Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The most dramatic exchange in the WSB Atlanta mayoral debate

The most dramatic moment in WSB's Atlanta mayoral debate came near the end of the 90-minute event, when former state Sen. Vincent Fort took a calculated swipe at Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms - as if inviting her to jab back.

She did, knocking him over tax liens he accrued while in the Georgia Legislature. Relishing the moment, Fort said "one thing that the people of Atlanta will not tolerate is hypocrisy."

And then he dipped into his jacket pocket - defying debate rules forbidding props - and pulled out what he said were tax liens with Bottoms' name on it. The audience "ooohed" and the other candidates leaned in.

"People who live in glass houses should not throw stones," he said.

When the camera shifted to Bottoms, she said the tax liens are about 20 years old, and then offered a deeply personal detail. They were incurred when she and her husband racked up an "enormous amount" of medical expenses when they were struggling to get pregnant, she said, and now "paid and satisfied."

"We had financial hardship. But unlike Sen. Fort, I paid those tax bills," she said.

Then the cameras ping-ponged to Fort, who acknowledged he had his own liens and that he had "an arrangement to pay anything I owe." He pivoted back to Bottoms, saying Atlantans don't appreciate "hypocrisy" from her and claimed that at least one of her tax liens was from a few years ago.

She pivoted right back, repeating no less than three times: "Did you sign an oath of office saying you don't owe money to the government?"

Answered Fort: "I have arrangements with anyone I owe. You don't know the law. I do."

Watch the exchange at the 1 hour and 22 minute mark here.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.