Civil rights legend the Rev. Joseph Lowery endorsed Atlanta mayoral candidate Kasim Reed on Wednesday while opponent Mary Norwood met with gay and lesbian community leaders as both campaigns try to encourage supporters to come back to the polls on Dec. 1.
Lowery said he was dismayed by the 30 percent turnout in the Nov. 3 general election. Atlanta's turnout was 41 percent in 2001, the last seriously contested mayor's race.
"This is the home of Martin Luther King. This is the home of the civil rights movement," said Lowery, who worked with King to ensure African-Americans had the right to vote in the 1960s.
Turnout will be key for both campaigns, since polls suggests there are few undecided voters. A smaller percentage of voters typically turn out for runoffs. The runoff is five days after Thanksgiving and some Atlantans may be more focused on Christmas shopping.
In Midtown, Norwood was greeted by about 200 members of the LGBT community at Amsterdam Atlanta.
"Tonight's event shows how inclusive my campaign is," Norwood said. "We can be a city that is fun and without fear. When I say I am going to be there for you on the state, local and national level, I am going to be there."
Norwood has gained strong support in the LGBT community for her support of same-sex marriage. It is estimated that up to 15 percent of Atlantans are in the LGBT community. They could represent a key swing vote, said Kyle Bailey, the former political director for Georgia Equality, one of the largest gay advocacy and lobbying groups in the state.
"She is the only candidate who is for 100 percent equality and supports marriage equality," said Bailey said. "She has been there for our communities and our neighborhoods, and she has been a staunch advocate for the LGBT community."
That might start at home.
"Mary Norwood is my stepmother," said Dorsey Norwood said in introducing the candidateher. "And I am gay."
Later GLBTATL announced on its website their support of Norwood. The local gay advocacy group was at the forefront of protests against the police department after the raid of the Atlanta Eagle, a local gay club.
Lowery said he's supporting Reed, who gave up his state Senate seat to run for mayor, because of his ties at the state Capitol and because he believes Reed can better handle the city's financial challenges.
Lowery said he wished Reed and the other candidates had better tackled the overarching message of a controversial memo released in August that suggested African-American residents present issues they want the next mayor and city council to address. Reed called the memo "divisive," primarily because it said some black voters wanted to unite behind the African-American candidate best equipped to defeat Norwood, who is white.
"I was a little disappointed in the reaction to the memo, but like Tuesday following Monday, you move on," Lowery said.
Reed said he was grateful for the endorsement.
"It is our time to accept responsibility. The torch has been passed," the candidate said.