Keisha Lance Bottoms Will Join Biden Administration

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In this Jan. 10, 2020, file photo, former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bottoms will replace former White House senior advisor Cedric Richmond in the Biden Administration.
In this Jan. 10, 2020, file photo, former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bottoms will replace former White House senior advisor Cedric Richmond in the Biden Administration.

Former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, at one point considered a 2020 running mate for then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, will end up in the Biden White House after all.

Bottoms, who was mayor from 2018 until this past January, will join the administration as director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and a senior advisor to the president. The hire was first reported by Axios on Tuesday evening.

She will replace former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who left in May to work for the Democratic National Committee. His role there is to help his party raise money and effectively communicate with the White House as Democrats limp toward the midterm Congressional elections with a stalled Biden agenda, ravenous inflation, brutal interest rate hikes and an economy some economists speculate is headed toward recession.

That is also the backdrop against which Bottoms will enter the White House. The Biden Administration, along with Democrats broadly, faces poor poll numbers just months before Congressional contests that will determine whether the party retains control of the legislature or if Republicans will be able to thwart the president’s agenda in both the House and Senate.

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Many of the promises made by Biden as a candidate were on domestic policy issues important to Black voters, who were critical to rescuing his once-flagging primary bid and propelling him to the presidency. Some of those promises were specific to Black women; Biden’s campaign vetted Bottoms and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams before tapping Kamala Harris, the current vice president, as his running mate.

Biden also made good on promises to confirm a Black woman, federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the Supreme Court, and to lay out a plan to address racial equity throughout the federal government. The latter is being coordinated by a number of Black women throughout the administration, including Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and Adjoa B. Asamoah, the first Black woman to hold the title of senior advisor for racial equity under Fudge.

But many of Biden’s other early domestic policy initiatives, such as getting a police reform bill passed, have taken a back seat to crises like inflation, shortages of baby formula, skyrocketing fuel prices and gun control in the wake of multiple mass shootings.

In Bottoms, the White House gains a nationally popular Black woman politician who managed a big city through several crises.

Bottoms’ term as Atlanta mayor began in the shadow of a federal corruption investigation left over from her predecessor’s administration, and she managed the city through a massive ransomware attack on City Hall, a battle with Gov. Brian Kemp over pandemic mask mandates, a spike in violent crime, an attempt by some in the city’s wealthiest (and whitest) neighborhood to secede from Atlanta, and raucous protests after the Atlanta police killing of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old, unarmed Black man.

Bottoms announced last May that she wouldn’t run for a second term as Atlanta mayor, making her the first one-term occupant of the office since Sam Massell, who was also Atlanta’s last white mayor, from 1970-1974. Ironically, she turned down a role in the Biden cabinet in the administration’s early days and it’s unclear what may have changed her mind about working in Washington since then.