Race takes center stage at debate between Mary Norwood, Keisha L - CBS46 News

Race takes center stage at debate between Mary Norwood, Keisha Lance Bottoms

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(Source: GPB) (Source: GPB)
ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Race took center stage after a controversial word was tossed into a debate between Atlanta mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms.

"Did you call them thugs?" asked Bottoms.

"Thug does not mean African-American," answered Norwood. "It means unethical behavior. And that can mean a person of whatever background."

CBS46 wanted to know what the fall out was in the wake of that exchange, so we spoke with a popular Atlanta radio host to find out if the fireworks died down.

Radio host Rashad Richey has been fielding calls -- some from angry listeners -- about race in the election on 1380 WAOK.

"For some people, race matters supremely," says Richey. "And for others, race doesn't matter as much."

After the exchange, Richey says it's been a hot topic on his radio program.

"When you start saying things like "thug," "Section 8," "welfare," for many people, over the course of decades, they have used those words as coded language to mean black," says Richey. "It doesn't necessarily mean that's what is meant. But, that's definitely how individuals in our community can interpret these words."

Richey had Norwood on his show Wednesday to explain.

"I thought Mary Norwood was actually very transparent," he says.

Bottoms was also on his program, hammering the point home. But, right then, on Richey's show, she got the news that former candidate Cathy Woolard had just endorsed Norwood.

When asked how she felt, Bottoms said, "this is starting to sound a lot like a list of 'Who hates Mayor Reed' club."

When asked if the contest will come down to race after both campaigns were accused of using racial undertones, Norwood said, "Our campaign hasn't used any racial undertones or overtones of any kind. What we've done is, I'm the candidate that is a unifying candidate."

When we asked Bottoms if the contest would come down to race, she said, "The people of this city are smarter than that. And they will see past the stereotypes and the coded language. And they will make a decision based on the most qualified candidate."

Richey says all the talk about race in the election is positive, but ultimately, he thinks the election is going to be a referendum on Mayor Kasim Reed because of Reed's heavy involvement in it.

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