It looks like a contender in the Atlanta mayor's race is turning to Ludacris for some southern hospitality in hopes of turning his campaign around. In another example of celebrities lending their star power to pols, the popular rapper/actor and his manager, Chaka Zulu, hosted a fundraiser over the weekend for State Sen. Kasim Reed, a candidate in the mayoral contest. According to Hip Hop Wired, NBA star Shaquille O'Neal also headlined the event. In a statement earlier this month, Ludacris said that Atlanta entertainers - a huge industry in the city - are supporting Reed. "Leaders in Atlanta's arts and entertainment world have long been strong supporters of Senator Reed," Ludacris, whose real name is Christopher Bridges, said. The Atlanta mayor's race has gone almost entirely unnoticed in the national political discussion, overshadowed by the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. "I have to tell you, this has been about the least exciting race I have ever seen," said Matt Towery, CEO of Insider Advantage, a nonpartisan polling and political news source in Georgia. The Georgia contest did get the New York Times treatment last week in a story that focused on Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood. Norwood is the frontrunner in the six-way race and appears poised to be the first non-African American mayor of Atlanta in more than 30 years. Norwood is white. Norwood is said to be leading her two top competitors, Reed and Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, by a margin large enough to avoid a run-off after the preliminary election. If Norwood earns more than 50 percent in the preliminary contest, she would win the race outright. Both Borders and Reed are African American. What remains to be seen is whether Ludacris - with his large, urban, pop culture following that is largely African American - can influence the race. This isn't the first time the rapper has lent his support to a candidate. Last year, he appeared with Democratic Senate candidate Jim Martin as his challenge to incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) went to a recount and run-off. University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock, one of the leading Georgia political analysts, said he suspects Ludacris' involvement is likely designed to try to drum up enthusiasm for the mayoral election. Many predict turnout to be abysmal. In the Senate race last year, black turnout dropped off dramatically between the general election and the run-off, Bullock noted, and Martin lost by a significant margin. "Having someone like Ludacris might also be an effort to help mobilize younger black voters," Bullock said. "The general sense is that this contest is not mobilizing a lot of voters." With Norwood leading in the polls, "perhaps having an endorsement from Ludacris moves you into second place," Bullock added. Towery was doubtful that Ludacris, or these other celebrities will play much of a role in the race. The campaigns are struggling and turning to Ludacris and other celebrities as a last resorts, he said. "The public is not focused on this race, the African American community is really not focused on the race," Towery said. "Ludacris or any of these people who have had parties, they have really had no impact. It has almost only been good for entertainment purposes." It is unclear, however if Norwood's numbers will stay where they are. John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster from Alabama, said it looks like Norwood is pulling more support from African Americans than he anticipates she'll receive on Election Day. "She is getting too much of the black vote," he said. "No one is sure if that will actually hold." Ludacris, Shaq and Zulu aren't the only prominent members of the community getting involved in the race. Comedian Steve Harvey and NBA Hall of Famer Julius "Dr. J" Erving hosted an event for Borders on Saturday. Even these celebs have any effect on the race - and its is unclear whether they will - it will be on African American turnout, Anzalone said. If they do boost African American turnout, Norwood's numbers among black voters would drop. "At the end of the day, people like that getting involved is really more about get out the vote," Anzalone said. "It's not so much who you are going to vote for. I think it is exciting the base for those two candidates."Jeremy P. Jacobs is the staff writer at Politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
It looks like a contender in the Atlanta mayor's race is turning to Ludacris for some southern hospitality in hopes of turning his campaign around.