Could The Little-Known Mayor of Atlanta Be Biden’s Running Mate?
WASHINGTON – House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn has not been shy in recent weeks in touting a number of women he believes are well-qualified to be the first African-American vice president of the United States.
“I really believe that we’ve reached a point in this country where African-American women need to be rewarded for the loyalty that they’ve given to this party,” he told NPR in early March.
The 79-year-old South Carolina congressman ranks none above the other, but one lesser known name that has consistently been on his list is that of Keisha Lance Bottoms, the first-term mayor of Atlanta, Georgia.
The most recent example of Clyburn’s enthusiastic backing of Mayor Bottoms is a lengthy interview he gave to the Financial Times of London, which was published this past Saturday.
Late in the conversation, Clyburn is asked whether he thinks Biden will pick Stacey Abrams, a rising star in Democratic circles after she nearly won Georgia’s gubernatorial election two years ago, to be his vice president.
Though Abrams was on Clyburn’s short-list not so long ago, he now says a pairing with Biden is doubtful.
“There’s something to be said for somebody who has been out there,” he told the Financial Times.
But Clyburn stresses that “the bench of black women is much deeper than people think.”
He added, “There is a young lady right there in Georgia who I think would make a tremendous VP candidate, and that’s the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms.”
Given that Atlanta, like the rest of the nation and the world, is currently combating the coronavirus outbreak, it was impossible to catch up with the mayor and record her response to Clyburn’s comments.
The profile of her that emerges from newspaper articles, video clips and a smattering of online profiles, reveals a woman determined to make her mark as a public servant from an early age.
During her inaugural address following a hard-fought mayoral election, Bottoms mentioned she is the descendant of former slaves who moved to Atlanta in search of opportunity.
She is also the daughter of the late and influential soul singer, Major Lance.
Raised largely by her mother, Sylvia Robinson, in Atlanta, Bottoms is the product of the city’s public school system, later earning an undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University, before going on to earn a Juris Doctorate from the Georgia State University College of Law.
Bottoms practiced law for more than 20 years and eventually served as a temporary Fulton County magistrate.
Twelve years ago she ran in but lost a race to be a Superior Court judge, but that race appears to have whetted her appetite for politics.
In 2010 she ran for and won a seat on the Atlanta City Council, a position she held until her race for mayor.
She was sworn into Atlanta’s highest office on Jan. 2, 2018.
Speaking to supporters that day, she admitted becoming mayor “was never a path I imagined for myself” and admitted it took a lot of soul searching for her to enter the race.
Until then, she said, she thought her passion for public service would be satisfied through her church, her professional roles as a lawyer and judge and then as a member of the city council.
But since assuming office, Bottoms has been a juggernaut.
As mayor of Atlanta, she led the city’s elimination of cash bail bonds, spoke out against immigration raids and closed the Atlanta City Detention Center to ICE detainees. She also created Atlanta’s first Department of Transportation, launched its 100 Men to Mentors initiative, a program based on President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program and issued a 30% pay raise to police officers.
Bottoms was also one of the first to endorse Biden, giving him the nod back in June 2019 and officially becoming a Biden surrogate.
She’s shown no signs of slowing down during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, frequently conversing with and reassuring constituents via Twitter, when not using the larger megaphone that is city hall.
In a recent interview with Atlanta magazine, Bottoms, who lives in Southwest Atlanta with her husband Derek, their four sons (Lance, Langston, Lennox and Lincoln) and a family dog named Logan, spoke of her difficulty sleeping since the coronavirus outbreak began in earnest.
“My brain doesn’t shut off now,” she told reporter Thomas Wheatley. “It’s been difficult for me to sleep because I wake up during the night thinking about issues. I’m thinking a lot about the folks who are going to be out of work and missing paychecks.
“I’ve been chatting with a lot of mayors across the country. Some things we are leading on, some things we are following on,” Bottoms continued. “We are in this shock period. But at some point, people are going to start running out of money to buy groceries. How are we prepared to respond to that while also keeping in mind that we are an organization that is responsible for city services? The balancing act of how do we provide and be compassionate for our community while we still function as a city and meet the needs of our residents.”
Despite her concerns in the middle of the night, Bottoms assured the magazine “we are going to get to the other side of this.”
“We are a resilient city. We are a resilient country,” she said.
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