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Atlanta mayor wins second term in runoff

November 26, 1997

ATLANTA (AP) _ After winning re-election in a bitter runoff, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell faces the task of uniting a city divided by one of its nastiest campaigns in more than 20 years.

``It has been a difficult and tough campaign for all of us, not just for those who have been running,″ Campbell said Tuesday night after defeating longtime political rival Marvin Arrington, the City Council president.

In a grudge match over which candidate was more in touch with the city’s black population, Campbell won with 35,849 votes, or 53 percent, according to unofficial returns. Arrington received 31,658 votes, or 47 percent.

Campbell, 44, who had finished first over nine challengers in the nonpartisan, general election on Nov. 4, served three terms on the City Council before being elected mayor in 1993.

Arrington, 56, proved to be a stronger challenger than expected. Though less poised and polished than Campbell, he hadn’t lost an election since he was first elected to the council 27 years ago.

``I wish the mayor well,″ Arrington said. ``But we fought the good fight. ... Any time the public has spoken, then I’m satisfied.″

Both Campbell and Arrington are black. Race still became an issue as the candidates battled for crucial votes among blacks, who make up two-thirds of the city’s population of 426,000.

Early in the campaign, the candidates bickered over boosting Atlanta’s tax base, pollution, development and crime rates that are still among the nation’s highest. But the mudslinging intensified amid accusations of race baiting during the week before the runoff.

Campbell said Arrington used a ``racial slur″ when he accused a Campbell supporter, former Mayor Maynard Jackson, of ``passing″ during the civil rights movement.

Campbell insisted Arrington meant Jackson, who is black, was trying to pose as a white man. Arrington denied the charge and said he meant Jackson was ``passing out books and encyclopedias″ as a door-to-door salesman.

Jackson in turn attacked Arrington for taking support from white Republicans, whom he labeled ``Lester Maddox-types,″ a reference to Georgia’s former segregationist governor.

Arrington also complained that Campbell supporters had called him a ``handkerchief-headed Negro″ and a ``sellout.″

Before the general election, a videotape by Campbell supporters labeled Arrington the ``king of corruption.″ Arrington’s campaign also produced a rap-music cassette that chided Campbell for living in a mostly white neighborhood.