Fake news and phony calls: Late shenanigans roil Atlanta mayor race

Nine of the leading candidates in Atlanta’s race for mayor. AJC file.

The last-minute shenanigans in the race for Atlanta’s mayor reached a crescendo as Tuesday’s vote edged closer. Call them dirty tricks or shrewd campaign tactics or innocent mistakes, but there was plenty afoot in the final weekend before the election.

A phony racist robocall targeting white Atlanta voters. A flyer with made-up Atlanta Journal-Constitution headlines blasting a candidate. A message purporting to be from the political operative in the middle of a bribery investigation. A war-of-words between bitter rivals over a mailer.

Here’s a rundown of some of the last-minute flashpoints:

Legit fake news: Flyers pushed by supporters of Councilman Michael Julian Bond included The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s logo over falsified (and badly-Photoshopped) headlines about his challenger, Atlanta Board of Education chair Courtney English. English posted on Twitter that they were “made up headlines filled with false information.” Bond did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

See the flyer here.

A racist robo-call: Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms demanded an investigation after a robo-call purporting to be from a group called “Citizens for Keisha” urged listeners to line up behind her and “keep Atlanta black.” Bottoms called the calls “disgusting” and illegal.

Listen here:

Breaking her silence? The Rev. Mitzi Bickers, a longtime political operative and former aide to Mayor Kasim Reed, has stayed below the radar since federal prosecutors focused their attention on her last summer. But over the weekend, a recorded message claiming to be from her urged recipients to ignore “irresponsible media reporting and other evil forces” and to “vote the full ballot” on Tuesday. Bickers could not be reached for comment.

Listen here:

“Don’t let negative and irresponsible media reporting and other evil forces discourage you from exercising your right to vote. Wake up Tuesday determined to make your vote your voice. Be strong and courageous and vote the full ballot Tuesday.”

A ‘faux ballot.’ Ex-Councilwoman Cathy Woolard took a shot at a rival in the mayor’s race, former city chief operating officer Peter Aman, over a “voter guide” from his campaign that listed only three names: Aman, Bottoms and Councilwoman Mary Norwood. She called it “deeply misleading” and said Atlantans “don’t deserve these kinds of distractions” ahead of the vote.

Aman responded that his mailer included the top three candidates based on recent polling, and said name-calling – he accused her of calling him “Stinky Pete” – was “unnecessary and unfortunate.”

See the flyer here.

Definitely not an endorsement. Former Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts, a Democrat who prides himself on GOP support, sent a mailer to voters in conservative-leaning north Fulton neighborhoods with a picture of him smiling next to Republican state Sen. John Albers.

“I’ll be right there alongside Senator Albers when his committee looks for ways to bring relief to Fulton County taxpayers,” read his plea for support in the Fulton County chair race. It caused a minor stir in GOP circles, since former Sandy Springs Councilman Gabriel Sterling is running as a Republican for the spot.

Albers told the AJC unequivocally he is not backing Pitts in the race.

See the mailer here.

Phone foul? Georgia Democrats called on supporters to report “illegal robocalls” from Norwood’s campaign to the Federal Communications Commission. Party officials say they received at least a half-dozen complaints from voters who said they received the calls on their cellphones, which is prohibited by the FCC. (State Democrats have made Norwood, a self-described independent who narrowly lost the 2009 race, their top target in this race.)

Norwood said her campaign’s phone log was comprised of “friends, contributors and supporters” and that any cell phone numbers were provided from her list of personal contacts.

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
JDK007
JDK007

why has no one commented on the racist phone call by mayorial candidate Lets Keep Atlanta Black.... WTF? what if somebody said Lets Keep Atlanta White? OMG I do believe the community would riot, roll cars in the street, break windows out of local business..Tell me what you think...

Brandon101
Brandon101

Cathy has my vote. She has a solid track record of bold vision AND follow-through, which is greatly needed as Atlanta moves forward. We need a mayor who thrives on finding policy solutions to complicated problems and who listens to the concerns of the citizens for inspiration. I believe Cathy is that person.

And for the record, I was also robo-called by Mary Norwood, and we are certainly not 'friends,' nor did I ever give her permission to solicit me.

Please vote smart, Atlanta.

DaveM
DaveM

It seems to me that Cathy Woodard is by far the best choice. She’s the only candidate to clearly articulate a real vision for our city (unlike Norwood), and her ethics are beyond reproach (unlike Bottoms) And as much as Peter Aman may think he’s the best person for the job, too much of his campaign funding (is it 50%?) has come from his own wallet. Mitchell and Hall seem like good guys, but they can’t match Woolard’s track record. Seems to me like she got more done in her few years on City Council than the two of them combined.

scott chapman
scott chapman

Mary Norwood never had my permission to use my phone number for her election campaign.  She had it when I served on various NPU and Neighborhood boards.  That does not condone using my telephone number for political gains.  I've blocked her numbers and reported them as spam through ATT Call Protect.

