ATLANTA: Not Quite Post-Racial
The city that became “a post-civil rights movement emblem of the political power held by African Americans could have a white mayor for the first time in a generation — a possibility that has some in the black community scrambling to hold on to City Hall.”
Councilor Mary Norwood, who is white, “is one of the front-runners” alongside State Sen. Kasim Reed and City Council Pres. Lisa Borders, who are both black. All three “have bristled at a racially charged e-mail circulated by a black leadership group calling for Norwood’s defeat before a possible run-off” (Haines, AP, 9/1).
A local group known as the Black Leadership Forum “called for African-Americans to consolidate their support around” Borders, saying she had “the best chance of winning support from white business leaders” and defeating Norwood. The memo read: “For the last 25 years Atlanta has represented the breakthrough for black political empowerment in the South. In order to defeat a Norwood (white) mayoral candidacy we have to get out now and work in a manner to defeat her without a runoff, and the key is significant black turnout.”
The “call for black unity drew sharp criticism from” Borders and Reed, who both “insisted in separate news conferences” 8/27 that Atlanta “must not choose its next mayor based on his or her race.” Reed called the memo “racially charged and vitriolic” and said it “dishonors the legacies” of black and white mayors who led the city through the civil-rights movement. Reed: “This campaign should be waged on the merits of each candidate, not the color of their skin” (Bauerlein, Wall Street Journal, 8/28).
If the black candidates “split the vote, Norwood may find herself in a runoff, where she could benefit” (AP, 9/1). Meanwhile, state Rep. Ralph Long (D) endorsed Norwood “from the heart of his heavily black southwest Atlanta district” 9/3. Long is the “first black leader to back Norwood.” Long “condemned a racially charged memo that circulated last week among black Atlantans” and said “his endorsement was based on her support of a homegrown police chief and economic development, especially in blighted areas” (AP, 9/3).
Black Leadership Forum member Joyce Dorsey said 8/30 she supports Norwood. But she also said she “agreed with many of the ideas in the memo” and said it was “understandable that black Atlantans would want to continue to have ‘representation that reflects the group.’” However, Dorsey said “I just don’t find a Mary Norwood in the other candidates.” Dorsey said the group “has not formally endorsed any candidate and hinted other members of the group also support candidates other than Borders” (Baxter, “Southern Political Report,” 8/31).
BOSTON: It’s Hard To Keep Cool In A 3-On-1 Rush
The three challengers “seeking to unseat” Mayor Thomas Menino “took turns attacking his record on education, development, and public safety” 9/2 in the first debate, saying “city schools are failing, tax breaks are unfairly doled out to developers and too many young people are dying violently in city streets.” But “perhaps the most pointed volleys in the fast-moving, freewheeling debate focused on fairness and accountability at City Hall” (Slack/Levenson, Boston Globe, 9/3).
They “hammered him” 9/3 at another debate “over a lack of minority workers on Boston construction sites, possible misspending of federal housing grants, and the uneven quality of the city’s public schools in a rollicking forum that exposed far more raw emotions than” the previous debate.
Menino “defended himself against accusation after accusation, citing programs and statistics that he said show the city is making progress on a variety of long-standing problems.” But unlike the 9/2 debate, Menino “grew more flustered at the constant attacks, rolling his eyes at points, sighing, and snapping at his opponents when they leveled charges” (Levenson, Boston Globe, 9/4).
‘05 City Council candidate Kevin McCrea 9/2 called City Hall “corrupt,” accusing Menino of “giving away multimillion-dollar tax breaks to the rich and valuable land connected insiders.” City Councilor Michael Flaherty “asserted that getting permits at City Hall hinged on whom you know” and City Councilor Sam Yoon “called for an overhaul of Boston’s strong-mayor form of government.”
All three challengers “lambasted Menino for his approach to development and called for the elimination of the city’s semi autonomous planning and development agency, the Boston Redevelopment Authority.” Yoon said the agency, “at the mayor’s behest, executes million-dollar deals with favored developers behind closed doors.” McCrea, “waving a property deed, recounted a deal in which he said the mayor signed off on the sale of a piece of land in West Roxbury to a BRA employee” which was assessed at $95K but sold for $5K. McCrea: “This is the type of corruption I’m talking about. We need to stop the giveaways.”
