- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Four candidates are vying for the Columbus mayor’s seat to replace the longtime leader of Ohio’s biggest city.

The top-two vote getters in Tuesday’s election regardless of party will advance to a November runoff election.

The four men announced their candidacies after Michael Coleman, a Democrat first elected in 1999, announced last year he would not seek a fifth term.

The candidates are Democrats Andy Ginther, Columbus city council president; James Ragland, a community activist; Zach Scott, the Franklin County sheriff; and Republican Terry Boyd, a Franklin University professor. There are also two write-in candidates.

Spending in the race could top the 1999 election when Coleman spent more than $2 million in the last open mayor’s race without an incumbent.

Coleman, 60, surprised many supporters by not running again. He hasn’t said what he plans to do. At the time, he said he hoped to focus on the city hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention, but Columbus, though a finalist, lost out to Philadelphia.

Coleman’s tenure was marked by a focus on downtown development, where hundreds of apartments and condos have been built in recent years, along with neighborhood revival and job growth. Coleman brushed off opposition during his last three elections, and even pushed through a tax increase in 2009 during the great recession to restore services.

The city is the 15th biggest in the U.S. and one of the only growing big cities in the Midwest.

The primary has been marked by some negative attacks, with Scott and Ragland saying Ginther didn’t do enough to respond to a school data scandal when he served on the Columbus school board. Ginther says he responded immediately to the scandal.

At issue were allegations that administrators changed attendance numbers over several years to manipulate schools’ performance ratings in the state’s largest district.

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