Woolard grills Bottoms and Norwood in Atlanta mayor’s race


For more than an hour on Tuesday, Cathy Woolard grilled the two women competing to become Atlanta’s next mayor — both of whom knew that Woolard’s support could be the difference in the race.

Throughout the evening, Woolard gave no hint of which way she might be leaning.

Earlier this month, when Woolard herself was one of a dozen candidates in the mayoral race, she placed third, failing to make the Dec. 5 runoff — a contest now between city councilwomen Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood.

Woolard had defied expectations, earning more than 17,000 votes. But having lost, she still has a say in who could win.

Woolard, a former Atlanta City Council president, sat on a stage in a room filled with her supporters at the Carter Center’s Cecil B. Day Chapel.

With her legs crossed and her hands folded on her lap, she spent a portion of the political capital she earned over the last eight months, asking questions that reflected her detailed nature.

As mayor, who would help create a statewide campaign to get Georgia to divert gas taxes for public transit? Each candidate said she would.

What would each do as mayor to create more affordable housing in the city?

Norwood suggested renovating vacant homes. Bottoms would create a $1 billion fund.

During the discussion, Woolard left no doubt about who was in control.

When Norwood got a little long-winded, Woolard cut her off.

“Wait. Wait. Wait,” she said. “That’s enough.”

Norwood tried to continue, but Woolard interrupted again — with a joke.

“Let me go all City Council President on you,” Woolard said.

Woolard also coaxed a promise out of Bottoms to release copies of her income tax returns on Wednesday. Norwood released hers last week.

Bottoms said that the person who oversees her finances was out of the office last week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Woolard saved the toughest questions for the end.

She noted that Norwood, if elected, would be the city’s first white mayor in more than 40 years, and she had recently appeared to stumble when she answered a question about racial profiling.

“Who advises you about race?” Woolard said.

Norwood tried to defend her previous answer about profiling. But Woolard reminded her she only had a couple of minutes.

“I wouldn’t dwell on that,” Woolard said.

Norwood said her City Council staff had always been at least two-thirds African-American and that she leaned on their advice.

» RELATED: Atlanta mayoral candidates clash in GPB debate

» MORE: Former Atlanta Mayor Franklin endorses Norwood

Woolard referenced the ongoing federal bribery investigation into City Hall and said that current Mayor Kasim Reed, who has endorsed Bottoms, hadn’t done enough to help lift the cloud of corruption.

Woolard said she thought it was “illegal” for Bottoms to hold a $135,000-a-year position as executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority while serving on the Atlanta City Council.

She wanted to know how Bottoms would create a different atmosphere at City Hall.

Bottoms said she had asked the city’s chief ethics officer about the Fulton County job and was told there were no problems with her taking it.

She insisted that she was her own woman and she didn’t need Reed to hold her hand as mayor.

“This will not be a third term of Mayor Reed,” Bottoms said. “I’m not a pixie dust candidate.”

Both candidates left the forum unsure of whether they had earned Woolard’s support.

After the forum, Woolard said she would have an announcement by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“I’m not being coy,” she said.

But she needed to give herself a deadline.



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