They all said “they support lifting the cap on charter schools, except for McCrea, who blasted the idea.” McCrea: “Charter schools are the latest buzzword for these politicians to pretend they care about what goes on in the Boston public schools.” McCrea said “he supports other changes, such as longer school days” (Boston Globe, 9/3).
Boston Globe‘s Mooney writes, “There was only one real issue in the first debate” — Menino “and his 16 years in office. … For an hour, Menino … parried the thrusts of his opponents, who tried to score points by attacking him on the issues of crime, public education, real estate development, and his management of the city’s finances and bureaucracy. Menino was nicked a few times, but did not appear to be seriously wounded by the shots fired. … Debating has never been a Menino strong suit, and one goal of last night’s performance was not to lose his composure in the face of attacks. He succeeded. While he at times seemed irked by some of the challengers’ contentions, his responses were generally measured and on point” (9/3).
Boston Globe ed board writes, “Menino took something of a beating from his challengers. Menino was ineffective in the debate. Had he been that ineffective in office, voters would have given up on him long before his fourth term. … His overall effort was flat. … Menino will need to make a much more spirited defense of his record when he faces his challengers again” (9/3).
Boston Globe‘s Lehigh writes, “This was the key question going into the first televised mayoral debate: Who would establish himself as the most credible challenger” to Menino? It was “primarily a contest between” Yoon and Flaherty. “I gave Yoon the edge. Polite but pointed in his critique of Menino, Yoon returned repeatedly to his contention that a strong-mayor system … isn’t good for Boston” (9/3).
Boston Globe‘s Payne writes, “Old Bostonians saw the Mayor Menino they know, with his thick tongue and thin skin. … Yoon probably helped himself the most, but getting new Bostonians to vote is another matter” (9/3).
Boston Globe‘s Loth writes, “McCrea dared to ask the rude questions that Mayor Menino’s other two challengers avoided. … McCrea gave voice to some of the quiet qualms Boston voters have after 16 years of one-person rule” (9/3).
All four candidates attended a 8/31 event sponsored by a gay-rights group, where Dorchester law prof. Dave Breen said Menino called him a liar “after he criticized the mayor’s participation in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” which has long banned openly gay groups.
All four candidates were hoping for an endorsement from the group, but “after four rounds of voting” Menino “failed to gain the two-thirds majority of votes needed for an endorsement,” picking up as much as 63% to Flaherty’s 34%. Breen “called attention to the fact that Flaherty has taken a hit from the gay community for marching in the Southie parade” and suggested that Menino “has gotten a pass, arguing the mayor in effect does march by walking along the sides of the route shaking hands and attending house parties.”
Moderator Sue O’Connell: “The mayor said, very loudly, ‘Let’s get this rumor out. That’s a lie.’ And raised his voice. He was hot.” Menino spokesperson Nick Martin said the mayor “never lost his cool but took strong exception to Breen suggesting he participates in the parade” (Weir, Boston Herald, 9/2).
Meanwhile, a Boston Globe investigation shows Menino “has signed off on the sale of hundreds of city-owned lots at a fraction of their assessed value in an effort to get them back on the tax rolls, but the way City Hall doled out the land often has not involved competitive public bidding.” The matter “is now drawing sharp criticism” from McCrea (Slack, 9/4).
BUFFALO: It’s A Brown Out
Mayor Byron Brown “is flexing all the muscles of the office in the dwindling days” before the 9/15 primary, a “fact that was in evidence” 9/3 when Rep. Brian Higgins (D) appeared with Brown to endorse him. Brown “is also expected to appear with other popular” Dems in coming days and his camp said “top statewide figures from Albany may also come here to support the mayor.” Meanwhile, city councilor Michael Kearns “hit the airwaves” with ads on two channels (McCarthy, Buffalo News, 9/4).
CLEVELAND: Sapped Momentum
Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Gomez writes, “Given a microphone” 9/2 “at the highest-profile debate” of the race, each of Mayor Frank Jackson‘s (D) “opponents passed on the opportunity to provide a game-changing moment.” Voters “hoping to hear a specific plan or vision that is starkly different from Jackson’s surely came away disappointed. None of the challengers provided one of those, either.”
The debate “was a final chance for the challengers to gain momentum” before the 9/8 primary. Jackson “stuck to his campaign theme of steady leadership that has kept the city budget balanced without drastic cutbacks. He discussed his goals to create a sustainable economy and to build on the region’s renowned health-care industry.”
