Atlanta mayoral race 2009 results are murky on race in politics
A white woman led the field in Atlanta mayoral race 2009 results, but she'll face a black opponent in a runoff. Race has been a subtle factor so far, but that may change.
The Atlanta mayor's race Tuesday, which resulted in a runoff election, failed to yield many clues about whether President Obama’s historic election a year ago has staying power in terms of voters' views about race in politics.Skip to next paragraph
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If anything, Atlanta voters seemed hesitant to say much of anything about the mayoral field, which included a black man, a black woman, and a white woman, as only 24 percent of them came out to cast ballots in the off-year municipal election.
Some analysts have said the potential election of front-runner Mary Norwood as the city’s first white mayor in 36 years would prove that America is undergoing a generational shift toward colorblind politics. Others saw the struggle for traction by African-American “card carrying Democrats” in a liberal, majority-black city as a sign that Mr. Obama’s coattails have proven woefully short.
Conclusions will have to wait until next month. In a Dec. 1 runoff contest, City Councilor Norwood will face off against Kasim Reed, a state senator with ties to hip-hop artists and the city's civil rights old guard.
The low turnout and indecisive result point in part to the fact that no superstar candidates were in the offing, unlike the case when 41 percent of the electorate ushered the city’s first female black mayor, Shirley Franklin, into office eight years ago.
The ultimate choice between a black man and a white woman seems to have cooled voters’ ardor in a city where a white influx in the past decade has changed the racial dynamics of the majority-black Southern metropolis.
“Now the two candidates have roughly a month to fight for every voter among an electorate that seems to be exhausted and mistrustful,” writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Cameron McWhirter. “And the ever-present issues of race, gender and class … likely will be amplified in coming weeks as the contest settles into one between a white woman and black man. Many Atlantans found the prospect unsettling.”
The poorest black neighborhoods on the West and Southwest sides saw dismal turnout, with one precinct receiving only 5 percent of eligible voters. Turnout was higher in Atlanta’s primarily white neighborhoods.
Pre-election polls indicated that about 30 percent of black voters intended to vote for Norwood. Between 52 and 70 percent of white voters intended to vote for Norwood, depending on which poll is cited.
In the end, Norwood received 46 percent of the vote and Senator Reed 36 percent. Both candidates will aggressively go after those who voted for third-place finisher Lisa Borders, who received 14 percent.