Atlanta mayor’s ties to predecessor could damage her VP chances
As the pressure rises on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to announce a black woman as his running mate, Atlanta’s mayor has earned a national spotlight for her reported spot on the shortlist for Biden’s potential running mates. Here’s 5 things you need to know about Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, considered to be on the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s shortlist of vice presidential candidates, could have her chances complicated by her ties to her predecessor, who left his position amid a federal pay-for-play investigation that resulted in charges for several of his top aides, according to a report.
Bottoms’ star has risen in the last several weeks amid racial justice protests in Atlanta in the wake of the police-involved deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, during which many feel she showed strong leadership.
Former Mayor Kasim Reed, who left the office in 2018, has not been accused or charged in the investigation into more than $1 million allegedly received as bribes for profitable contracts during his administration, ABC News reported. He has denied any wrongdoing. Bottoms hasn't been tied to the investigation.
“The uncertainty of the federal investigation into corruption at city hall would be something I would not want to overlook if I were choosing a running mate,” Harvey Newman, a professor at Georgia State University who has advised previous Atlanta mayors, told ABC News. “I see it as a potential problem.”
Bottoms has known Reed for decades, something she’s been public about, but she has distanced herself from him during the investigation, the report said.
“She has shown, on the one hand, loyalty to that relationship,” former city council president Ceasar Mitchell said. “But on the other hand, she took steps to at least try to convey to people that she was addressing some of the issues that obviously were being laid squarely at the prior administration’s doorstep,” which included creating an inspector general’s office to “root out misconduct” in the government, the city said in a press release.
Bottoms served on the Atlanta city council while Reed was mayor and he appointed her in 2015 to run the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA) simultaneously, something that was seen as a conflict of interest by some, as the jobs served different constituencies, according to ABC News.
“The Authority is a separate agency, and prior to acceptance of the position, the City Ethics office confirmed that it was permissible to accept the position, as long as then Councilmember Bottoms recused herself from any related votes, which she did,” a spokesperson for Bottoms told ABC News.
In 2017, Bottoms beat a crowded field of 10 mayoral candidates likely with the help of Reed’s endorsement and promise “to do everything I can to make sure this woman wins.”
His support helped her get a bevy of high-dollar donations, leading her to raise more than twice the amount of her next closest opponent.
“She would not be mayor if not for Kasim Reed’s help,” one of her opponents, former state senator Vincent Fort, told ABC. He called the alleged corruption in Reed’s administration “unprecedented.”
During the election, Bottoms was forced to return a $25,000 donation to a contractor involved in the pay-for-play investigation and stirred controversy by allowing a Texas-based CEO -- who had just gotten a contract from the AFCRA while she was still running it -- to hold a fundraiser for her, ABC reported.
In all, 10 people have been charged in the pay-for-play investigation: Seven have pleaded guilty and six have been given prison sentences, according to ABC.
Bottoms' office told ABC News she “has not been interviewed on the federal probe matter, nor does she have any reason to believe she would or should be, as this investigation is centered around the previous administration.”
But even if Bottoms isn’t involved in the investigation, coverage of the trial of one of Reed’s former top advisers that is set to start in the fall could damage her politically and bring unwanted attention right before the presidential election.
Biden promised to choose a woman as his running mate months ago and is under pressure to pick a woman of color as the discussion of race and racism deepens in the country.
Others reportedly on his shortlist include Sens. Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth and Elizabeth Warren, former national security adviser Susan Rice and Reps. Val Demings and Karen Bass.