CINCINNATI (AP) Charlie Luken and Courtis Fuller are both registered Democrats. Both are former TV news anchors at the same broadcast station. But that’s where the similarities end.
Mr. Luken, the mayor of Cincinnati, and Mr. Fuller, a political neophyte, are locked in a tight race to lead a city torn by racial divisions since the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.
Both have downplayed race in their campaigns, but that has been difficult. The shooting sparked three nights of riots in which dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested.
Mr. Luken, who is white, has stressed the need for a strong, experienced mayor. He also has tried to deflect Mr. Fuller’s criticism about his leadership during and after the riots.
“I can just tell you, rightly or wrongly, I did what I thought was right,” Mr. Luken said during a candidates’ forum.
Mr. Fuller, who is black, has criticized Mr. Luken for imposing a curfew in September after Stephen Roach, the police officer charged in the April shooting, was acquitted. Mr. Luken criticized Mr. Fuller for participating in a march through the neighborhood where the shooting occurred.
Since agreeing to change the city charter in 1999, Cincinnati’s voters today will be directly electing their first mayor in 76 years. Previously, the top vote-getter among the nine City Council members was designated mayor.
Under the change, the two top vote-getters in a nonpartisan primary face off in the general election. Mr. Fuller received 54 percent of the vote in September’s primary, compared with Mr. Luken’s 39 percent.
Mr. Luken has said the new powers of the mayor will make it easier for the city to lure developers and their projects to the city, while challenger Mr. Fuller has questioned whether the system is to blame or the people in it.
Cincinnati’s mayoral race highlights different political styles. Mr. Luken has campaigned at neighborhood festivals and unleashed a barrage of television ads in the final days of the race. Mr. Fuller has attended neighborhood events away from TV cameras and rarely talks to reporters.
Mr. Luken, 50, who was mayor for six years in the 1980s, has been mayor and a City Council member since 1999. Mr. Fuller, 44, is a registered Democrat running in his first political race as the candidate of the Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s reform party.
Both men are former news anchors at WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, Mr. Fuller most recently.
Cincinnati has 331,000 residents, 43 percent of them black. Fifteen black men and a 12-year-old boy have died in confrontations with Cincinnati police since 1995; 11 of them threatened officers with weapons. The Justice Department is investigating police practices to determine whether the department has violated the civil rights of citizens.
Voter Steve Williams, 45, said the election has been overshadowed by the terrorist attacks and their aftermath.
“It gets to the point where it seems it’s not even a priority on people’s minds,” he said.