Rob Love
Rob Love

 So let me get this straight - You get a flyer with a 100% verifiable mugshot of Courtney English that also contains 100% verifiable facts from your own newspaper and all you can do is critique the graphic design? Are you serious? This guy needs to be kept as far away from public office as possible! The AJC not reporting on a convicted criminal who is attempting to run for office is the real fake news! Where is your journalistic integrity? 


https://georgia.arrests.org/Arrests/Courtney_English_6341662/

StephMElsesser
StephMElsesser

Cathy Woolard has the best record of achievements; the Beltline wouldn’t exist without her. She is the only candidate who is both experienced and ethical. Cathy is also pro transit and affordable housing, and she will limit the out of control developers who are ruining our quality of life.


I am so excited to see so many people agree. No one has a better record on transportation and bringing Atlanta closer to its world class ambitions (Beltline, environmental sustainability program, anti discrimination law). Not to mention the fresh start she’d bring us on ethics and her first rate record there as well (presided over passage of one of the strongest ethics ordinances in the country).


I have attended 3 forums in the past month specific to the topics most dear to me.  At all three forums Woolard not only spoke sincerely, authentically, and realistically, she had very concrete plans of action. These plans will best serve my personal vision for the future of my beloved city. She is hands down the best candidate in my opinion.


I believe she has the sincerity, empathy, and experience to guide ALL of Atlanta — not just it’s business interests with smart & mindful leadership. Plus, she’s the only candidate I’ve seen who appears to NOT have any ulterior motives.

Tmps1155
Tmps1155

@StephMElsesser No one has a better record on transportation? You're joking. Mayor Reed was instrumental in getting Clayton County MARTA referendum on ballot, which passed overwhelmingly, and then the $2.6 billion MARTA expansion in Atlanta. Renew Atlanta = $250 million. TSPLOST=$300 million. Do your homework.

StephMElsesser
StephMElsesser

@Tmps1155 @StephMElsesser First, TSPLOST was a referendum, he didn't do that alone. People had to vote for it anyway. Additionally he illegally used those funds which promoted TSPLOST to support re-election campaigns for people "loyal" to him. Finally, the manner in which Underground Atlanta was sold to an out of state developer is highly detrimental to the Marta system by turning one of the greatest TOD opportunities into a sea of parking with no input from the neighbors! He was sued for illegal giveaway of city streets related to underground. Ask the residents of SW Atlanta how their lives have been improved under Reed. 


http://ganewguard.com/2017/10/25/80-streets-capitol-view/

Kay Stephenson
Kay Stephenson

I'm voting for Cathy Woolard. The only ethical candidate in the bunch, and the smartest!

calanticus
calanticus

I support Cathy Woolard for mayor.  Smart as a whip and highly accomplished.  Accomplishments include: (1) The Beltline;  (2) An environmental sustainability program.  (3) An ant-discrimination bill.  (4)  Strong ethics legislation that helped City Hall in the early  2000's.  She has a vision that will help Atlanta's momentum toward becoming a world class city, while still giving the city a fresh start during these challenging times.

...Sandra
...Sandra

g͆o͆o͆g͆l͆e͆ p͆a͆y͆ 97$ p͆e͆r͆ h͆o͆u͆r͆ m͆y͆ l͆a͆s͆t͆ p͆a͆y͆ c͆h͆e͆c͆k͆ w͆a͆s͆ $8500 w͆o͆r͆k͆i͆n͆g͆ 1o͆ h͆o͆u͆r͆s͆ a͆ w͆e͆e͆k͆ o͆n͆l͆i͆n͆e͆. m͆y͆ y͆o͆u͆n͆g͆e͆r͆ b͆r͆o͆t͆h͆e͆r͆ f͆r͆i͆e͆n͆d͆ h͆a͆s͆ b͆e͆e͆n͆ a͆v͆e͆r͆a͆g͆i͆n͆g͆ 12k͆ f͆o͆r͆ m͆o͆n͆t͆h͆s͆ n͆o͆w͆ a͆n͆d͆ h͆e͆ w͆o͆r͆k͆s͆ a͆b͆o͆u͆t͆ 22 h͆o͆u͆r͆s͆ a͆ w͆e͆e͆k͆. i͆ c͆a͆n͆t͆ b͆e͆l͆i͆e͆v͆e͆ h͆o͆w͆ e͆a͆s͆y͆ i͆t͆ w͆a͆s͆ o͆n͆c͆e͆ i͆ t͆r͆i͆e͆d͆ i͆t͆ o͆u͆t͆i͆t͆­!..

