Eight months ago, Keisha Lance Bottoms looked like a rising star in the Democratic Party. She landed a spot on the virtual national-convention stage, and the Atlanta mayor even got some buzz as a potential running mate for Joe Biden. Last night, however, news leaked out that Bottoms won’t run for a second term, after having her term plagued by mishandling of a police shooting and skyrocketing crime:
In a stunning announcement Thursday night, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told supporters that she will not run for reelection this year.
Bottoms announced she will not seek a second term as Atlanta’s 60th mayor during a private call with friends, staffers and allies, according to two people who were on the call and several others who were told about it.
The mayor has scheduled a 10 a.m. press conference Friday at City Hall, though her office did not provide any details about the subject. A spokesperson for the mayor did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.
Why now? The New York Times points out that two serious challengers had emerged in the upcoming mayoral race, although they report that everyone expected her to “mount a formidable defense.” Both challengers had already identified Bottoms’ weak spots — being soft on crime and too ambitious to pay attention to Atlanta:
Two contenders who have been seeking to unseat Ms. Bottoms, a Democrat, in the nonpartisan November election have promised to do a better job fighting what Ms. Bottoms has called a “Covid crime wave,” which includes a 58 percent spike in homicides in 2020.
“Atlanta has a mayor that isn’t focused on reducing crime,” one of the challengers, Felicia Moore, the president of the City Council, said in a recent statement. “Atlanta has a mayor that is more interested in things that happen outside Atlanta and outside Georgia. We need a mayor who knows the No. 1 job of any mayor is to keep our city safe.”
The other challenger, Sharon Gay, a lawyer, has also said she would make fighting crime a top priority.
There’s a reason for the crime spike, and it’s not COVID-19. In the wake of the Rayshard Brooks shooting, Bottoms and leadership at the Atlanta police department overreacted. The APD fired officer Garrett Rolfe without any due process, while then-DA Paul Howard — already under investigation for corruption — railroaded Rolfe into a felony murder indictment. Bottoms then pandered to the “defund the police” crowd and undercut the APD rank and file, which got fed up and began to conduct “blue flu” strikes. Bottoms scolded them to “keep their commitment” to Atlanta, but that only made the damage worse. Criminal elements took advantage of the pullback in policing that resulted from Bottoms’ leadership, much as happened in Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, New York City, and other cities where leadership pandered to hard-Left activists.
One has to wonder whether the decision by the Atlanta Civil Service Board to reinstate Rolfe wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back. Their report leans heavily on testimony from an Internal Affairs investigator who testified that the APD rushed the process so Bottoms could announce Rolfe’s firing at a scheduled press conference. As mayor Bottoms has authority over the APD, and whether or not she explicitly ordered that action, the ultimate responsibility for that abuse of power and violation of due process belongs to Bottoms. And it’s tough to believe that APD leadership would have cut all those corners without political pressure of some kind from Bottoms.
To be fair, some of the problems Bottoms faced were not of her making. She came into office as the Department of Justice was probing corruption in her predecessor Kasim Reed’s administration, sapping some of the energy from city hall at the time. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s probe of Howard didn’t help either, and Howard’s attempt to use Rolfe as a distraction was at least technically separate from Bottoms. The APD falls squarely on Bottoms’ watch, however, and the consequences of her rush to embrace cutbacks for funding and rollbacks of police assertiveness belong entirely to Bottoms — including the 58% spike in homicides.
It’s a long fall for a politician who got shortlisted for the #2 job in the US less than a year ago. Bottoms isn’t necessarily done yet, but with this track record, a career above municipal office seems as unlikely now as Bottoms winning a second term.