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Nov. 20, 2013, 3:11 p.m.

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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