Atlanta Mayoral Race Too Close to Call, Headed for Recount

Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms declares victory during an election-night watch party on Dec. 6, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (CN) — Atlanta’s contentious mayoral election heads to a recount Wednesday morning after Tuesday’s runoff election led to a razor-thin, apparent victory for Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Just 759 votes separated Bottoms, a Democrat, from Mary Norwood, her Independent competitor.

While Bottoms declared victory early Wednesday morning, Norwood announced to her supporters that she would demand a recount.

With a margin of roughly 0.8 percent separating the candidates, Georgia law is on Norwood’s side. State law allows second place finishers to challenge election results if the margin of votes is less than one percent.

About 92,000 votes were cast on Tuesday.

Norwood refused to concede on Tuesday night, telling supporters that she would wait for absentee ballots from members of the military. Those ballots and provisional ballots will not be counted until Thursday.

“We just don’t know,” Norwood told her supporters. “This is very close. It is not over yet. I’ve done this before. The next few days are going to be all-hands-on-deck, and all analysis will be done … We are two days away from knowing.”

Norwood previously ran for mayor in 2009 against Kasim Reed and lost by roughly 700 votes.

While Norwood made plans to continue the fight, Bottoms celebrated her victory.

“I stand here tonight as my daddy’s daughter and I can say dreams do come true,” Bottoms told supporters at a rally in an Atlanta hotel.

“This has been a very, very, very long campaign, but as we look ahead toward the future, I look forward to engaging with each of you, making sure that our city continues to move forward … For those who did not support me, I look forward to working with you as well, because this is still a city for all of us,” she continued.

“This is about Atlanta. And what we said from day one is that this is about what we hope this city can be for our children’s children,” Bottoms said.

If the election results remain unchanged, Bottoms will become Atlanta’s 60th mayor and only the second black woman to hold the position. She would also be the latest in a line of black mayors that began with Maynard Jackson in 1974 and continued through to the current incumbent, outgoing Mayor Kasim Reed.

If the results of the recount tip the scales in Norwood’s favor, she would become Atlanta’s first white woman mayor.

Although the mayoral election is a nonpartisan race, Norwood’s conservative-leaning Independent politics became a point of contention in the days leading up to the election, with some critics accusing Norwood of being a closeted Republican.

Attack ads labeled Norwood “Mary the Republican” and fliers placed Norwood’s photo side-by-side with a photo of President Donald Trump. Radio and TV ads asked voters whether the city’s next mayor should be “from the party of Trump.”

Although Norwood released a statement reminding voters of her record supporting Democratic candidates (including Hillary Clinton, who handily won Atlanta’s Fulton county during the 2016 presidential election), Bottoms’ supporters questioned whether Norwood was progressive enough to lead the city.

One of the south’s few Democratic bastions, Atlanta has been consistently led by Democratic mayors since 1879.

While Norwood received support from a number of Democratic leaders (chief among them was former Mayor Shirley Jackson), many more rallied to Bottoms.

California Senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker turned out to stump for Bottoms at a campaign rally on Sunday, December 3. Bottoms also received support from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Atlanta Mayor and civil rights icon Andrew Young, and Atlanta rappers Killer Mike and T.I.

As Bottoms celebrated a tenuous victory Tuesday night, Norwood appeared unflappable at her election party.

“So this is very close,” Norwood said to the crowd of supporters, who responded, “It’s not over!”

“You are right. It’s not over yet,” she told them.

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