Cathy Woolard throws support behind Mary Norwood

The third-place finisher in Atlanta's mayoral race is throwing her support behind runoff candidate Mary Norwood.

Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard admitted she made the difficult decision mere moments before addressing reporters in a morning news conference on the steps of Atlanta City Hall on Wednesday morning.

"I did it about five minutes ago, on the roof of the parking deck," said Woolard. "Seriously. I did entertain the notion of not endorsing anyone--I'd like to be useful to either campaign, whoever becomes mayor--but I also realized that abdicating leadership by not making a decision really isn't who I am."

She said she had not called either candidate before announcing her decision publicly.

Woolard, who grilled Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms in a Tuesday-night forum on topics from race to public transit, detailed the thought process that led to her decision, based on the reasons she herself ran for mayor. The forum, Woolard said, was "unsurprising" in what material she was able to mine from the candidates.

She says it comes to issues of growth and city-building, she's been "confounded" by City Hall decisions she says have left parts of Atlanta behind. Norwood has the edge here, Woolard says, having attended "all of the city design meetings" and being an early advocate of the Beltline.

But on issues of income inequality and social justice, Woolard says Lance Bottoms is the greater candidate, because as the city grows, she says, it's important to think about who gets to be successful in that growth. With Atlanta being a majority-black city, says Woolard, black leadership and representation matter. As Georgia's first openly-gay elected official, Woolard says, she knows having a seat at the table made it possible to get certain things done.

The third, deciding factor, says Woolard, was ethics.

"In all of her years at City Hall, she has managed to stay true. Periodically, everybody makes mistakes, but I have not seen a pattern of mismanagement or decisions that I feel like have been unethical.

"I feel like the lack of transparency at this City Hall has crushed the spirit of our city, and I feel like we need a very clean break with this administration and a new start here, with a fresh set of players," says Woolard.

Lance Bottoms, the top vote-getter in November's election, has been endorsed by Mayor Kasim Reed. Reed is a two-term mayor whose last months in office have seen a federal investigation into alleged bribery in the procurement office. The mayor himself has not been implicated.

Woolard says there have been "ethical lapses" and questionable decision-making on Lance Bottoms' part, but said she would be "polite" so as not to make her announcement a negative conversation. She likes and respects both candidates a great deal, she said.

"It's a painful decision, but it is the decision that I made," said Woolard.

Woolard was asked whether she has concerns about Woolard being progressive enough for Atlanta.

"I worry sometimes about the people around her not being sufficiently progressive, but I don't worry about her," said Woolard.

Economic development and social justice are not mutually exclusive, said Woolard.

"We have had parts of this city that have been neglected, where investment hasn't happened, where we have let schools fail, where we have been okay with letting poor parts of town be poor parts of town, and I just don't think it has to be that way," says Woolard.

Early voting is underway. The runoff election is Tuesday, December 5.

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