Torpy at Large: In mayor’s race, Hizzoner goes out Bottoms up

Keisha Lance Bottoms, that is. It’s about Reed’s legacy
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

First, let me say this to Mayor Kasim Reed: No, sir, I do not want to be the press guy for mayoral candidate Mary Norwood, as you suggested.

Such a job would not be as bad as having to be a communications staffer for another mercurial politician. But writing press releases saying, “Isn’t Mary swell?” would just not be my bag. Besides, Norwood runs at 110 mph, which would wear me out, and her position statements are often hard to untangle.

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Last week, I wrote a column saying Hizzoner was attacking City Council President Ceasar Mitchell to keep him from making it to the runoff election in the electoral sweepstakes to replace Reed as mayor. While prepping for the news conference, Reed printed out a bunch of posters that included Mitchell's ethics fines, just so people watching the news with their sound turned off would digest the point.

Mitchell, a southwest Atlanta native, received an endorsement from former Mayor Andrew Young and some of Atlanta's other civil rights lions. And Mayor Reed was darned determined that Mitchell wouldn't Ceas momentum on that side of town.

The city’s southwest side has put mayors in office for 40 years — all of them black, just like most of the residents there. In fact, it was a furious last-minute push there that won the day for Reed in the 2009 mayoral runoff over Norwood, who is white. The scant 700-vote margin no doubt still chaps the mayor.

This time around, Reed, who can’t run again, is backing City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms. The mayor doesn’t want her to come in second on the southwest side, because if she does, she won’t make the two-candidate runoff.

The mayor is a master politician and a competitive fellow, and supporting a losing candidate just won’t do.

Well, actually, he is pretty good at supporting losing candidates. In 2013, he supported Councilmen H. Lamar Willis and Aaron Watson in their citywide races. But despite that support, they became former incumbents. Andre Dickens and Norwood now occupy those posts.

Also, Reed went all in against Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who was — and still is — a constant pain in his posterior.

So, Bottoms ought not be measuring the drapes in the mayor’s office.

But that same office is now a campaign shop for the Bottoms’ campaign, as evidenced by the Mitchell-bashing and an official press-release posted on the city website.

In it, the mayor, through his city-paid speechwriter, chides me for the piece on Ceasar and repeated "hit pieces."

A new poll shows Mary Norwood with a double digit lead over her 11 mayoral opponents and some are again speculating that Atlanta could soon see a white mayor after a 44-year drought. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

But the real purpose of Hizzoner’s latest diatribe is to take digs at Norwood. Bottoms gets to have opponents bashed (by someone who’s real good at it) and doesn’t have to dirty her hands.

»» RELATED: The Mayor's Response to Torpy's "Et tu, Kasim?" column

The mayor went on: “Voters likely do not know that Councilwoman Norwood charged the city of Atlanta thousands of dollars for robo-calls about community meetings from a company she owns. It’s interesting that neither Mr. Torpy nor the AJC has deigned to cover this clearly questionable activity — especially in the middle of a competitive campaign.

“But because Norwood gets 54 percent of her support from Republicans, she’s apparently not a candidate for scrutiny.”

This one is a golden oldie from 2009. The race is non-partisan, but calling a candidate “Republican” in Atlanta is like calling someone a Commie in Alabama. Norwood was caught having her picture taken with Karen Handel, the GOP meanie who spanked Little Johnny Ossoff in the recent congressional donnybrook.

Norwood says she sold her robo-call company five years ago. She said she used the company a decade ago to advertise community meetings, adding the company was a registered city vendor and she was cleared when an ethics complaint was filed.

Atlanta has a crowded field of candidates hoping to be the city’s next mayor. L-R top: Peter Aman, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, John Eaves. Center: Vincent Fort, Kwanza Hall, Ceasar Mitchell. Bottom: Mary Norwood, Michael Sterling, Cathy Woolard.

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But let’s get back to Hizzoner: “Instead, Torpy spins negatives at the leading Democratic candidate, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is polling first among Democrats and black women.

“None of this is surprising, because any frequent reader of Torpy’s column knows that he is a wolf in progressive’s clothing. He attacks cyclists who dare slow down his mini-van.”

Outing me as a mini-van driver is a low blow, but I have nothing against progressives. I’m married to one and have fathered some, too.

Bottoms is tied with former mayoral aide and businessman Peter Aman for second in the poll with 12 percent. Norwood is first at 25 percent. Bottoms is tops when it comes to Democrats, at 17.3 percent. Who is second among Dems? Mary Norwood, at 16.9 percent.

In fact, if you take away every Republican who said they’d vote for her, Norwood would still lead with 17 percent of Atlanta’s voters. But alas, some Republicans do reside in Atlanta.

Now, Norwood is no shoo-in. Her numbers have remained static, while others’ have risen. She is legendary for attending meetings all over the city and returning residents’ calls. That doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good mayor, but it is good at building a base.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at a news conference in which posters were used to emphasize City Council president and mayoral candidate Ceasar Mitchell's ethics fines.

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Reed has been trying to clear the path for his candidate by bashing others, such as former Council President Cathy Woolard, former state Sen. Vincent Fort and former Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves.

Eaves, a late-comer, is pushing the issue of the ongoing federal investigation into bribery for city contracts, and is bumping along at 4 percent.

“Kasim has gone to the extreme of trying to affect the election,” Eaves told me. “He’s used everything he can, including the kitchen sink, against anyone who is a threat to his legacy.”

There is something to that. Often, when the mayor talks about all the good things that he’s done, he starts from the premise of, “When I inherited this dumpster fire of a city …”

Somewhere in southwest Atlanta, his predecessor, former Mayor Shirley Franklin, grabs a couch pillow and punches it when she sees him on TV saying that.

Hizzoner doesn’t want to spend his future civilian life punching pillows.