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Slew of mayoral races spice up election season
Question of the Day
The New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races may have dominated the political headlines so far, but the real star of this off-year election is Hizzoner.
More than a dozen big and mid-sized cities are electing mayors on Nov. 3. California and New York also feature special congressional elections, while other states are pondering ballot measures that would limit state spending, roll back gay marriage and domestic partnerships, and legalize medical marijuana.
The big fish in the 2009 electoral pond is the New York City’s mayor’s race. Although the outcome isn’t in serious doubt — incumbent Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to win a third term — the backroom maneuvering has made the race more compelling than expected.
Before he could seek re-election, Mr. Bloomberg had to convince the city council to bend the term-limit rule, which allows the mayor to serve only two terms. A billionaire, Mr. Bloomberg has also spent an eye-popping $65 million of his own money on the race.
“Most polls and politicians will say Bloomberg will win fairly easily, but it won’t be outrageously easy because this is a Democratic town and there’s some resentment over term limits,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
A Quinnipiac poll released Sept. 24 showed Mr. Bloomberg with a 16-point lead over his Democratic opponent, city Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr.
Mr. Bloomberg’s quest for a third term is small potatoes next to that of Boston’s Thomas M. Menino, who’s seeking a fifth four-year term as mayor of Beantown. His opponent, fellow Democrat Councilor at Large Michael F. Flaherty Jr., trails the mayor in the polls and in fundraising.
So Mr. Flaherty, once a political ally of the mayor’s, is trying an unusual tactic: He’s joined forces with fellow Councilor at Large Sam Yoon, who was knocked out of the general election after finishing third in the primary. The two are running on a platform for mayor and “deputy mayor,” making so many appearances together that the Boston media have dubbed them “Floon.”
They’ve even performed a duet, “Flaherty and Deputy,” sung to the tune of “Ebony and Ivory.” Mr. Menino has called the alliance a “gimmick,” but the Flaherty campaign is betting that the combined star power of the two candidates will be enough to overpower the incumbent mayor.
The Seattle mayor’s contest has no incumbent — two-termer Greg Nickels was stunningly eliminated after finishing third in the Aug. 21 Democratic primary. Instead, the contest features two political newcomers, Sierra Club activist Mike McGinn and T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan.
The race’s key issue is “the tunnel,” a four-lane, two-level highway project designed to replace the rickety Alaskan Way Viaduct. Mr. McGinn’s campaign has centered on his opposition to the $4.2 billion tunnel, arguing that the city should focus on mass transit instead of continuing its reliance on automobiles.
Mr. Mallahan supports building the tunnel, a stance that has earned him the endorsement of labor unions, business leaders and Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. But he’s also come under attack for failing to vote in 13 previous elections.
Races across the country feature some up-and-coming political stars, some changing of the guard and some hot-button referendums. Among the contests to watch Nov. 3:
• In North Carolina, Charlotte city councilman Anthony Foxx is running to become the first Democratic mayor in more than 20 years, but first he’ll have to defeat Republican city councilman John Lassiter. Both are vying to replace Republican Pat McCrory, who’s stepping down after 14 years.
• Byron Brown II became the first black mayor of Buffalo, N.Y., four years ago. Now he’s seeking re-election, which shouldn’t be difficult, given that he’s running unopposed.
About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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