ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10/CNN) – Late Thursday night Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that she will not seek reelection this year.
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— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) May 7, 2021
“As (husband) Derek and I have given thoughtful prayer and consideration to the season now before us, it is with deep emotions that I hold my head high, and choose not to seek another term as Mayor,” Bottoms wrote in a letter published online.
“While I am not yet certain of what the future holds, I trust that my next season will continue to be one full of passion and purpose, guided by the belief that within each of us is the power and responsibility to make a positive difference in the lives of others,” she wrote.
Bottoms wrote that her decision was not based on an inability to fundraise, a belief that she wouldn’t win again, or fear of competition in her bid for a second term as 60th mayor of Atlanta.
“I have engaged in several elections, facing multiple candidates, and never once have I cowarded [sic] from the competition,” Bottoms wrote.
A source said that the mayor made the announcement during a virtual call which included members of her finance team on Thursday night.
An early backer of President Joe Biden and a contender to serve as his vice president, Bottoms has emerged as a rising star in the Democratic Party. She has repeatedly used her platform as mayor of a major American city to weigh in on a slew of high-profile issues through the lens of their impact on Atlanta, from voting rights to pandemic guidelines.
Facing a high-stakes test of her leadership at home, Bottoms stepped into the national spotlight last summer by denouncing vandalism in her city as “chaos” after demonstrations over the death of George Floyd turned violent and destructive.
“What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” an impassioned Bottoms said at a news conference at the time. “This is chaos.”
Her decision to fire Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe the day after he shot and killed Rayshard Brooks was overturned by the Civil Service Board earlier this week. The board ruled that Rolfe was wrongly terminated because she did not follow due process procedures. Rolfe was reinstated and is on administrative leave pending the outcome of his criminal trial.
That decision and several others led to many Atlanta Police officers staging a sick out last year.READ MORE: Child Tax Credit: When Will You Get Your First Check?
After Thursday’s virtual announcement, Bottoms tearfully announced her plan to not seek a second term during a City Hall press conference. “My love for this city was a love planted in my heart long before I was formed in my mother’s womb,” she said, also addressing rumors and speculation. “I am not going to Walgreens in Chicago. This is a decision made from a position of strength and not weakness.” She said she had been thinking about not running again for some time. “I wanted to finish what I started, and I didn’t see who could step in and lead this city,” said Bottoms.
Despite the pandemic and civil unrest, Bottoms said the last year was the highlight of her time in office. She reflected on how the city faced the challenges head on, working to create more affordable housing and get homeless people off the streets. “Firefighters, our police officers, our sanitation workers never stopped working through the pandemic. We gave money to small businesses. We gave money to the creative industry. We stepped up, and we did it the Atlanta way. We served 199,000 meals. We got $88 million in CARES Act funding. There was no playbook. There was no handbook. There was no leadership in the White House.” There is at least one thing she said she would have done differently. “I likely would have asked for resignations sooner than 100 days into office,” she said.
Bottoms said a poll shows 70% of the people in the city still like her, despite the fact many criticize her criminal justice decisions. “If the race for mayor were held today, I would win this race without a runoff,” said Bottoms.
However, there are those who disagree, like George Chidi, a local columnist. “She is a genuinely nice person. Honestly, I think that might have gotten in the way of her ability to administrate this city,” he told CW69 during an interview following the press conference. “She hasn’t been out in the trenches cracking heads or building the relationships necessary in order to fight the local level problems with crime. I am hearing over and over that she has not been conducting that kind of retail politics.”
Chidi said the city could have made a lot more progress on issues of inequality than it did in the last few years. “We still have the highest inequality, as measured by Bloomberg, in the United States, and I think that that inequality is what caused the crime spike,” he said.
He predicts a large number of people will campaign to become the next mayor. “With her out, we’re gonna see a clown car of candidates.” He is urging people to check the facts and data on all candidates first hand before selecting who to vote for. Bottoms has not yet endorsed any candidate. “I certainly will make it known at the appropriate time who I will cast my vote for,” she said. In the meantime, she’s making plans to continue helping in any capacity she can once she leaves office. While she said she doesn’t know what her next role will be, she indicated it’s a faith walk. “It’s not faith if you know what’s on the other side,” said Bottoms.
Chidi said he believes Bottoms was candid and honest during the press conference. “It’s a sad day. You want the Mayor of Atlanta to be successful,” he said.
This year, as Republican-controlled legislatures nationwide have moved to pass restrictive voting laws, Bottoms in April urged those looking to boycott Georgia-based companies over the state’s new elections law to instead vote and back federal voting legislation. The mayor has criticized the Georgia law, which imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.
She also weighed in on the motive of a suspected shooter who allegedly killed eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta-area spas earlier this year, saying that she believes race played a role in the attacker’s motivations.
Like other lawmakers facing intrastate tension during the pandemic, Bottoms clashed with the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, over coronavirus guidance. Kemp filed a lawsuit against her in July over Atlanta’s mask mandate that he said violated his emergency orders prohibiting local action from being more prohibitive than the state’s requirements. Earlier that month, Bottoms — who had tested positive for coronavirus — also decided to roll back the city’s reopening, citing an alarming increase in coronavirus cases and drawing Kemp’s ire.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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