“I may bend, but I will never break”: Mayor Bottoms holds press conference after decision not to seek reelection

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms fights back tears at her May 7 press conference at City Hall.

An emotional Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms struggled not to have an “ugly cry” at the top of a press conference she called Friday morning to discuss her shocking decision not to run for reelection.

“It has been my highest honor to serve as mayor of this city,” Bottoms said. “I prayed for God’s wisdom and guidance, and it became abundantly clear that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else.”

Bottoms had outlined her decision in a letter and video released last night after news broke that she had told her staff, friends, and allies of her decision.

Asked by a reporter when she first felt the inkling that she might not seek a second term, Bottoms said the notion began in her first year in office. ” My decision wasn’t based on one thing. It’s not something I woke up yesterday and decided. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”

“The last three years have not been what I would have scripted for this city,” Bottoms said, noting the crippling cyber attack on the city and the ongoing federal criminal investigation that began with her predecessor, Kasim Reed,  that “sucked the air out of city hall.”

Bottoms said she was proud that the city rose above the pandemic, made its voice heard in the social justice movement, and survived a “madman in the White House” in reference to former President Donald Trump.

The mayor debunked a rumor that she was leaving office to take a corporate job with Walgreens, but didn’t rule out joining President Joe Biden’s administration if a job was offered to her. Biden considered Bottoms as a running mate, then offered her cabinet position before nominating her for Vice Chair of Civic Engagement and Voter Protection at the Democratic National Committee.

“I don’t know what’s next for me personally and for my family, but what I do know is that this is a decision made from a position of strength, not of weakness,” Bottoms said. “A poll said 70 percent of people in Atlanta still like me. I would win this race without a runoff. I’ve seen the poll numbers. But even when you know these things to be true, it doesn’t mean you should do it.”

Bottoms said she would still be mayor until January 2022. “I want to leave this city better than I found it. I will keep working on affordable housing, helping people who are living on our streets, and continue to do everything in my power to make this city safer.”

Bottoms has faced withering criticism for her handling of an ongoing crime wave that began last year. There have already been 44 homicides in the city since January coming off a record-breaking 157 homicides in 2020.

Even former Mayor Reid, who endorsed Bottoms four years ago, has criticized her handling of the spike in crime. Reed has been rumored to be considering a run for mayor again.

Bottoms didn’t mention Reed by name, but referenced him several times, including the ongoing federal investigation and when she touted the city receiving $80 million in pandemic funding. “When’s the last time we got that much money without a scandal attached to it?” Bottoms asked.

The mayor said she was used to criticism and said it was part of the job, but she wasn’t going to let it stop her from fulfilling her duties for the rest of the term. “I may bend, but I will never break,” she said.

Repeatedly asked about her future plans, Bottoms said she would follow the same faith that guided her in the decision not to run again. “It’s not faith if you know what’s on the other side,” Bottoms said.

An image from the video Bottoms released May 6 announcing her decision not to seek reelection.

Atlanta Intown