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Kasim Reed leading in Atlanta's tight mayoral race

December 2, 2009 | 11:18 am

Kasim ReedAtlanta will swear in a new mayor Jan. 4, and although it's not exactly clear yet who that will be, it looks as though the likely winner of Tuesday night’s dramatically tight runoff race will be Kasim Reed, 40, a former state senator and African American who had the support of many of the city’s black establishment leaders.

Reed faced a strong challenge from Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who was hoping to become the first white mayor in the majority-black city in 35 years. In preliminary returns posted Tuesday night, Norwood came within 758 votes of victory in Fulton County, which covers the vast majority of the city.

About 600 provisional ballots have yet to be counted, and, of course, it is the nature of provisional ballots that some of them may be thrown out by election officials. Mary Norwood

Norwood, 57, has said she will ask for a recount if she is able to. Under state law, she may request a recount if she is losing by less than 1% in the final tally.

If Reed is indeed declared the winner, it will be a victory for the status quo in Atlanta politics: Reed served as campaign manager for current Mayor Shirley Franklin, who is leaving office because of term limits.

Norwood’s loss also would show the continued political clout of black Atlanta, despite a gentrification trend that has led to a significant increase in white residents in recent years.

Both Norwood and Reed courted and gained the support of voters who were not of their race. But this map of precinct-by-precint returns shows that many voters stayed with their own, for whatever reason. The red dots are precincts that Norwood won; the blue are those Reed won. Note that the whiter, more affluent north is almost all red, and the African American south side is almost all blue.

-- Richard Fausset

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Photos: Atlanta mayoral candidates Kasim Reed, top, and Mary Norwood ,bottom, at their respective election night parties on Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press