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But race is the undercurrent to the gentrification issue, Thomas says, and sponsoring a forum for black and white Atlantans to talk to one another would be a way to head off nasty outbursts like the ones that ripped through a recent meeting over council redistricting.
Regarded as a tough-minded councilwoman and part of what she terms "the loyal opposition" to Mayor Bill Campbell, Woolard has been energetically raising money for the November election. By the end of March, the last disclosure date, Woolard had raked in $114,377. She, like the others, is thinking it's going to take about $300,000 to get her message out.
Woolard notes that 68 percent of her war chest came in donations of $100 or less, citing it as proof that she can run a campaign at the grassroots level. "It's a one-on-one proposition," Woolard says. "I see us pulling voters from all over the city."
Woolard's biggest challenge, however, may be in convincing Atlanta's influential black preachers -- a generally conservative lot -- to embrace a gay candidate for council president. Woolard is running on her record, not her sexuality, but that record includes vigorously pushing for sexual orientation to be added to the list of things Atlanta employers can't consider when hiring someone. That plays well in District 6's Midtown, part of Woolard's cozy nest, but how will it play in southwest Atlanta?
Boone says the jury is out. "Americans are generally conservative," he says. "If black preachers have shown a reluctance to embrace gays, so have white."
Woolard says she doesn't think anyone else on council can claim her level of legislative activity, which includes working for tax equity for Atlanta in DeKalb and infrastructure repair.
Bond likes to point to his record, too, particularly the volume of bills he has introduced and passed.
Bond also benefits from his name. But he initially sought a lower-profile lifestyle, deciding to drop out of college, get married and go to work. When he ran for City Council in 1993, Bond was supporting himself on a jail guard's salary; now divorced, he is still working his way toward a degree.
"My biggest job is just getting my record out there," Bond says. That very record may also work against him: As Woolard notes, he might have introduced more successful legislation than other members, but much of it was at the behest of Mayor Campbell.
"The perception is that Bond is tied closely to Campbell," Boone says. That's a good thing in southwest Atlanta or in neighborhoods like Kirkwood, for example. But if you're courting Atlanta's business community -- or the bulk of Atlanta's northside, for that matter -- this is not a good time to be perceived as a Friend of Bill. Bond is going to have to prove he can stand on his own even as he attempts to ride on the mayor's diminished coat-tails in those areas where Campbell is still popular.
During the 1997 campaign for District 2, Emmons, 59, benefited from a scandal-plagued opponent who enjoyed little public support. This time around, she's on her own. Even so, she's already raised $64,300, of which 83 percent came in donations of $101 or more.
In the last election, Emmons says she spent her Saturdays walking door-to-door and, like Thomas, she has experience running a citywide race.
"I carried every district I walked," Emmons says. But she might have to invest in a few more shoes to raise her profile beyond those of Bond and Woolard. She admits she has work to do in southwest Atlanta, but her campaign manager has worked on a number of successful campaigns in Atlanta's majority black districts.
Thomas, a husky-voiced iconoclast, has much the same problem, Boone says, albeit in a different part of the city. She's well-known on the westside, where her legislative district included Bond's District 3, and she performed well in her 1997 bid for the Post 1 council seat in majority-white Districts 7 and 8. But she's not a household name north of Interstate 20.
Even so, Thomas has proven herself a fighter. In 1984, at the age of 25, she beat Grace Towns Hamilton, the first black woman elected to Georgia's state Legislature. She served eight years before dropping out in 1992, to make an ill-advised run for U.S. Rep. John Lewis' seat. Thomas got stomped.
Ironically, it was Thomas who broke ranks with Atlanta's black political establishment in 1986 and supported Lewis in a divisive congressional race against Bond's father. Lewis won.
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