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September 2, 2009

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NORWOOD HAS INSIDE TRACK TO MAYORS RACE

Mary Norwood, Atl, City Councilwoman

Mary Norwood, Atl, City Councilwoman

The city that became a post-civil rights movement emblem of the political power held by African-Americans could have a white mayor for the first time in a generation — a possibility that has some in the black community scrambling to hold on to City Hall, reports the Associated Press.

Atlanta Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is white, is one of the front-runners for the Nov. 3 election, along with City Council President Lisa Borders and state Sen. Kasim Reed, both of whom are black.

All three have bristled at a racially charged e-mail circulated by a black leadership group calling for Norwood’s defeat before a possible runoff. If the black candidates split the African-American vote, Norwood may find herself in a runoff.

“I suspect we will see high levels of racial polarization,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “This e-mail may have been used to promote turnout, to get higher levels of participation from the black community. But it could also spark higher levels of participation in the white community. It’s a scare tactic.”

Atlanta, which has billed itself as “the city too busy to hate,” elected Maynard Jackson as its first black mayor in 1973. Blacks who had won the right to vote less than a decade earlier rallied behind Jackson, who forced the city’s white business elite to open their doors to minorities and adopted strict affirmative action policies.

His election solidified the voting power of urban blacks, and the city has elected black mayors since. And while blacks have been the majority population and voting bloc in the city for decades, the demographics have changed in recent years.

A large voting bloc — residents in the city’s public housing — was erased as Atlanta’s crumbling projects were demolished over the past decade. And young professionals, black and white, have flocked to opportunity in the city.

In 2000, Atlanta was 33 percent white and 61 percent black. In 2007, the numbers were 38 percent white and 57 percent black, according to the U.S. Census.


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