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The Questionable Imperative for a Black Mayor in Atlanta

The possibility that Atlanta could see its first white mayor in decades has elicited some vocal and prominent resistance. But what is the “Black Mecca” fighting for?
Charles Doyle wears a hat decorated with an image of Atlanta city councilwoman and mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms as she speaks at an election night party in Atlanta.
Charles Doyle wears a hat decorated with an image of Atlanta city councilwoman and mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms as she speaks at an election night party in Atlanta.David Goldman/AP

It was important enough for Atlanta to have a black mayor that the Democratic Party pulled out its top black shot callers for the race between city council member Keisha Lance Bottoms, an African American from the party, and city council member Mary Norwood, a white woman who is running as an independent. U.S. Senators Cory Booker, who represents New Jersey, and Kamala Harris, who represents California, both flew into Atlanta in the closing days of the mayoral race to stump for Bottoms.

Neither senator is from the south, which raises the question of what message, exactly, they were there to send. Bottoms has declared victory, although she currently leads Norwood by less than 800 votes. The race has not been officially called yet, but Norwood is contesting the outcome in quite a testy fashion: She’s alleging that some voter intimidation might have occurred. If Norwood were to win, she would be the first white mayor since 1969. The voting map for each candidate shows a city divided: Almost all of the southern precincts, where African-American and low-income households are concentrated went for Bottoms. Meanwhile, most of the precincts in the northern half of the city, where whiter and wealthier households are the norm, went for Norwood.