Three of his opponents “offered spirited and stinging critiques of his performance” while Robert Kilo, “practically endorsed Jackson with a string of compliments.” Even ex-city councilor Bill Patmon, “who in recent weeks has hammered Jackson on key issues, kept a lid on his substantive proposals for economic development and education.”
Candidates Kimberly Brown and Laverne Jones Gore “tried to paint Jackson and Patmon as part of an old guard of failed leadership.” Jackson “did not directly respond to his critics,” but noted at one point that “anyone can talk a good game” (9/2).
MEMPHIS: Prince Mongo Makes It Fun
Shelby Co. Mayor A.C. Wharton and ‘07 candidate/ex-councilor Carol Chumney “took a couple of jabs at each other” 8/27 “in a televised political forum that was billed as a mayoral debate.” The event at Opera Memphis “turned into more of a chance for nine mayoral candidates to use an hour and a half of airtime to show potential voters how they react under pressure and to hint at the kinds of priorities they would bring to City Hall.”
The “only real debate began innocently when Chumney was asked about providing recreation for the city’s youths” and “segued from the original question, turning it into a chance to criticize city and county elected officials for failing to take an active part in storm cleanup efforts during the summer.” She said “she spent a full week working in neighborhoods from Boxtown to Hickory Hill to help storm victims” but Wharton said”snapped” at Chumney that “You don’t just pop up while the cameras are there.”
Of 44 people “who have so far picked up petitions to run for mayor, only 17 have returned them to the Election Commission” and the “nine debaters were from that group.” Also taking part were atty Charles Carpenter, Councilor Wanda Halbert, perennial candidate Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, wrestling celebrity Jerry Lawler, Memphis school board member Sharon Webb, and Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr.
The “long-haired Hodges, who donned goggles for the debate, proposed flushing most politicians along with the ‘rest of the crooks’ down the toilet.” Hodges: “I’m the only one who tells the truth or goes out of the box” (Lollar, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 9/27).
Hodges had originally been told he would not be able to participate in the debate because “he had not been actively involved in campaigning” had an atty draft “a petition for an injunction that might have delayed the debate.” The parent company eventually gave Hodges the OK and “he arrived barefoot with goggles, a flowing blonde wig and his bare legs painted purple and pink.” He said the “purple represented royalty and the pink stood for blood.”
Before the debate Wharton sent a letter saying he was “considering withdrawal from this debate.” Wharton: “I accepted this invitation based on the good-faith assurance … that this debate would include only ‘serious candidates.” Commercial Appeal columnist/questioner Wendi C. Thomas: “His (Hodges’) presence made a mockery of the democratic process. It distracts from the real issue” (Memphis Commercial Appeal, 9/29).
The 28 candidates make up “the largest field” in the 41 year history of the mayor-council form of govt. But before the 10/15 special election, “there is next week to consider.” The 9/10 deadline for those “candidates to withdraw if they wish” and “talks to get some of those … to drop out are already underway.” Wharton “began meeting with several rivals” last month and said “he never asked candidates to get out of the race, but instead told them the issues he planned to run on” (Dries, Memphis Daily News, 9/4).
MINNEAPOLIS: Glenn Beck Will Love This
Robery Carney Jr. (R) “says he was denied a chance to file both his party and his political principal below his name on the city ballot” and is “seeking a judge’s ruling that would force the city to accept both.” Carney said election officials “denied him the right to label himself a ‘moderate progressive Republican’” on the ballot, saying “the city charter allows him to list a political party or principal but not both.” Carney then filed as a “moderate progressive censored.”
Carney, “representing himself, has served the legal action on the city although he is still trying to raise the money for the filing fee” for district court (Brandt, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/1).
PITTSBURGH: I Sell Donuts Might Be A Good Slogan
Allegheny Co. Judge Joseph James 9/2 “dismissed a challenge to the candidacy” of businessman/Steelers’ Hall of Famer son Franco Dok Harris (I), who will remain on the ballot. The challenge was brought by “people with ties to the campaign” of atty Kevin Acklin (I). They “challenged thousands of signatures on Harris’ petitions, but the judge ruled that enough were valid, or could be corrected, for Harris” to stay on the ballot.
Harris’ atty “agreed to strike almost” 1.5K signatures from his nomination petitions. With so many signatures rejected, Harris “was asked if that showed some sloppiness in his campaign.” Harris: “I’m not a professional politician. I’m a businessman and I sell donuts” (McNulty, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/2).
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