Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms backs Warnock and Ossoff in Senate races

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms formally backed her choice in a crowded U.S. Senate race, but she did not urge the other candidates in the special election to bow out to clear a path for the Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Instead, Bottoms laid out the stakes.

“What I will say is that the facts are very clear on what we are facing with this election. If Rev. Warnock is able to win without a runoff, he will immediately represent us in the Senate and have an opportunity to have a voice and a vote as it relates to the Supreme Court nominee,” she said. “That’s extremely important.

“But even if the results are not settled in November, (Warnock) is still our best representative as it relates to all of the candidates in this race,” she added.

Bottoms has gained national prominence lately, serving as a key surrogate for presidential Democratic candidate Joe Biden. She was given a prestigious speaking role in the Democratic National Convention in August.

On Thursday, the capital city mayor also backed Democrat and investigative journalist Jon Ossoff in his challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue. That endorsement was less surprising, considering Ossoff handily secured the party’s nomination back in June.

But Warnock is one of eight Democrats on a cluttered ballot, with a total of 20 candidates in the race. He is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, famously known as the church Martin Luther King Jr. once led.

“This is an opportunity for us not just to change the landscape of representation in Georgia, but to change the landscape of our nation. Two Senate seats. Two opportunities for us to send strong leaders to the Senate,” Bottoms said.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler has served since the start of 2020 after Gov. Brian Kemp picked her last fall to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down last year due to failing health. She is battling U.S. Rep. Doug Collins for support among core conservatives.

The race to complete the last two years of Isakson’s term is widely expected to continue into January with a runoff. In a poll showing Warnock leading the field last month, he still only had 31% of support, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. That’s well below the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

That has increased the pressure on other Democrats to withdraw from the race, even though their names will show up on the ballot either way. Matt Lieberman, who had 9% in that Quinnipiac University poll, has resisted calls for him to step aside. Another Democrat, Ed Tarver, had 4%.

“I think Matt may be a good person, but he is not the right candidate,” Stacey Abrams, the party’s candidate for governor in 2018, said in a call with reporters last month when asked about Lieberman’s candidacy. “And I do believe that the best result for all is for Matt to step back and to recognize that Raphael Warnock is the leader we need for the state of Georgia.”

Lieberman has defended his decision to stay in the race, arguing there’s no chance of avoiding a runoff anyway.

On the Republican side, the six-candidate field recently consolidated after Wayne Johnson dropped out of the race and endorsed Collins. There are also four independents, one libertarian and one Green Party candidate on the ballot.