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The 2009 mayoral race may get jolt of celebrity

Could Clark Howard be the next Atlanta mayor?

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Thirty months out from Atlanta's next round of city elections, it might seem annoyingly early to talk about who's running for mayor in 2009 -- were some potential candidates not already jockeying for position, raising money and holding events that appear nearly indistinguishable from campaign rallies.

City Council President Lisa Borders kicked things off at the end of last month by filing a letter of intent to raise campaign funds for the mayor's race. Soon after, at-large Councilwoman Mary Norwood mailed out a glossy, fold-out flier advertising a series of meet-and-greets in every council district in the city. The flier's design is remarkably similar to campaign mailers Norwood sent out before the last round of city elections.

Then there's the scuttlebutt about other possible contenders currently testing the waters. Names bouncing around include state Sen. Kasim Reed, D-Atlanta; former Council President Cathy Woolard; Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts; at-large Councilman Ceasar Mitchell; and an as-yet-unnamed business luminary, such as Earthlink founder Charles Brewer or Metro Chamber President Sam Williams.

Word is that even police Chief Richard Pennington has been eyeing a run for mayor, although he's likely had other issues on his mind of late.

Perhaps the most surprising rumor involves a popular consumer advocate with his own syndicated radio talk show. "I'm seriously thinking about it," says Clark Howard. "I've always loved my city and I think I could make a difference."

Howard acknowledges that he also talked publicly about running for mayor in 1997, but didn't follow through. It's one of his biggest regrets, he says – in large part because the felonious Bill Campbell was able to win re-election.

Like every other potential candidate CL contacted, Howard says he'll wait until summer 2008 to make a final decision. Jumping into the race would likely mean the end of his successful radio career, he says.

Local politicians seem to be taking the prospect of a Howard mayoral campaign seriously.

"Who's a more recognized and trustworthy figure in Atlanta than Clark Howard?" says Buckhead Councilman Howard Shook. "If the race were held tomorrow, he'd probably win my district."

The WSB star's outlook could also be boosted by changing city demographics that have had some trend watchers predicting that Atlanta's next mayor could easily be white.

Howard is already playing around with a possible campaign slogan: "I'd be just as cheap with your money as you'd think I'd be."

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