Embattled Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' surprise decision to step down opens the door to white control of City Hall.
While white Buckhead despised the mayor as she gained national acclaim from MSNBC and the Democratic Party, she still held enough power to head off white challengers.
Dentons attorney Sharon Gay was the only white candidate for the post before Bottoms issued her bombshell with a Thursday night tweet, followed by a Friday morning press conference.
Instead of fielding a Great White Hope, Buckhead residents upset by violent crime and high taxes fomented a campaign to form a separate city.
Now, perennial candidate Mary Norwood, who narrowly lost to Bottoms in the last election, might run again for mayor instead of seeking an open Buckhead City Council seat.
Hawks executive Steve Koonin is another possibility, along with businessman Peter Aman, who ran a disappointing campaign four years ago. Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard might also crank up another run, although Gay appeals to the same intown progressive crowd.
Bottoms' leaving also fuels rumors that former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will seek another term. Unlike his protege Bottoms, who feuded with Gov. Brian Kemp over elections and Covid restrictions, Reed enjoyed cozy relations with former Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Legislature. The imperious Reed also escaped the federal criminal investigations that ensnarled several members of his administration.
Black City Council President Felicia Moore, promising to cut crime and control spending, looked like Bottoms' strongest challenger before her curtain call.
But Bottoms held strong approval ratings and ample funds, boosted by an appearance with President Joe Biden, who reportedly offered Bottoms a position in his administration that she declined.
Retaking the mayor's chair has been the elusive dream of white Buckhead ever since Maynard Jackson swamped Sam Massell, Atlanta's last white mayor, in 1973.
After years of decline, the city of Atlanta's population has risen in recent years, with more white residents leveling the racial balance. Blacks no longer hold a significant majority of votes.
Electing a white mayor appealing to wealthy Buckhead property owners might blunt the drive for a separate city. The campaign has gained surprising momentum, with once moderate GOP leader Brandon Beach introducing a bill to begin the incorporation process.
A state senator who championed the expansion of mass transit and headed the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Beach swerved to the right to support Trump's untruthful bid to overturn Georgia's presidential election results.
Beach doesn't even live in Atlanta, and the bill likely won't receive the necessary support of the city's legislative delegation.
The proposal looks like the latest effort by GOP legislators to split North Fulton from the rest of the county, forming a new, white-dominated county that would be called Milton.
Including a new prosperous city of Buckhead, Milton County would stretch across the affluent suburbs of Sandy Springs, Roswell, Johns Creek and Alpharetta, insulating them from the messy black politics of the city of Atlanta and South Fulton.
Bottoms sincerely loves the city, but was beset by the Covid pandemic and racial turmoil following the killing of George Floyd. A rising number of murders and high-profile crimes such as the random slaying of a child at Phipps Plaza gave the impression of a city out of control.
At a press conference Friday formally announcing her decision, Bottoms said that the time had come to pass the baton. That time came earlier than expected for her.