By Phil Kent –
Transportation. Crime. Transparency. Race. These hot topics dominated the annual, invitation-only Buckhead Coalition luncheon yesterday featuring eight Atlanta mayoral candidates. (Qualifying for the office actually begins in September.)
The mayoral hopefuls attending were former city official Peter Aman, City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, state Sen. Vincent Fort, City Councilman Kwanza Hall, City Council President Cesar Mitchell, City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, former Workforce Development Agency head Michael Sterling and former City Council president Cathy Woolard.
Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell, a former Atlanta mayor, asked two questions of all the candidates: Why would they be a good mayor and what voter blocs/coalitions could they build in order to win. All gave a good accounting of their qualifications and campaign themes but Aman in particular dodged the second question. Norwood, who barely lost the 2009 mayor’s race, pointed to strengths in various black and white neighborhoods; Bottoms emphasized that she wins big in her vote-rich district; Hall pointed out that as an African-American he has won twice in a large majority white district. Mitchell pointed to black-white coalitions he has built and Woolard pointed out that she has won citywide before and knows how to do it again.
Fort took a strident stand against criminal gangs and corruption— citing the developing E.R. Mitchell bribery scandal that is affecting the reputation of city governance. Norwood also pledged a tougher crime fight, as did Sterling.
Bottom line from attendee reaction: All these candidates are qualified. But, with the exception of Norwood and Mitchell, the others don’t appear to have – as yet— an effective citywide grassroots organization.