Jackson Juggernaut Steams Ahead

Sometimes brash, confrontational, Atlanta's first black mayor is running for four more years. ANALYSIS: ATLANTA MAYOR'S RACE

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

RED and white signs and stickers simply say ``Maynard.'' The memory and impact of Atlanta's first black mayor are still so powerful that a last name is not needed. Indeed, Maynard Jackson Jr. is a near-legend here.

Even after years working in the private sector as a lawyer, Mr. Jackson is still recognized and known throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area. And the rotund candidate, who seems loaded with restless energy, is now an easy favorite to win the nonpartisan election Oct. 3.

Jackson did not formally announce his campaign until last February, but had been raising money since 1987. So far, he has raised close to $1.5 million, mostly through private parties. His financial committee includes black and white business people from some of the oldest, largest corporations in the city.

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Sometimes described as a member of Atlanta's ``black aristocracy,'' the former mayor was first elected in 1973. He left in 1979 during his second term, after the state and city voted to limit mayors to two consecutive terms.

His support includes most of the black establishment and a coalition of black ministers representing the black community. He has also been endorsed by the AFL-CIO's Labor Council in Atlanta, a group of 75 union locals in the 16-county metro area.

Most significant, however, his major opponent - Michael Lomax, the chairman of the Fulton County Commission - abruptly withdrew from the race in early August, leaving Jackson virtually unchallenged. Though the slim, articulate Mr. Lomax has a strong reputation as chairman of the county commission, he was considered the underdog.

Mr. Lomax's aggressive campaign linked Jackson to the city's high crime rate and accused him of using City Hall connections to further his career as municipal bond lawyer. But even with a series of TV commercials featuring endorsements by prominent Atlantans, Lomax could not chip away Jackson's support.

Jackson comes from a long line of preachers, teachers, and social activists that challenged the white power structure of the Old South in 1968, a few months after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. He quit his job with the National Labor Relations Board, entering the Democratic primary race for the United States Senate seat held by Herman Talmadge, a prominent Georgia politician and one of the ``good ol' boys.''

Entering the campaign at the last minute as an unknown, Jackson lost but carried Atlanta by a majority of more than 6,000 votes. A year later, he launched a well-organized and ultimately victorious campaign for vice mayor, getting out the black vote by visiting three or four churches each Sunday.

In the 1973 race, he defeated incumbent Mayor Sam Massell, Atlanta's first Jewish mayor. As the city's first black mayor, Jackson served during a difficult period in Atlanta's history. Though the city never exploded into racial riots in the late '60s, Atlanta was making a political and social transition from white dominance to black dominance.

A believer in the politics of inclusion, he pressured banks and other long-established institutions to open their boards and membership to minorities and women. He quickly adopted affirmative action and opened up city government's nearly 70,000 city jobs.

Though sometimes described as heavy-handed, Jackson proved that a new airport could be built on time and below budget using affirmative-action guidelines.

``Our greatest brick and mortar achievement was building Hartsfield Airport - the largest nonmilitary employer in Georgia,'' Jackson boasts. ``We simultaneously wrote the book on equal employment opportunities and affirmative action.''

Jackson became a supersalesman for the ``city too busy to hate'' and a champion for the black community, working to improve city services and create training programs for low-income Atlantans.

DESPITE his accomplishments and the loyalty of black constituents, his tenure as mayor was marred by controversy and internal scandals.

Some of the city's police were involved in cheating on a police examination, and A.Reginald Eaves, an old friend appointed by Jackson as public safety commissioner, was implicated. (Mr. Eaves was later convicted on a federal extortion charge in 1988.) Some observers say morale on the police force dropped simultaneously while Atlanta's crime rate increased dramatically.

Friends and associates, however, believe the sometimes confrontational and brash Jackson will avoid the mistakes of the past. As a second-time candidate, he is running on a five-point program: fighting drugs and crime; better housing for all; aggressive economic development; effective well-managed government; and higher quality of life.

With the increase in city crime and illegal drug use, Jackson's No. 1 priority is a comprehensive anticrime program. He proposes a citizen participation program called ``Kick Their Assets'' to help curb neighborhood drugs and encourage people to report street-corner dealers.

``When someone turns in a dope dealer in their neighborhood, they will get 50 percent of what is confiscated by the police,'' Jackson says.

With 85 percent of the city's police officers not living in Atlanta, Jackson says he would create a ``police housing'' program to attract them back to the city. ``I'm going to ask every major landlord to give units to police officers to increase their presence in the city.''

Another of the more innovative programs is Jackson's plan to provide better housing for all Atlantans, particularly the poor and homeless. He has invited US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp to use Atlanta as a laboratory for tenant-controlled housing.

Jackson describes himself as a hands-on manager, an idea factory, and a practitioner of positive thinking. Despite his six-figure income, he also sees himself as a hard worker and poverty fighter.

Critics, however, view him as a well-heeled lawyer living the good life in a sprawling 15-room mansion in Atlanta's most affluent white neighborhood, just a few blocks from the governor's mansion. To that criticism he responds, ``I was one of six children. My father died when I was 15 and I've worked ever since. I've waited tables, picked tobacco, and sold encyclopedias.''

While he exudes confidence, he admits the race is not over. Seven candidates recently entered the race. All are unknowns except Hosea Williams, an outspoken city council member.

``If (Jackson) walks into City Hall with no commitment to the people, the city would be hurt,'' Mr. Williams recently told the New York Times. ``I plan to raise issues and see if that commitment is there.''

Of his commitment, Jackson says: ``I do not take anything for granted. We're running a full-scale campaign. I have eight opponents: seven human, one nonhuman - apathy.''

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