates received $2,000 from Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

"Arthur has long-standing relationships with those three candidates," said Penny McPhee, vice president of governmental affairs for Blank's business holdings. "We felt they were all capable candidates, and at this point, he chose [to donate to] all three."

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