2018 YEAR IN REVIEW | Atlanta’s biggest hits in politics

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

by Itoro Umontuen

This year, Atlanta politics was similar to a powerful hurricane that was building over time and washed ashore with the power and fury of several armies. The year began swiftly on Jan. 2, as Keisha Lance Bottoms was sworn in as the 60th mayor of Atlanta, along with the Atlanta City Council, in an at-capacity ceremony at Morehouse College.

“I want to thank all of Atlanta and each and every one of you here today, for your support and encouragement and your faith in me,” Bottoms said. “Only in Atlanta could a girl named Keisha, who attended Frederick Douglass High School on the west side, grow up to become the 60th mayor of the great city of Atlanta.”

Bottoms maintained her campaign promise as she ushered a new era of transparency in City Hall. She was truthful in the face of a ransomware cyberattack on the City’s intranet systems.

On the heels of the cyber attack, Bottoms asked for the resignations of cabinet holdovers from former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, refused to house refugees and migrant detainees at the U.S.-Mexico border, and also launched “Atlanta’s Open Checkbook,” a website that will allow the public to view the City’s expenditures.

2018 will go down in history as the year of Stacey Abrams. The Kirkwood Democrat made history as the first African-American woman to secure a major party’s gubernatorial nomination when she defeated Stacey Evans in the May Democratic Primary by a three-to-one margin.

“I stand here tonight grateful to the thousands of you who have joined me on this drive to history,” Abrams said in her watch party address on May 22. “We are writing the next chapter of Georgia’s future. Where no one is unseen, unheard or uninspired. A Georgia where we prosper – together!

By comparison, the Republican primary was a battle to see who can be the biggest supporter of President Donald Trump in Georgia. Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp were running a dead heat.

Even former Republican gubernatorial candidate Clay Tippins said the election had become about “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck, and who could be the craziest.”

That prognostication was proven right as Kemp ran a political ad pledging to round up illegal immigrants and to be a governor standing upon law and order.

On July 21, President Trump stepped in and tweeted his support for the Secretary of State. Kemp won the Republican runoff by 22 points, setting up an ideological showdown that would shake Georgia to its political core.

The general election gained national significance as Abrams was able to galvanize a portion of the Democratic base that did not turn out for Jason Carter four years ago. Her message of progress for all, expansion of Medicaid and job creation were some of her platforms.

Kemp, by comparison, wanted to maintain the momentum from Governor Nathan Deal’s administration.

The election was also marred by the purging of 53,000 people from the Georgia Voter Database. The cries of voter suppression, voter intimidation, and the class warfare waged in African-American communities showed millennials a small, yet relevant taste of what life was like 50 years ago.

Coupled with the refusal of Kemp to step aside from his office during the race, the Abrams campaign prepared for every conceivable outcome on Nov. 6.

Will Ferrell, Oprah Winfrey, and the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama campaigned valiantly for Abrams leading up to Election Night. When the dust settled at 2 am on Wednesday, Nov. 7th, the race was too close to call.

Ultimately, Abrams stepped aside because she didn’t feel the need to scheme her way into office.

In a defiant and resolute speech, the Democrat from Kirkwood said she was not conceding this election. However, she pledged to fight for everyone’s right to vote and participate in the Democratic process.

“I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” Abrams said Nov. 16. “But to watch an elected official – who claims to represent the people of this state, baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote – has been truly appalling.

“To be clear, this is not a speech of concession,” she continued with fiery delivery. “Concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede. But my assessment is that the law currently allows no further viable remedy.”

Abrams moment in the spotlight seems to be far from over. Just last week, she joined the board of the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans, through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action. The former Georgia House Minority Leader also has vowed to run for public office again soon.

2018 was a year of seismic change in Georgia politics. If this year was any indication, Brian Kemp will have a lot of eyes watching him under the Gold Dome in 2019. By comparison, Keisha Lance Bottoms will have an adoring city behind her as she pushes forward with her agenda.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice

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