May 31, 2018

Mayor Denson: Elections Were a 'U-Turn' for Athens


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Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

Tim Bryant moderates a debate between Mayor Nancy Denson and challenger Tim Denson in 2014.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson called last week’s local elections—in which progressives backed by Athens for Everyone swept the mayor’s race and all six commission races—a “U-turn” in an interview with WGAU 1340 AM this morning.

Host Tim Bryant suggested that the results were “a left turn.” Denson responded, “It wasn’t just a left turn; it was a U-turn.”

Both Bryant and Denson chalked the results up to enthusiasm on the progressive side, while, as Athens GOP chairman Gordon Rhoden said in a recent mass email, conservatives stayed home.

“When you have that kind of passion from small, very vocal groups, and they organize, we saw what they did… I have to give them credit, they did an amazing job of taking over this election,” said Denson, who endorsed the more conservative Harry Sims over Kelly Girtz in the mayor's race.

The state legislature’s decision to move nonpartisan elections like Athens’ from November to May also played a role, Denson said.

“This is just not on people’s radar this time of the year, and I think that’s one of the things that made this election happen, that made it possible,” she said.

Bryant asked whether the results were a repudiation of Denson, who was elected in 2010 and couldn't run again because of term limits.

“Probably by some people. As much as I’d love everybody to love me, I know that’s not the case,” Denson said. “But I think the pendulum constantly swings, and this pendulum has swung very far to the left, and I think that’s something that’s been in the works for the past eight years. I have to hand it to [A4E founder] Tim Denson, because I think he’s the architect that started all this. I don’t claim any kin to him, really don’t want to… there are goals that group of people have that I will never support.”

The two also discussed the transition to Mayor-elect Girtz, why Athens has such high poverty in spite of creating so many jobs, the loss of big-box retailers to Oconee County and the perception that the ACC government is unfriendly to business. Listen to the whole interview here.