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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where's Mary, indeed — Norwood is strangely out of sight

click to enlarge What's got her so excited?
  • What's got her so excited?

Speaking only for myself, the events of the past two weeks — at least those relating to the mayoral runoff — have certainly confounded expectations.

In the fortnight leading up to the Nov. 3 general election, Kasim Reed's campaign pulled something of a rope-a-dope, implying that his opponents weren't true Democrats. Both Mary Norwood and Lisa Borders took the bait, spending time and energy trying to establish their own Democratic credentials — an effort that likely lost them both some votes.

It was a masterfully divisive maneuver on Reed's part, but I've talked to some voters who were disgusted by it for that very reason, folks who didn't like seeing a wedge driven between political parties in a non-partisan race.

I assumed the runoff campaigning would get dirtier still. How could it not, given that Norwood seemed to have a lock on white Northside votes? It appeared the only way Reed could hope to win was by undermining Norwood's curious popularity among black voters — and the only way to do that was to make race an issue in the race.

But I was mistaken. That's not what has happened — at least, not yet. In fact, it's been quite the reverse.

Since Nov. 3, Reed has waged a positive campaign, rolling out one high-profile endorsement after another — Borders, ex-Gov. Roy Barnes, a bunch of preachers, the police union, etc. — and sticking with his upbeat "I love Atlanta" TV commercial.

Norwood, on the other hand, has all but vanished. I understand she's going door-to-door in Southside neighborhoods, but she hasn't generated much press in the past week. When reporters did show up to a press conference at her campaign office, they found Norwood wasn't there.

And it's Norwood who's seemingly gone negative. Last week, her campaign sent out notice that WSB had done a piece alleging Reed hadn't paid some property taxes. The next day, the AJC's Jim Galloway did a long blog post explaining that his publication hadn't overlooked Reed's taxes. In fact, he explained, investigative reporter Cam McWhirter had spent quite a while looking through Reed's and Borders' taxes and had determined that the issues WSB raised didn't amount to anything.

Even so, the Norwood folks continued to shop the tax story around to various reporters, or so I've been told by a friend at the AJC who got one such call.

Today, I got a chance to ask Norwood herself if she thought Reed was getting a free pass on the tax matter.

"We'll see what gets traction and what doesn't over the next two weeks," she said, sounding unusually like a politician. "But I don't think it's good for a public official to show disregard for paying taxes over and over again."

The latest negative tidbit to surface is a weird piece of innuendo proffered by the Atlanta Progressive News, which is something of a far-left blog masquerading as a media outlet. Acting as an apparent proxy for the Norwood campaign, APN has cluttered e-mail inboxes with a piece insinuating that Reed, in his capacity as an attorney, once battled the NAACP on behalf of Cracker Barrel restaurants.

The "article," like much of APN's output — including several attack pieces previously written about Lisa Borders — falls so far short of basic journalistic standards that it scarcely bears notice. Still, another local blogger who also works as an attorney was so offended by the lousy legal analysis she found in the APN piece that she felt compelled to post a point-by-point rebuttal.

Look, I don't need reminding that CL endorsed Kasim Reed for mayor, but we're still watching the race as objectively as possible. If his campaign were going down the tubes, we'd tell you straight.

But it instead appears that Norwood is out of ammunition. She held a press conference today in Summerhill where she was "endorsed" by longtime resident Mattie Jackson, who explained that she was backing Norwood whether or not the Councilwoman is a Republican. Not exactly on message.

There were about 20 Norwood supporters present, including campaign "consultant," former state Rep. "Able" Mable Thomas. If you compare that gathering with Reed's photo-op with Barnes at the Capitol last week, it's obvious which campaign has the momentum.

(Photo by John Sugg)

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