On Thursday May 6, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced she would not seek a second term, setting off a firestorm of speculation wondering why she wouldn’t run and who would become the 61st Mayor of Atlanta. 

Bottoms will become the first Atlanta mayor to not serve a second term since Sam Massell in 1973, after losing to Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., the first Black mayor in the city’s history.

Around 9:00 PM of that evening, Bottoms was on a call with allies, staffers, and supporters when she publicly declared her intentions to stand down at the end of her term. 

“While I am not yet certain of what the future holds,” she wrote in a letter, “I trust that my next season will continue to be one full of passion and purpose, guided by the belief that within each of us is the power and responsibility to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

In a bit of irony, Bottoms wrote two letters. Each letter described why she would or would not run for mayor, respectively.

The following morning, Bottoms held a press conference at City Hall, where she answered questions for thirty-seven minutes. She immediately quelled speculation that she would run for governor, higher office and even work for Walgreens.

“In the absence of my speaking my truth, people will insert a narrative, which is why I am here today,” Bottoms said.

Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer is one of the first Black female heads of a Fortune 500 company. Bottoms said Brewer “is my girl. I love her dearly.” Reports claimed Bottoms would take a job with the company.

“But she didn’t get to be the CEO of Walgreens by offering jobs to random friends. I am not going to Walgreens in Chicago,” Bottoms admitted.

Later on, Bottoms addressed her record. She would cite the cyberattack that impacted her first 100 days plus the resignations she asked for, her spats with former President Donald J. Trump as she stopped the acceptance of detainees from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Additionally, her run-ins with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp were equal parts tug-of-war, equal parts a study of toxic white masculinity as their disagreements on the handling of present-day issues like rising crime, the mask mandates surrounding the Coronavirus Pandemic, and ease of voting access.

“The last three years have not been at all what I would have scripted for our city that seemed to literally suck the air out of City Hall,” Bottoms said.

Bottoms and her husband, Derek, famously combated the coronavirus in July while the City of Atlanta had a racial reckoning of its own after the death of Rayshard Brooks on June 14. 

Soon after, Bottoms came under fire by City Councilman Antonio Brown and others claiming Bottoms was an absentee mayor. 

Those questions grew louder in March when she hosted a fundraiser for President Joe Biden, the first headlined by the president since he took office and drew over $500,000. In a July 2020 interview with Sharon Reed, Bottoms said those accusations were ‘silly.’

“Interviews may last for five minutes if you’re doing broadcast, a little longer with print publications,” Bottoms explained. “During the course of an interview, I may receive questions about running for vice-president, but by and large it’s about Atlanta and how I am leading in Atlanta because people are interested in what’s happening in this city. 

“And so, you don’t get to become the Mayor of Atlanta, especially as a woman, and not be able to multitask. I’ve been doing it for a very long time and I’d like to think I do it pretty well. So this notion that I am distracted by talk of being vice president, I think it’s a distraction that others are focused on and not me.”

Speaking of Antonio Brown, often a critic of Bottoms, will likely join Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, and attorney Sharon Gay as some of the declared candidates for Mayor. Former U.S. Rep. Kwanzaa Hall also has shown interest in the job as well.

Bottoms is the only mayor in Atlanta’s history to have served in all three branches of government, serving as a judge and City Council member before being sworn in as Mayor.

Bottoms is a product of Atlanta Public Schools and graduated from Frederick Douglass High School. She received her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law.

“I don’t know what’s next for me personally and for our family. But what I do know is that this is a decision made from a position of strength, not weakness,” Bottoms said. 

She noted that she had raised a significant amount of money and is in the process of refunding her donors. In addition, Bottoms said her polling data suggests that she would win the race if it was held today. 

I  wanted to finish what I started and I didn’t see who would step in and lead the city. And the voters will decide who that person is, and in my multitude of conversations with God about this, I don’t know who else He’s speaking to and who else will take us to the next step,” Bottoms explained.

Bottoms did not endorse a candidate during her Friday press conference.

“I have a pretty good idea of the people it should not be, but that will be for the voters of Atlanta to decide and that’s part of the reason behind my timing and making this announcement,” Bottoms said. 

“This time now is to give a candidate who perhaps won’t be a self-funded candidate … It’s easy for someone wealthy to write themselves a check, and run for office. But, this will give someone an opportunity to truly go out, fundraise, and organize a campaign.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks to reporters from City Hall on Friday, May 7, 2021. Bottoms announced she will not run for re-election. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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