Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will not seek reelection: ‘Time to pass the baton’

Bottoms announced the stunning Friday morning, telling Atlanta residents "this is a decision made from a position of strength and not weakness."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will not seek reelection for office after one term in office. Bottoms first announced the stunning decision Thursday night during a private phone call with staff, supporters and friends and confirmed the news during a press conference Friday morning.

Keisha Lance Bottoms
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a press conference on March 17, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Suspect Robert Aaron Long, 21, was arrested after a series of shootings at three Atlanta-area spas left eight people dead on Tuesday night, including six Asian women. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

“This has been my highest honor to serve as mayor of this city,” Bottoms said at the presser. “Many of you all have heard me speak of my family’s history in this city going back almost 100 years. My grandmother would tell me how her father, who was a child of people who were once enslaved from Crawfordville, Georgia, packed up a horse and buggy and they made their journey to Atlanta.”

“My family moved to the westside of Atlanta and they found community and they found purpose and they found a way to make the lives of their children better — and I stand here on their shoulders. My love for this city was the love planted in my heart long before I was formed in my mother’s womb.”

She added, “… in the same way that it was abundantly clear to me almost five years I should run for mayor of Atlanta, it is abundantly clear to me today that is time to pass the baton on to someone else.”

Bottoms explained that the past three years of her tenure as mayor has “not been at all what I would’ve scripted for our city,” which included the “biggest cyber attack in the history of a municipality in America” just three months into her administration, as well as last year’s George Floyd protests.

Despite those challenges and having “a mad man in the White House” — referring to former President Donald Trump — Bottoms said the city of Atlanta was able to rise above.

Bottoms also denied rumors that her decision was tied to her husband, Derek Bottoms, taking a corporate job at Walgreens. “In the absence of my speaking my truth, people will insert a narrative, which is why I’m here today,” she said. “I don’t know what’s next … but what I do know is that this is a decision made from a position of strength and not weakness,” added Bottoms, who noted her massive fundraising and strong approval rating.

“If the race for mayor were held today, I would win this race without a runoff,” she said. “Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.”

Keisha Lance Bottoms
Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence)

Mayor Bottoms, 51, has become a popular national figure over the years and was even in the running to be President Joe Biden‘s vice president before he ultimately selected now-Vice President Kamala Harris.

Read More: Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks on shootings, anti-Asian violence

News of the Atlanta politician’s decision to not run for a second term likely comes as a surprise to many considering she turned down the chance to serve in Biden’s Cabinet and announced her bid for reelection. In March, Bottoms held a fundraiser for her campaign with President Biden and raised over $500,000.

Though Bottoms faced challengers for her office, including City Council President Felicia Moore, many in Atlanta considered the mayor to be in a strong position to win given her national profile, notes the AJC.

“I don’t think anybody can beat Keisha,” said former Mayor Andrew Young.

Bottoms did, however, face criticisms for her leadership due to the city’s rise in violent crimes during the pandemic.

“People are entitled to their opinions, but don’t ever question whether or not I care,” she said at a recent press conference on crime. “My love for this city is deeper than probably many others standing here because my family goes back 100 years in the city. So whether I am mayor of this city or not, I will do everything that I can possibly do to keep our communities safe.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Bottoms stepping away from the mayor’s office creates a wide-open door for candidates, including former Mayor Kasim Reed, who is rumored to be interested in another run, and Antonio Brown, who became the city council’s first openly LGBTQ member.

It’s not clear what Mayor Bottoms’s plans are after leaving office, although her decision will likely spark speculations about her joining the Biden administration.

Read More: Keisha Lance Bottoms praises mayors meeting with Biden-Harris, but shares her concerns

Bottoms was an early supporter of Biden as a presidential candidate, endorsing the former vice president in June of 2019.

In an interview with Jonathan Capehart in August, she talked about throwing her support behind Biden: “We know Joe, and Joe knows us. He’s known working people all his life. He’s a blue-collar guy that never forgot where he came from. He knows the importance of a job is more than just wages. It’s about dignity, and it’s about respect, and Joe actually understands that.” 

In November, Bottoms tweeted a clip from a February interview in which she quoted Outkast rapper and iconic Atlantan Andre 3000. “You know, there’s a great line from Andre 3000,” she noted, “and it’s ‘The South has something to say.’”

She shared the quote in reference to Georgia’s phenomenal flip from red to blue during the 2020 presidential election.

theGrio’s Biba Adams contributed to this report.

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