A Bernie Sanders-backed candidate falters in Atlanta mayor race

Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Vincent Fort spent some of the final hours of his race for Atlanta mayor at one of his favorite stomping grounds, moving from table to table at the C&C Cafeteria as he pleaded for votes.

“Help me out today,” the former state senator told one group of voters. “I’ve always fought for you.”

Fort’s campaign for mayor hinged on two factors: Earning sweeping support from the same south Atlanta base that returned him to a state Senate seat for two decades. And winning over a mix of white liberals and black progressives with populist promises.

On Tuesday, his campaign came to a crashing end. He lagged far behind the two top finishers in a crowded race, overshadowed by several rivals with bigger bank accounts and more traditional messages.

The race for mayor was always a dicey bet for Fort, an influential member of the Georgia Senate when Democrats ruled the state Capitol who became an increasingly outspoken critic of politicians from both sides of the aisle once they lost it.

His populist platform, which included calls for free college tuition and the decriminalization of marijuana, never took root in a jumble of candidates that included other unabashed liberals not willing to cede the party’s left flank to him.

And while endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Gov. Roy Barnes helped him raise cash, it couldn’t keep pace with the millions of dollars his rivals collected for their runs. Ditto for his union support, whose legion of door-knockers couldn’t overcome other get-out-the-vote machines.

There was another development that complicated his bid. Fort’s epic ongoing feud with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who once bet a reporter a box of donuts that Fort wouldn’t run, gave him an early opportunity to run against City Hall. At every turn, he railed against the “culture of corruption” amid the ongoing federal probe.

But once Reed endorsed Bottoms, the floodgates opened. Other candidates who didn’t benefit from the mayor’s largesse felt freer to chastise his administration, each lining up to assail the same “corrupt” system that Fort had made the calling card of his campaign.

Fort said it was too early to decide whether he’ll endorse any candidate. But he said he will be “actively engaged in the fight going forward” and that his defeat shouldn’t be taken as a failure of progressive politics.

“This isn’t the last you’ve heard from Vincent Fort,” he wrote to supporters, “and I trust it isn’t the last the status quo has heard from you.”

Reader Comments 0

12 comments
MG2
MG2

Of course it's not a failure of progressivism -- it's a failure on Fort's part. Once he knew he couldn't win, if he'd thrown his support behind Cathy Woolard, a progressive could have won. Now we have no chance.

Robert1959
Robert1959

As a democrat I will cast my vote for Mary Norwood (R).  She is ready for the challenges facing the City of Atlanta.  Keisha Bottoms (D) needs more time on the City Council to learn how to be a Mayor of a major US City.  Out going Mayor Reed was wrong to endorse Bottoms without the financial backing ($$$millions) and experience to put together a team to coordinate her democratic base she will need to defeat Mary Norwood. 

Mountainman222
Mountainman222

It was over for him back in January when he vowed to make Atlanta a sanctuary city if elected. 

DavidATL45
DavidATL45

I certainly think Mr. Fort is a competent man to be mayor.  However, it was naïve to publicize the endorsement by Bernie Sanders.  Sanders is politician who is not even a Democrat and was a spoiler whose divisive entry into the 2016 campaign enabled the election of Trump.  Fort lost my support with the first ad I saw that featured Sanders.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Bottoms says in her Administration,  corruption will not start at the bottom, but at the Top  

bendedknee
bendedknee

Is this the end of Bernie- I hope?

tipstotips
tipstotips

Well Bernie isn't a favorite with the folks that run the show.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

@tipstotips  Bernie did not know the art of greasing the palms of the Cascade Road Mafia 

FloydLiberal
FloydLiberal

Continuing with Reed's style of leadership and his environment of corruption versus a conservative white. Well, Atlanta's problems won't be going away anytime soon.

jmf49
jmf49

Bernie is a loony toon and Fort is a borderline nut case.