Atlanta's mayoral runoff may hinge on city's gay voters
A black candidate and a white candidate are facing off in Atlanta's mayoral runoff election Tuesday. But another bloc, gay voters, may well decide the outcome.
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“I cannot recall a mayor's race when there's been so much attention placed on the gay and lesbian vote,'' Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told the Los Angeles Times.Skip to next paragraph
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Both Norwood and Senator Reed are seen as pro-gay, although Reed favors a civil union provision over gay marriage. Norwood, meanwhile, has said she supports gay marriage, although she’s also had to defend herself against charges that she’s a closet Republican.
If turnout on Tuesday is high, that may favor Norwood, because it will mean that white voters are eager to “make their votes count,” says Michael Leo Owens, a political scientist at Emory University here.
Gay voters, too, are likely to play a role in total turnout. Gay-friendly east side neighborhoods such as Virginia Highlands, Sherwood Forest, and Candler Park have the opportunity to elect the city’s first openly gay city councilor in Alex Wan, an Asian-American candidate.
If that race drives gay turnout, as is expected, it could favor Norwood. Reed, meanwhile, has racked up a heap of official endorsements and raised twice as much money as Norwood in the run-up to the runoff. He also has support of many white voters for his tough stance on crime and his push to keep local teen centers open.
The mayoral races in Atlanta and Houston, instead of raising questions about the modern relevance of the runoff system, may show that runoffs adjust to the political times. At the same time, runoff requirements, which are now part of elections in Georgia and a handful of mostly Southern states, are likely to be modified or abandoned by some states in coming years, predicts University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.
But Georgia, for one, is likely to hold onto its runoff tradition, says Mr. Owens at Emory.
“Runoffs as a whole have democratic purpose, because the idea is to come to an agreement that there’s a mandate for a particular candidate,” says Mr. Owens at Emory. “There are too many candidates in the general election, so there’s no clear sense of what the electorate really wants.”
He adds, “One could change this entire system very easily, but in the state of Georgia, at least, we’re quite content to have runoffs.”
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