As Kasim Reed began making plans Wednesday for his first term as Atlanta’s mayor, opponent Mary Norwood still had not conceded defeat and said she will seek a recount.
“If I didn’t think there’s a possibility things mights change, that would be different,” said Norwood, who trails Reed by 750 votes. Mark Henderson with the Fulton County Elections Office told the AJC Wednesday all but about 700 provisional ballots had been counted. Those ballots cannot be tabulated until Thursday, the deadline for those voters to provide verification they were eligible.
“I think a recount, when you’re this close is appropriate, absolutely appropriate,” Norwood said during a Wednesday morning press conference at her headquarters.
“We came within a razor thin margin of not being able to say we’re the front runner today.”
Norwood said she has not heard from Kasim Reed, who declared victory shortly after midnight. In an interview on WAGA-TV, Reed said that if he is indeed the mayor-elect he “would like to have Mrs. Norwood involved in an important way if she would like to continue to be involved in municipal government.”
“I think that she has an important voice and I think that it’s vital that we work together to unify the city that we both love,” Reed said.
Norwood said Wednesday she would be open to working with Reed. “Any way I can help this city I would definitely consider it. “.
Reed said his first priority will be finding a new police chief.
“I’m looking for two things,” Reed said in a 6 a.m. interview on WSB-TV. “First of all, I want to find the best chief that we can possibly find in America, but I want a chief with specific expertise in dealing with organized gang activity. I believe that Atlanta has a growing gang problem that we’re not confronting enough in an aggressive enough way.”
Reed said he is also looking for a chief who “enjoys being among the citizens of Atlanta. I want a person that likes being on the ground, someone who is very present, active and involved in our local community … a chief that will be in neighborhoods, that will be at crime scenes directly.”
His campaign platform included hiring 750 police officers in his first term, fixing the pension crisis and providing more after-school activities by opening all of the city’s recreation centers.
The 40-year-old attorney said he would “respect the process” of a recount, though he sounded confident his lead would hold up.
“The fact of the matter is, Fulton County has counted all of the available ballots, including all of the absentee ballots and early vote ballots, and I have more than a 750-vote lead,” he said. “There are about 600 provisional ballots outstanding. If all of those provisional ballots went in favor of Mrs. Norwood, which is not likely, then she still would not have enough votes to become mayor.”
Reed, who was in single digits in the polls just three months ago, greeted an ebullient crowd at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown after midnight, announcing the razor-thin election results and adding, “And guess who’s going to be the 59th mayor of Atlanta?”
Reed led Norwood by 758 votes out of a total of more than 83,000 cast – a margin of 0.92 percent. It is a sign of how hotly contested this race was that nearly 11,000 more voters turned out for the runoff than for the general election in November.
“It is my hope tonight that we will unite this city and make Atlanta the city shining on a hill,” Reed told about 300 supporters at the Hyatt. “Tomorrow we have hard work to do to make Atlanta the best city in America.”
Under state law, a candidate who loses by less than 1 percent of the votes cast has the right to request a recount. Norwood has two days to do so after the vote is certified, which is expected on Saturday. As it became clear that she and Reed would nearly tie Tuesday night, Norwood said she would seek a recount if the count remained close and she came in second.
“We are not going to know for hours,” Norwood told supporters at her chosen election-night venue, The Varsity. “This is not something we will know in the next 15 minutes. . . . Tomorrow, we will see how this all turns out.”
Immediately after those remarks, Norwood got into her car and went home.
Reed’s declaration of victory early this morning drew no reaction from the Norwood camp. He announced it from a podium crowded with supporters and family, including council President Lisa Borders, who finished a distant third in the general election and endorsed Reed in the runoff.
The provisional ballots – those cast by voters who did not have proper identification at the polls and who have two days to provide ID to the county to make their votes count — will be certified Thursday. “By law we have 48 hours to certify those votes,” Garner said. “That time is spent researching those voters and verifying that they are eligible to vote.”
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