Today I am embarrassed to call myself a Georgia Democrat. The Party’s decision to smear (Atlanta Mayoral candidate) Mary Norwood as “Trump like” reeks of the same political tribalism practiced by the man you’ve sought to tie as a millstone around her neck. It is the height of hypocrisy, a gross misuse of party funds and a decision that lowers us to the level of Republicans who most recently pushed Karen Handel into Congress, not on the back of sound policy proposals, but by putting Jon Ossoff’s face next to Nancy Pelosi’s in a sexist and misleading television spot.  Our party must be better than that.

There is something special about a non-partisan race, and if the Party were to make an endorsement I would hope that it would be based on which candidate would best serve the interests of our City.  Instead, we should be ashamed of the way we have slandered a committed public servant simply because of pictures taken with Republican politicians.  Is Mayor (Kasim) Reed “Trump like” because he has a good working relationship with Governor (Nathan) Deal? Absolutely not. Rather, we applaud his efforts to form a working relationship in the best interests of our city and state. 

Mary also has friends in both parties, but somehow her bipartisanship and consensus-seeking is now a political crime worthy of these smear tactics?  The Party apparently had no problem when Mayor Reed refused to endorse then Sen. Jason Carter for governor.  The Party did not stand up and condemn Gov. Roy Barnes’ endorsement of Sen. (Johnny) Isakson last year.  In these cases the Party respected the relationships and intentions of our most prominent leaders. Tell me, do we apply different standards to different races? Do we allow some members to strong-arm others into serving their own political agendas? In this situation it is clearly one or the other, and neither is acceptable.

I have worked with Mary for over 25 years. She is a true, progressive Independent. She has voted for President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and while she is not a card-carrying Democrat, she has fought for Democratic values her entire career.  Mary was the first City official to publicly support marriage equality, a pillar of our party platform. She has strongly supported civil rights and equal treatment for all Atlantans regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. What part of that is “Trump like” exactly? Is it simply that she identifies as an Independent? If so, I would ask what exempted Bernie Sanders or Michael Bloomberg from this treatment?  We invited them to speak at our national convention, which begs the question as to why our party felt the need to stoop to this level in this race alone, and is there someone or something lurking in the background and pressuring you to do so? 

The Party’s focus should be about policy, vision, and supporting qualified candidates of unimpeachable integrity, not the dictates of the downtown power structure who have six weeks remaining in office.  For our party to dismiss Ms. Norwood’s record as a Councilmember and compare her to the current president is a farce and a disappointment to many longtime activists, donors, and members of our party.

Sadly, this decision will be remembered for a very long time, as the party has chosen to ignore rampant corruption at City Hall in favor of a short-term impetuous act.  Remember, Dubose, Atlanta is the city too busy to hate.  When the Democratic Party engages in these divisive tactics we as a party, and the citizens of Atlanta suffer!  You should know better!

Prior to joining the Dentons firm, Atlanta attorney Steve Labovitz served as Chief of Staff for the city of Atlanta from 1994 to 1997.

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