Cathy Woolard takes a pass on Atlanta mayor’s race

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Cathy Woolard – the first openly gay elected official in Georgia who placed third in the 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race – won’t be the city’s next mayor. She announced Thursday she’s sitting this campaign out.

“After more soul searching than you can imagine, I’ve decided not to put my hat into the ring in the upcoming election for Mayor of Atlanta,” Woolard (photo) wrote in an email to supporters. 

“You know that my love and vision for Atlanta is all-consuming at times, but the prospect of spending every day over the next year calling you all for funds and campaigning by Zoom rather than in person is just not a commitment I can make right now,” she added.

Woolard’s announcement came a few hours after Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore kicked off her campaign for mayor. As Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms runs for a second term, Woolard cautioned her supporters against jumping “too quickly into the camp of any candidate at this point.”

“The next mayor must have a bold, progressive vision that is committed to replacing the old ‘Atlanta Way’ with a new commitment to Atlanta’s future that aggressively addresses our challenges in housing, workforce opportunities, criminal justice reform, assisting local businesses struggling to survive in this pandemic – including our artists and cultural institutions and mitigating climate change with an urgency not yet seen,” Woolard wrote. 

“To that point, no candidate will receive more than a passing glance from me that is not firmly and openly committed to transit on the entire Atlanta BeltLine on a time schedule that allows me to ride it before I die,” she added. 

In 2017, Woolard was among the first to step into what became a crowded race to replace term-limited Mayor Kasim Reed. She eventually placed third behind Bottoms and former Atlanta City Council member Mary Norwood. Bottoms beat Norwood in a runoff in which Woolard hosted a forum for the two candidates, quizzed them on LGBTQ issues and later endorsed Norwood.

Woolard became the first openly gay elected official in Georgia when she unseated a longtime incumbent on the Atlanta City Council in 1997. She went on to become the first woman and openly gay City Council President in 2002. Woolard resigned in 2004 to launch a failed bid for Congress. Now a public affairs consultant, Woolard has also lobbied for LGBTQ and equality causes at the State Capitol.

On Nov. 2, voters in Atlanta will elect a mayor, council president, all 15 council members, the Board of Education and 10 municipal court judges. Dates for candidate qualifying have not been announced by the city clerk.

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