Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Tuesday's runoff election for the mayor of Atlanta pitted a young black candidate running as an outsider against a white activist with decades of experience as a citizen activist. African American mayors have run Atlanta since 1974. This race has been about more than race.

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Former Georgia State Sen. Kasim Reed, who is African American, declared victory in Tuesday's runoff for Atlanta mayor. City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is white, has not acknowledged defeat. The vote count as of Wednesday morning was 41,901 for Reed and 41,143 for Norwood, making a recount likely.

In the November general election, Norwood received 46 percent of the vote and Reed took 36 percent.

Norwood chose downtown Atlanta's Varsity, the world's largest fast-food drive-in restaurant, as her election-night gathering place. Reed chose the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, located a few blocks away, as his.

Norwood, dressed in black slacks and a royal-blue jacket, appeared at the Varsity near 11 p.m. Her smile never dimmed while she thanked supporters and answered reporters' questions. Her crowd was diverse in terms of race, sexual orientation and political affiliations. Norwood ran as a grass-roots activist.

Reed, in a dark suit, white shirt and shiny silver tie, appeared on stage at the hotel's ballroom. Signaling No. 1 with his hand, Reed claimed victory to a large, primarily African-American, crowd. Reed ran as an outsider.

Reed twice served as Franklin's campaign manager and co-chaired her mayoral transition team. Franklin, City Council President Lisa Borders and Former Gov. Roy Barnes endorsed him. Sounds very inside to this outsider.

The runoff night crowd at the Varsity showed that the dead heat had little to do with race -- Atlanta is reaching toward a post-racial state defined not by skin color but by issues, integrity and performance.

Katy Bryant, a longtime friend of Norwood and civic activist, said, "The Mary I know is the same today as 25 years ago. She is not owned by anyone ... she has a passion for doing the right thing." Bryant is white.

She helped drive voters to the polls. "I picked up a 93-year-old black woman and her friend ... I asked, 'How do you know Mary?' She replied, 'She is the only City Council person that ever comes to see us. Mary has always been there for us." Her companion said, "I am going to vote for Ms. Mary."


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.