As the pressure rises on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to pick a black woman as his running mate, Atlanta’s mayor has earned a national spotlight for her reported spot on the shortlist for Biden’s potential running mates.
Here are five things to know about Keisha Lance Bottoms, the 50-year-old mayor of Atlanta who may well be a vice presidential contender:
In this July 17, 2019 file photo shows Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during a Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
She is the daughter of 1960s R&B star Major Lance
Lance was born in Atlanta to R&B singer-songwriter Major Lance. She later attended Florida A&M, a historically black university in Tallahassee, before returning home to obtain her law degree from Georgia State University. She served as a judge and city council member for six years before becoming mayor in 2017.
She endorsed Biden early on in the race
Bottoms endorsed Biden in June 2019, just as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., ripped into Biden’s civil rights record for his past opposition to bussing and of a time when he spoke fondly of his relationship with two segregationist senators. It would be another 10 months before even President Obama endorsed his former VP.
Bottoms also attended that first debate as the guest of Biden’s wife, Jill. She attended other debates and stood by his side even as his poll numbers slipped in early rounds of voting this year.
“He is a strong candidate and there have been some bumps along the way, but I think that’s to be expected. Nobody ever said it would be easy,” Bottoms told 11Alive News in November 2019. “When you look at the legacy that the Obama-Biden administration has in Georgia, people remember that and especially when you look at large groups of people of color as a demographic in our state then, by and large, especially our seasoned African American voters, are solidly behind Joe Biden.”
She gained recognition after clashing with Gov. Brian Kemp over early coronavirus reopening
Georgia was one of the earliest states to begin the reopening process on April 24, but Bottoms urged residents of her city to ignore the Republican governor’s decision to reopen the economy and remain home.
“Stay home. Listen to the scientists,” Bottoms told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” “There is nothing essential about going to a bowling alley or getting a manicure in the middle of a pandemic.”
She said she hadn’t been consulted by Kemp and he hadn’t explained to her how his decision was guided by science or experts.
“I think that there was perhaps a way for us to be very thoughtful about a phased reopening,” Bottoms said in an interview with NPR. “I don’t think that that should have begun with hair salons and barbershops and places that people cannot appropriately socially distance or even have readily available access to the appropriate PPE. So I do think that there could have been a more thoughtful approach.”
House Maj. Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., floated the idea of Bottoms as VP pick
Clyburn, an influential black lawmaker in Congress whose endorsement propelled Biden to victory in South Carolina’s primary, mentioned Bottoms as a potential choice for Biden’s vice president to the Financial Times in early April. Clyburn said he wanted a black woman on the ticket but former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lacked experience.
“There is a young lady right there in Georgia who I think would make a tremendous VP candidate, and that’s the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms,” Clyburn said.
She made impassioned speeches condemning violence, looting in the wake of George Floyd’s death
In a state where nearly one-third of the population is African American, Bottoms repeatedly condemned violence and looting as protests erupted across the nation following the death of Floyd in police custody.
“What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Bottoms said at a news briefing. “This is chaos.”
“A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city,” Bottoms said. “If you want change in America, go and register to vote … That is the change we need in this country.”
“This has been a really tough balance because I feel helpless. I feel angry. I feel frustrated,” the mayor told CNN. “But the balance to that, I know that there are men and women who put on a uniform every day who love and care about our community. And they do it for all the right reasons.”
She continued: “And that’s the vast majority of our police officers in our city — at least think they do it with a good heart and with good intentions.”
After the killing of Rayshard Brooks, a black man, at the hands of police outside of a Wendy’s, Bottoms ordered a number of police reforms.