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Atlanta mayor race hinges on race

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Atlanta holds its mayoral runoff election tomorrow, and it's likely to be decided along racial lines.

The race is between City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is white, and former state Sen. Kasim Reed, who is black. Norwood won 46% of the vote on Nov. 3rd, but needed 50% to win outright. Reed, who pulled in 36%, split the black vote in a crowded field of other African-American candidates.

The city is comprised of about 57% African Americans and 38% whites and hasn't had a white mayor since Sam Massell was defeated in 1973. Massell's "runoff campaign slogan was a covert warning to city whites: 'Atlanta's Too Young to Die,'" the Associated Press writes. Massell "lost to Maynard Jackson, who rode 90 percent of the black vote to become Atlanta's first black mayor. That office, along with much of the city's leadership, has been black ever since. For many, Tuesday's vote will determine whether it stays that way.

" 'Atlanta is a black city, a symbol to the world,' political strategist Tom Houck said. 'Putting Mary's face on that picture would be hard for a lot of people to stomach.'"

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it this way after the Nov. 3 election: "The path to victory for Atlanta's next mayor is clear, even if the candidates don't want to say it. It's about race. ... This week's mayoral election showed that decades after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. urged that people not be judged by the color of their skin, blacks and whites in his hometown are voting along racial lines." 

Without trustworthy public polling on the contest so far, political observers have said it's unclear who will prevail. If Norwood "can hold onto her strong support from whtie voters [in Northside Atlanta], and she draws away a respectable minority of black voters, as she did [Nov. 3], she wins...," the Journal-Constitution wrote. If Reed, who was the lesser-known candidate on Nov. 3rd, "can boost his black get-out-the vote effort and bring in supporters of [the third-place candidate], a black woman, he wins."

Even though black voters outnumber whites in Atlanta, a higher percentage of whites showed up at the polls on Nov. 3.