        ░A░M░A░Z░I░N░G░ ░J░O░B░S░

°°°°°°http://ow.ly/pqaC30fgvnI

Peterle
Peterle

Apeterle@mindspring.com

Atlrobyn
Atlrobyn

The mailers Peter sent out are (dishonest mailers = dishonest candidate), and it's offensive that he would use coded language in the mailer ("married with children") to suggest his straightness/ability to reproduce makes him better qualified.  Atlantans simply want a clean break from the madness that is City Hall and Cathy Woolard offers that break.  She "gets it".  KLB needs to get out of City Hall; she would only continue Kasim Reed's cronyism, contract procedures and stuffing his friends pockets with City Hall cash.

StephMElsesser
StephMElsesser

@Atlrobyn Exactly right! That's one of several dishonest mailers from him. It really makes him look desperate.

Smilesterr
Smilesterr

Didn't Kasim Reed coin the phrase, "We must keep Atlanta a chocolate city"?  Certainly this racist rhetoric hurts the city.  Time for the residents to move beyond race and pick the candidate that will actually work to improve the city, not look for areas that will personally enrich the candidate financially. 

EdGraham
EdGraham

Keisha Lance Bottoms demanding an investigation into the robocalls is like Hillary demanding an investigation into the fixing of the 2016 DNC nomination.  She agrees 100% with the message on them: the next mayor must be black.  I've said all along that the black power elite in the city, helped by their friends around the country and the Georgia Democratic Party, don't care who gets elected mayor, so long as the winner is black.

Alyssa_..
Alyssa_..

s̟i̟x̟ m̟o̟n̟t̟h̟s̟ a̟g̟o̟ i̟ l̟o̟s̟t̟ m̟y̟ j̟o̟b̟ a̟n̟d̟ a̟f̟t̟e̟r̟ t̟h̟a̟t̟ i̟ w̟a̟s̟ f̟o̟r̟t̟u̟n̟a̟t̟e̟ e̟n̟o̟u̟g̟h̟ t̟o̟ s̟t̟u̟m̟b̟l̟e̟ u̟p̟o̟n̟ a̟ g̟r̟e̟a̟t̟ w̟e̟b̟s̟i̟t̟e̟ w̟h̟i̟c̟h̟ l̟i̟t̟e̟r̟a̟l̟l̟y̟ s̟a̟v̟e̟d̟ m̟e̟. i̟ s̟t̟a̟r̟t̟e̟d̟ w̟o̟r̟k̟i̟n̟g̟ f̟o̟r̟ t̟h̟e̟m̟ o̟n̟l̟i̟n̟e̟ a̟n̟d̟ i̟n̟ a̟ s̟h̟o̟r̟t̟ t̟i̟m̟e̟ a̟f̟t̟e̟r̟ i̟'v̟e̟ s̟t̟a̟r̟t̟e̟d̟ a̟v̟e̟r̟a̟g̟i̟n̟g̟ 15k̟ a̟ m̟o̟n̟t̟h̟... t̟h̟e̟ b̟e̟s̟t̟ t̟h̟i̟n̟g̟ w̟a̟s̟ t̟h̟a̟t̟ c̟a̟u̟s̟e̟ i̟ a̟m̟ n̟o̟t̟ t̟h̟a̟t̟ c̟o̟m̟p̟u̟t̟e̟r̟ s̟a̟v̟v̟y̟ a̟l̟l̟ i̟ n̟e̟e̟d̟e̟d̟ w̟a̟s̟ s̟o̟m̟e̟ b̟a̟s̟i̟c̟ t̟y̟p̟i̟n̟g̟ s̟k̟i̟l̟l̟s̟ a̟n̟d̟ i̟n̟t̟e̟r̟n̟e̟t̟ a̟c̟c̟e̟s̟s̟ t̟o̟ s̟t̟a̟r̟t̟...

        ░A░M░A░Z░I░N░G░ ░J░O░B░S░

°°°°°°http://ow.ly/pqaC30fgvnI 

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

What a pitiful slate.No wonder Atlanta is in such a mess fiscally, culturally, and legally.

Manman
Manman

@TaxiSmith what? Our economy is humming, Atlanta is the cultural capital of the South, the hip hop capital of the world, and quickly becoming synonymous with Hollywood. Delta is ready when you are, hater

Tmps1155
Tmps1155

@TaxiSmith LOL. You don't know what you're talking about. Atlanta is in its best financial shape in 50 years. Third largest collection of Fortune 500 companies in U.S. Eight straight credit ratings increases. $200 million in cash reserves, all done without a single property tax increase in 8 years.