- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

There are 403 mayoral races throughout the country today and if some of the candidates are to be believed, the outcomes could shed light on how the country will vote in the 2004 presidential election.

There are six mayoral races in cities with populations of 500,000 or more, including San Francisco; Indianapolis; Charlotte, N.C., Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; and Houston, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

In Philadelphia, some have claimed national consequences for the mayor’s race since an FBI bug was found in the office of Democratic Mayor John F. Street three weeks ago. The FBI revealed it is investigating Mr. Street and any ties he has to city-issued contracts and political contributions.

After the electronic listening device was found, Mr. Street, who is seeking a second term, and high-ranking Philadelphia Democrats proclaimed a national conspiracy by the GOP to steal the election for Republican candidate Sam Katz, and help President Bush carry Pennsylvania in the 2004 presidential election.

But Tom Hinton, director of state relations for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, said it is simply not true.

“My sense is local races, even for major cities, are not a bellwether for what will happen in a presidential race,” Mr. Hinton said.

He said there are only a few cases — “if the issues discussed in the campaign are of national interest like homeland security or health care, or if the predominant party loses” — where a local mayoral race would have any influence at all on a presidential candidate’s chances of winning a state.

Unlike Philadelphia, most mayoral races have made few waves in the national spotlight, and some not even in their own cities.

The major news coming out of the race in Columbus is that Michael B. Coleman, 48, the city’s first black mayor, isn’t running against anyone but is campaigning nonetheless.

And then there are elections where the key issue is the mere hint of partisan politics.

Phoenix has a tradition of nonpartisan municipal elections, but apparent Republican Randy Pullen is bucking the trend. His opponent, Phil Gordon, condemned Mr. Pullen’s campaign posters — red, white and blue — with a GOP elephant emblazoned in the center.

Hometown issues, including proposals for a light-rail system, are paramount in Houston, where three candidates are vying for the seat of Democrat Lee P. Brown, who is barred by term limits from seeking a fourth term. Republican candidate Orlando Sanchez faces two Democrats, Bill White, former Energy undersecretary under President Clinton, and Texas state Rep. Sylvester Turner.

“All of the issues in this race are local, dealing mainly with expanding the light rail and managing our growth,” said Roger Widmeyer, Mr. Brown’s senior analyst.

There has been no mention of influencing the 2004 elections in Charlotte, where incumbent Republican Mayor Patrick McCrory, 47, is vying for a fifth term, facing two challengers — Libertarian Carlton Harvey, a 41-year-old ministry director, and Democratic businessman Craig Madans, 51.

National implications have held little sway in the San Francisco mayor’s race, where Willie F. Brown Jr., 69, the two-term incumbent, is running against a large slate of opponents: two Republicans, two Democrats, and one from each of the following parties: Independent, Green and Libertarian. And that doesn’t include the write-in candidates.

In Indianapolis, however, there has been some mention of a national issue. The state of the nation’s economy is a key talking point for incumbent Democrat Bart Peterson and Republican Greg Jordan, the Marion County treasurer.

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