Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, at a Friday morning press conference at Atlanta City Hall, explained her surprise decision not to seek reelection as the city’s mayor.
“I wish I could tell you there was a moment or a thing,” Bottoms said. “But when you have faith and guidance, in the same way five years ago when it was clear that I should run for mayor, it is abundantly clear that I need to pass the baton to someone else.”
Bottoms announced Thursday night that she would not seek reelection later this year, a stunning reversal from just a few weeks back, when she appeared to be moving forward with her campaign.
“I don’t know what’s next for me personally and for our family,” she said at the Friday press conference. “But this is a decision made from a position of strength, not weakness.”
Bottoms’s announcement came as a shock to many in Georgia’s political circles, as she had just held a virtual fundraiser with President Biden for her presumed mayoral reelection campaign in late March. She raised over $500,000, a record-breaking figure for a mayoral candidate in the city.
A recent internal poll leaked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week also nodded to Bottoms’s favorability across the city, with a 68 percent approval rating. And less than a year ago, Bottoms was on the shortlist of potential running mates for Biden, and later turned down an offer to join Biden’s Cabinet.
Now, she’s pivoting once again and also pushing back against any notion that she couldn’t win another mayoral term.
“If this race was held today, I would win it without a runoff,” she said Friday. “That’s not just me [saying it]. I’ve seen the poll numbers. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. I can be mayor again, but there is a reason why there is a race every four years. Just as people can make the decision to run, candidates can decide whether to run as well.”
Shortly after her announcement on Thursday, speculation swirled about Bottoms’s next move, one that could involve seeking higher office in Georgia, and possibly running for governor to challenge current Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Despite her favorable numbers across the city, critics believe Bottoms would face a competitive race if she sought mayoral reelection, and would have a tougher time winning a statewide office in a historically Republican state. During her time in office, Atlanta saw a 60 percent increase in homicides, and many progressives and conservatives alike questioned her connection to any specific community.
“Regardless of what internal partisan polls say, Mayor Bottoms has left this city a mess,” said a Georgia political strategist who agreed to talk to Yahoo News on condition of anonymity.
A major concern, according to the strategist, is the lack of affordable housing in Atlanta amid continuing gentrification of the city.
“Atlanta needs someone who will prioritize Atlanta’s most vulnerable — which is not Buckhead residents,” the strategist said, referring to the city’s affluent residential and commercial district.
The strategist also criticized Bottoms’s handling of the death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man shot by an Atlanta police officer. The officer was reinstated on the force this week.
But Bottoms says she decided not to seek reelection because she feels that is best for her and the city of Atlanta, not because of any outside pressures.
“I’ve dealt with pressure since I was 8,” she said. “If anyone thinks that the reinstatement of an employee will run me out of office, [they] must not know me. I don’t fold under pressure.”
Cover thumbnail photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
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