Campaigning where the sun don't shine

Maybe Atlanta's mayoral candidates, amid a national crisis, have figured out a way to make people pay attention to their candidacies after all: They take off their gloves.

Robb Pitts implies that Shirley Franklin is gay in a story in the October issue of the Atlanta Tribune, and in the same article, Gloria Bromell-Tinubu completely discounts Franklin's candidacy by saying she is a puppet of the city's black political aristocracy.

"I'm not running against Shirley Franklin, I'm running against Andy Young," Bromell-Tinubu is quoted as saying. "Nobody knows Shirley Franklin."

And probably most infuriating to the Franklin campaign: "If she is elected, we still won't have our first woman mayor."

Bromell-Tinubu's candidacy has nowhere to go but up, but dragging the well-liked Young into an attack on Franklin is risky.

Pitts, meanwhile, has a little more to lose if his remarks turn people off to his campaign. The article, written by the Trib's Frederick Robinson, quotes Pitts as saying, "just as my interracial marriage shouldn't be an issue, neither should anybody's sexual orientation." The story states that Pitts is referring to a rumor that Franklin is gay. Franklin says the rumor is not true.

Pitts told Southern Voice that the comment was actually referring to City Council president candidate Cathy Woolard.

Robinson says no. "Rob Pitts made the comment, and it was not taken out of context," Robinson wrote in an e-mail message. "I've known Pitts over the years and he's not anti-gay. To me, the comment was meant to convey if you hit me below the belt, I'll hit you below the belt; here's how it feels."

Robinson says people are making more of a story out of the issue than it warrants. But for an election that has lacked fireworks, even small sparks are going to get attention.

Imara Canady, Franklin's press secretary, says the campaign is ignoring the comments in the Tribune, but the Franklin camp has been doing some attacking of its own, sending out a brochure calling Pitts the R-word — Republican — a particularly nasty epithet in much of Atlanta.

Many south-of-Buckhead Atlanta voters recently received a mailing touting U.S. Rep. John Lewis' endorsement of Franklin in which Lewis states: "I first met ... Robb Pitts when I joined the City Council in 1982. He was a Republican then, and he's a Republican now."

Pitts has consistently maintained that he is an independent, and this isn't the first instance the issue has come up, but this is the first time the Franklin campaign has used one of its political heavyweights to attack Pitts' for his endorsement of Republican gubernatorial and presidential candidates.??

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