Atlanta Mayor Bottoms gains stature as Biden mulls VP

Atlanta Mayor Bottoms gains stature as Biden mulls VP
Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks onstage during the 2018 Essence Festival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, July 06, 2018. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2020

Atlanta Mayor Bottoms gains stature as Biden mulls VP

Atlanta Mayor Bottoms gains stature as Biden mulls VP
  • Bottoms propelled herself to national prominence with a spellbinding speech on May 29 when protests in her city turned destructive as people raged about the police killing of George Floyd
  • The mayor is being mentioned as a potential Biden running mate in the same breath as prominent black political women like US Senator Kamala Harris

WASHINGTON: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has earned praise for her handling of turbulent anti-racism protests, boosting her prospects of becoming Joe Biden’s running mate and potentially America’s first black female vice president.
Bottoms has led one of the largest, most multiracial metropolitan areas in the United States since early 2018, a potent political force in the southern state of Georgia.
She recently made waves by pushing back against Republican Governor Brian Kemp and US President Donald Trump and advocating against the rapid reopening of businesses and Georgia communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, in this divisive American hour, she propelled herself to national prominence with a spellbinding speech on May 29 when protests in her city turned destructive as people raged about the police killing of unarmed African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“If you care about this city, then go home,” Bottoms appealed to looters and non-violent demonstrators alike in remarks that quickly went viral.
“If you want change in America, go and register to vote,” she added, her voice rising. “That is the change we need in this country.”
Bottoms has acknowledged being wholly unaware of the telegenic power of her impromptu comments that night.
But the “chaos,” as she called it, eased, and the protests that followed in Atlanta remained largely peaceful. She even joined demonstrators on Atlanta’s streets.
Bottoms, 50, often turns personal when she discusses how her black children will make their way in the world, and speaks in a measured clip that suggests she weighs every word.
Suddenly, the mayor is being mentioned as a potential Biden running mate in the same breath as prominent black political women like US Senator Kamala Harris, congresswoman Val Demings and Obama-era national security adviser Susan Rice.
Bottoms said she has not given the issue much thought given her focus on mitigating the pandemic and addressing the protests and calls for police reform.
“But if (Biden) felt that I would be the person to help him win in November, and I would be best suited, it is certainly something I would give serious consideration to,” she told Axios last week.
Since those comments, a new challenge emerged: the killing by police Friday of another black man, this time in Atlanta itself.
As tensions swelled, the police chief resigned. The officer who pulled the trigger was fired on the recommendation of Bottoms, who said she does not believe that deadly force was justified.
Some demonstrators have heaped pressure on Bottoms, threatening to oust her in the next election if she did not handle the latest crisis with dexterity.
The community’s anxieties hit close to home. As a child, Bottoms watched terrified as her father, the once-famous singer Major Lance, was led away in handcuffs and jailed on a drug conviction.
The tragedy inspired her commitment to criminal justice reform.
Bottoms’s political experience has been local, but she prides herself on having worked in all three branches of government.
A dozen years ago she served as a part-time magistrate judge before winning a spot on the Atlanta city council. In 2017 she won a heated run-off for mayor, and turned her executive authority to cleaning up the streets, resolving a ransom-ware attack and bringing Super Bowl LIII to Atlanta.
Then came 2020 and a convergence of crises: coronavirus, the resulting economic devastation, and now sweeping calls for police reform and racial justice.
Few of her rivals for vice president have come face to face with such a triple threat.
Even before Bottoms was thrust into the spotlight over the protests, a Biden confidante sang her praises.
Bottoms “would make a tremendous VP candidate,” senior House Democrat Jim Clyburn told the Financial Times in March.
During a televised Sunday town hall featuring other black civic leaders, Bottoms revealed it has been difficult to “put aside my own anger and sadness” and articulate what communities should hear about efforts to confront racial injustice.
“These deaths will not be in vain,” she pledged. “There’s a movement across this country and it is changing all of our cities.”