On the surface, an observer could be tempted to toss Clayton County into the "identity politics" bucket and be done with it. Not so fast, my friends
. It seems Eldrin Bell learned a thing or two from working in Atlanta for so long:
Bell went old school, and built an Atlanta-style, black-and-white coalition...Also, Bell hired a GOP outfit to run the campaigns. This is the coalition which won in a county that is 69% black. I think it speaks well for all involved - Bell for putting the coalition together, the county voters for supporting it, and even for the GOP political operatives who signed on for the dirty work in an area diametrically opposed to their politics.
Bell enlisted white business leaders for financial backing.
He formed an alliance with Tracy Graham-Lawson, a white juvenile court judge who entered the district attorney’s race; and with Kem Kimbrough, an African-American staff attorney for the ACCG, who ran for sheriff.
“We felt if they would vote for me, they would vote for Tracy,” Bell said. “And if they would vote for Tracy, they would vote for Kimbrough.”
Black voters also rejected racially-tinged campaigns run by Stan Watson and Vernon Jones. Sure, it doesn't always happen like this - I think John Eaves' ad a few years ago was terribly disappointing, for example. Hopefully, though, this latest election will help disabuse my GOP friends of the notion that Atlanta voters are slaves to identity politics. I'm not going to hold my breath for folks like Jim Wooten, though. Progress is slow, but it does happen.
Most Atlantans think of Eldrin Bell as a bit of a nut. I commented to an older friend the other day that Bell seemed to have reached the stage of his career where he was willing to say whatever he thought, consequences be damned (much like Andy Young or Jimmy Carter). My friend corrected me. "Eldrin has always been like that," he said. "He was always a loose cannon."
To be sure, there is no shortage of colorful stories about the guy, and you get a glimpse of that in the article:
The old Eldrin made a brief comeback in the last weeks of the campaign — Bell suffered a flashburn on his thumb while firing a monster, .50-caliber revolver on the farm of a strip club owner.Having not been around when Bell was cruising around Atlanta sowing his oats, I can only say that lately he has come off as an astute and effective politician.
“I didn’t solve 80 percent of my homicides when I was a detective by knowing priests,” Bell said. Ah, just like old times.
(I have been around just long enough to know that a public reputation is easily manipulated, so who knows what the man is really like. With the exception of folks like Glenn Richardson, I try to avoid such judgments. I usually fail, but at least that is the goal.)