By Farooq A. Kperogi
Unfortunately, my expectations about the Dec. 1 runoff contest didn’t materialize. Atlanta did not, after all, have its reverse Obama moment.
Mary Norwood, the white female candidate who won the first round of polls on Nov. 3, lost by a razor-thin margin to Mohammed Kasim Reed, the black candidate. Reed defeated Norwood with mere 758 votes out of a total of more than 83,000 votes cast, representing a margin of less than one percent.
And, although both candidates garnered substantial votes across the black/white racial divide, the voting pattern largely followed the traditional racial fault-lines of the city.
In the northern part of the city, which is 88 percent white and only 8 percent black, Norwood received 87 percent of the votes and Reed received only 12 percent. In the southern part of the city, which is 97 percent black and only two percent white, Reed got 81 percent of the votes and Norwood received 18 percent.
This shows that Norwood did better in black neighborhoods than Reed did in white neighborhoods. Or, put another way, more blacks voted outside their race than whites did. And in a city where over 50 percent of the registered voters are black, Norwood’s performance may signal a shift in the character of Atlanta’s politics.
(It’s important to note that the “city of Atlanta” is different from “Metro Atlanta,” although the city of Atlanta is the nucleus and urban core of Metro Atlanta. While the city of Atlanta comprises only one county, that is, Fulton county, and is only a little over half a million in population, Metro Atlanta comprises several different smaller cities that have been “swallowed” by Atlanta and are now practically indistinguishable from it. Metro Atlanta consists of 28 counties with a population of nearly 6 million people. In this article I talk only of the city of Atlanta).
Norwood’s near-victory may not represent Atlanta’s Obama moment, but it does signal a dramatic change in the offing in this city that has been dubbed the Mecca of Black America: with the unprecedented return of the white middle class to Atlanta and its attendant forced black flight, Reed (who was born a Muslim but is now a practicing Christian) may be the last black mayor of Atlanta.