Atlanta voters mull over the possibility of electing their first - CBS46 News

Atlanta voters mull over the possibility of electing their first white mayor in 40 years

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(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

For more than 40 years, Atlanta has had black mayors, but this year there is a possibility that a white mayor could be elected.

Councilwoman Mary Norwood came less than 400 votes short of beating Kasim Reed for the job back in 2009, and this time around polls are showing that she's in the lead again.

The white flight that afflicted Atlanta in the 60's and 70's has begun to boomerang as that population is starting to come back. That said, if a candidate expects to win the mayor's race, they better have more than just the support of their race.

It's no stretch to say that any one of the top eight candidates in the race has a chance to win. Some believe a slate this strong hasn't been seen in nearly a century.

"It's very interesting, it's the first time, and I date back before Hartsfield, and it's the first time I've seen this many credible candidates running for this top position," says Sam Massell with Buckhead Coalition, and also Atlanta's last white mayor. 

Yet hovering like a specter over every appearance, and every debate, and every smiling close up is the knowledge that race will very likely define the race for Atlanta mayor.

"Race frames this election. Every issue you talk [on], there's some racial element to it," says veteran journalist Maynard Eaton. He has covered Atlanta politics for decades and believes the sheer number of black candidates in the mayoral race may have hurt all of their chances, ironically, for being so qualified to potentially win.

"Back in the day, I'm told they'd have a meeting in the backroom on Auburn Avenue or Butler Street, and they'd decide who the candidate will be," says Eaton." Those days are gone. The days of black politics as they once were are done. That's why, yes, there's a chance for a white mayor because times have changed."

Residents we spoke with say race will not be a factor, but the ability to get the job done will be.

"Personally, it's not an issue, shouldn't be an issue for the city. [It] should be about what's right for the city, not about race, creed or color." says resident Emile Angel.  

"Crime, that's pretty much it. Just the crime rate, it's really high right now so whoever you would vote for would have to deal with that," says resident Dre Piage.

"Racial differences have faded dramatically because of the progress that has been raised by both races, both white and black, and I think this is healthy of course," says Massell.

Eaton says the issue of black vs. white is mostly a boomer issue. For millennials and newcomers, race may not even be on the radar any more than gender, sexual orientation and geography. 

But then they're not the only ones voting.

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