Former Atlanta Mayor Franklin endorses Norwood to lead City Hall

A pair of high-level Democrats, including a former mayor, gathered at the steps of Atlanta City Hall to throw their political weight Monday behind a woman some have called a “closet Republican.”

In the strongest endorsements for Mary Norwood’s campaign, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin was joined by former Atlanta chief operating officer Peter Aman, a rival of Norwood in the general election earlier this month, to announce their support.

Franklin’s backing gives Norwood a strong political ally to attract African-American women voters, the largest bloc of dedicated voters in the city, in her attempt to defeat Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has the support of Mayor Kasim Reed.

Monday’s endorsements bucked more than 40 years of Atlanta political behavior.

A former mayor had defied an incumbent. A Democrat had supported an alleged Republican. And one of Atlanta’s most popular black female political figures vowed to work to put a white woman in an office occupied by African-Americans for decades.

Aman worked in Reed’s administration. Reed also served as Franklin’s campaign manager. And Franklin and Aman supported Reed over Norwood in the 2009 election, during which Reed narrowly defeated Norwood by mere 720 or so votes.

Eight years later, Franklin and Aman had reversed course, largely, they said because of Reed’s failure to address poverty and the corruption that brought about a federal bribery investigation.

Reed’s office declined to comment on Monday’s endorsements.

Switching gears

As recently as last month, Aman had criticized Norwood for being a corrupt, career politician. But on Monday he said he could not support Bottoms.

“Can Atlanta afford four more years of a Reed-Bottoms team?” Aman asked. “I don’t think so.”

Bottoms campaign declined to comment on the endorsements and Aman’s comments. In addition to Reed, Bottoms has been endorsed by former Mayor Andrew Young and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Franklin began her 20-minute long speech leading up to her endorsement citing statistics: one quarter of the city’s population lives in poverty, and 85 percent of African American children in Atlanta live in highly impoverished areas. Then she spoke about several university studies that showed Atlanta is the worst major city in American to be born poor.

“These are the harsh truths that we must face to move our city forward,” Franklin said.

Franklin said attempts to tie Norwood to the Republican party are nothing more than a distraction. Norwood identifies herself as a “progressive independent.”

Reed, Franklin’s former protege, endorsed Bottoms in early October, at the end of a morning radio show.

Then he appeared in a Bottom’s campaign commercial, promising that with the progress made under his administration would continue with Bottoms.

But definitions of progress depend on perspective — a fact that seems to now have brought some issues of social justice and corruption to the forefront.

Among the success Reed’s staff have touted are eight consecutive credit ratings increases, record reserves of $200 million and 18 regional or national headquarters relocations.

Yet data indicates that although rising financial tides lift all boats in the city, they don’t lift people who lack boats to begin with.

For years, Atlanta has ranked among the worst U.S. cities in terms of economic disparity. According to the Equality of Economic Opportunity Project, a child in Atlanta born to parents who’s income is in bottom 20 percent has a 4.5 percent chance of reaching the top 20 percent income bracket.

Reed’s endorsement of Lance Bottoms appears to have helped vault her to the No. 1 spot in the crowded general election earlier this month and signaled potential donors who want to support a business friendly candidate.

The endorsement hasn’t stopped her from embracing messages that the city hasn’t done enough to address poverty. When City Councilman Kwanza Hall endorsed Bottoms more than a week ago, Bottom’s borrowed his campaign slogan, acknowledging that, “We have been great about building buildings, but not so great about building people.

Franklin is a very visible and popular figure in Atlanta and could steer black votes to Norwood. Those votes are key in a city where women make up 58 percent of the electorate and where black women make up the largest portion of super voters – those who voted at least five times in the past four years.

At Monday’s press conference, Franklin said the election was less about race, but more about equity and integrity.

The ongoing FBI investigation into alleged bribery schemes at City Hall has led to a guilty plea from the city’s former top procurement officer Adam Smith.

“All signs are that the investigation would continue,” Franklin said. “The indictments will continue.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is providing comprehensive coverage of the race for Atlanta City Hall on our subscriber site,


The AJC’s Stephen Deere keeps you updated on the latest in the Atlanta mayoral race and everything else going on at City Hall. You'll find more on, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta politics. Subscribe to

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

BREAKING: UPS employee killed after being hit by truck in DeKalb
BREAKING: UPS employee killed after being hit by truck in DeKalb

A UPS employee has died after he was struck and killed by a company truck in DeKalb County, officials said Friday.  The 51-year-old man was on a loading dock in the 3000 block of Pleasantdale Road when he was hit about 2:15 p.m., DeKalb police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He died less than two hours later...
Cops: Man pulled gun on Gwinnett Waffle House crew over wrong order
Cops: Man pulled gun on Gwinnett Waffle House crew over wrong order

When a Lawrenceville Waffle House got a customer’s order wrong, he pulled a gun on the employees at the restaurant, police say. Elandrous Peoples, 21, has been charged with four counts of aggravated assault and one count each of aggravated battery and simple battery.  Peoples had arrived at the Waffle House on Bethesda School Road shortly...
This Cobb home has a free Christmas display with 350,000 lights
This Cobb home has a free Christmas display with 350,000 lights

Richard B. Taylor’s first Christmas light display outside his Kennesaw home started in 1988 with a mess of melted wires on a stick tree. He’s figured it out since then. This year’s set-up features more than 350,000 lights drawing more than 610 amps, said Taylor, who lives in the 1500 block of Ben King Road. That’s an increase...
Cobb water main break shutting down traffic on busy road
Cobb water main break shutting down traffic on busy road

A broken water main line is shutting down traffic on a stretch of Powder Springs Street Southwest, according to transit officials. Crews are at the site of the break near where Powder Springs meets Cunningham Road Southwest. They are excavating to fix the problem. Two eastbound lanes and the right turn lane on Powder Springs are closed as crews dig...
Police: Roswell High athletic director arrested for DUI in Forsyth
Police: Roswell High athletic director arrested for DUI in Forsyth

Roswell High School’s athletic director was arrested Saturday and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. John P. Cohen, 63, was pulled over by a Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy just before 10 p.m. on Dec. 9 for speeding and failing to maintain his lane. The deputy smelled alcohol coming from Coen, and he admitted drinking...
More Stories