With 48 hours to go before Atlanta chooses its 60th mayor in history, Keisha Lance Bottoms is bringing in some big-name reinforcements in her runoff against Mary Norwood.
On Sunday, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are appearing at separate rallies for Bottoms, who finished ahead of Norwood on Nov. 7 but has seen Norwood pick up crucial endorsements in the campaign’s final weeks and whose campaign has been linked to alleged city hall corruption.
“She needs to hold these events, not to convince her voters but energize them,” said Michael Leo Owens, associate professor of political science at Emory University. “She needs every voter leaning toward her to vote for her, and pull out all the stops.
“There’s just no way for her to escape the tinge of corruption coming out of Atlanta city hall right now.”
Last week, Norwood was endorsed by former Atlanta Shirley Franklin, which “astounded” Owens.
“No one could have imagined that Franklin would endorse Norwood,” he said. “Franklin obviously believes there needs to be a clean break from past city hall administrations.”
“I’m a trained political historian but the waters are so muddy right now I can’t tell what’s going to happen,” said Dr. Maurice Hobson, assistant professor of African American studies at Georgia State University and author of "The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta."
“There are so many things in play. Norwood has been able to work support from several different communities, and Bottoms has been endorsed by the Democratic Party. She has worked the party aspect and towed the party line, and now the party is getting behind her.”
Third-place finisher Cathy Woolard also endorsed Norwood, capping what Owens called “an incredible week for Norwood. A lot of people would not have believed that Norwood could secure those endorsements.”
Bottoms held a rally outside City Hall on Thursday, where several Atlanta city council members, state lawmakers and rappers T.I. and Killer Mike appeared on her behalf.
“Bottoms is bringing Kamala Harris to Atlanta o demonstrate her appeal to the African American middle class,” Owens said. “it’s intended to convey the idea that it’s important to keep a black person as Atlanta mayor. Support from rappers like Killer Mike appeal to the black working class.”
If Norwood wins on Tuesday, she will be the first white mayor of Atlanta elected in the 21st century and the city’s first white female to hold the office.
“Longtime black Atlantans will vote for Bottoms,” Dobson said. “But Atlanta is also full of black newcomers to the city, who may not be wedded to the idea of a historic black Mecca. Those voters could split. White voters and those who support President Donald Trump will not split.”