Bottoms Declares Narrow Victory in Mayoral Race; Norwood Requests Recount

Keisha Lance Bottoms

One day after Emory’s annexation into Atlanta was approved, Keisha Lance Bottoms claimed victory as Atlanta’s next mayor after she garnered the most votes in the runoff race Dec. 5 as of 12:40 a.m. Wednesday, while her opponent Emory alumna Mary Norwood (74C) called for a recount.

Bottoms, a Democrat, received 50.41 percent of votes, and Norwood, an independent, received 49.59 percent — a difference of 759 votes, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“This is a reminder that God dreams bigger than we can ever dream ourselves,” Bottoms said in her victory speech early Wednesday. “It started with a group of women who didn’t have campaign experience but we believed we could change the world.”

Norwood said early Wednesday that she plans to call for a recount of the votes, saying “It’s not over yet.” The Emory alumna told the AJC that she is waiting for votes to come in from military absentee ballots, provisional votes that won’t be counted until Thursday and a number of precincts in DeKalb County that are still tabulating ballots.

Mary Norwood

Georgia law allows for recounts when the difference between candidates is less than 1 percent. The result is similar to 2009’s Atlanta mayoral election when Norwood lost to outgoing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed by 714 votes, when Norwood also called for a recount.

Reed introduced Bottoms as his successor at her watch party early Wednesday. She addressed her supporters shortly after midnight, thanking her family and directly addressing her young supporters of color.

“I want you all to remember that black girl magic is here,” Bottoms said. “Across this city we have black girl magic, black boy magic, white boy magic, white girl magic … and everything in between. This is a city for all of us and I’m so honored to be your 60th mayor.”

Bottoms did not mention Norwood but said that she intends to reach out to her opponents.

“To those who did not support me, I look forward to working with you as well,” Bottoms said.

Throughout the campaign, Bottoms and Reed vied back-and-forth for the top spot. Bottoms received the most votes out of the candidates in the Nov. 7 general election with 26 percent of the votes while her fellow city councilwoman Norwood trailed with 21 percent, according to the AJC. But in a WSB-TV/AJC/Landmark Communications poll of 500 likely runoff voters released Dec. 1, Norwood took the lead from Bottoms. Results showed Norwood at 51.3 percent, Bottoms at 45.1 percent and 3.6 percent undecided.

In recent weeks, the campaigns intensified, with Bottoms accusing Norwood as a “Republican in disguise” in campaign television ads. Reed, who endorsed Bottoms, referred to Norwood as a “loser,” according to the AJC. Reed has served as mayor since 2010 and was ineligible to run again due to term limits.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former mayoral candidate and former Atlanta chief operating officer Peter Aman announced their support for Norwood Nov. 27, according to the AJC. U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) both attended campaign events in Atlanta in support of Bottoms, according to the AJC.

Bottoms’ “All Rise” campaign platform focused on improving public safety, resolving traffic and transit problems, developing affordable housing, creating new jobs and supporting students and families through education, according to her campaign website.

Norwood’s platform included plans to increase sustainability initiatives, address gentrification, push for more affordable housing options and increase public safety by working with state and federal law enforcement agencies to fight human and sex trafficking and help victims, according to her campaign website.

Although the Atlanta City Council approved Emory’s petition for annexation into Atlanta Monday, voters in the annexed area were ineligible to participate in Tuesday’s runoff election. Both candidates declared support for Emory’s petition for annexation.

Student organization Young Democrats of Emory formally endorsed Bottoms after the general election, and some members canvassed for her campaign. Student group Emory College Republicans declined to formally endorse a candidate.

Alex Klugerman and Richard Chess contributed reporting.

CORRECTION (12/6/17 at 11:34 p.m.): An earlier version of this article repeated the word “dreams” in Bottoms’ quote from her victory speech. The quote has been corrected.

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