Today we continue with Part 2 of our 3-part General Election Preview Series. Part 1 yesterday covered legislatures and county races, while Part 3 next Monday will cover the big-ticket races. Today we will focus on mayoral elections. The year after the presidential race is traditionally among the biggest times of the 4-year cycle for mayoral races, and 2017 is not an exception. Some two dozen big cities are electing mayors this year across 11 states. Most of the races are standard winner-take-all general elections, but there are also four Louisiana Rules Top Two races (denoted with LRTT) and two Ranked Choice Voting Races (denoted with RCV). Here we cover the races in cities above roughly 200K population, as well as two especially interesting smaller races. NYC (an office that behaves in practice more like a Governor than a Mayor) will be covered with the other Marquee Races on Monday. The mayoral races here are listed in descending population order.
Charlotte: Charlotte is America’s 17th-largest city; it has a population of 840K that breaks down as roughly 50% White, 35% Black, and 10% Hispanic. It had a PVI of D+13 (2008), and it has probably trended left since then; however, the GOP has done quite well in mayoral contests, losing narrowly in both 2013 and 2015. Charlotte proper covers all of both the urban and first-ring suburban portions of its metro area, making it among the nation’s most diverse cities from a socioeconomic standpoint. The city is roughly circular and might be best thought of as divided into four pie slices of north, south, east and west. The southern quarter of the city is quite wealthy and was staunchly Republican until 2016. The northern and western quarters are mostly black, with poorer areas near downtown and black-middle-class areas along the edges. The eastern quarter is racially very diverse, again with poorer areas near downtown and middle-class areas farther out. City councilwoman Vi Lyles (D) is the Dem nominee and thought the favorite. Somewhat surprisingly, she ousted the incumbent mayor (without the need for a runoff) in the September primary. Overall Lyles, a longtime council veteran, is a mainstream black establishment liberal. Though Lyles is a staunch liberal, she is also considered much more easygoing in style than the outgoing incumbent and has a better relationship with the council. Her inoffensive nature and the blue (and getting bluer) lean of the city should leave Lyles in a strong position to win the partisan general election. Lyles’s rival is city councilman Kenny Smith (R). Smith is a mainstream conservative from the wealthy southern part of the city, and is clearly to the right of the moderates the GOP put up for the seat in prior cycles (though Smith has been tacking to the center for this campaign). Thus, due to the lean of the city, and Lyles’s non-polarizing nature, Smith has generally been considered a long-shot. However, he is definitely a credible candidate, fundraising well and running a strong campaign, and might have a chance to pull the upset. A poll this week interestingly had Lyles up by just 1 point, suggesting this race could be surprisingly competitive and Smith could have a stronger chance to win than the fundamentals suggest. If he falls short as expected, Smith is definitely someone to watch for a state legislature or NC-9 campaign in the near future.
Seattle: Seattle is America’s 18th-largest city and its fastest growing big city, with a population of around 705K. Its demographics break down as roughly 70% White and 15% Asian, with small but significant Black and Hispanic populations. The northern half of the city is overwhelmingly white and monolithically home to upscale leftists, while the southern half of the city is racially mixed and has some blue-collar pockets (though plenty of upscale leftists as well). Seattle has a PVI of D+32 (2008); it has a history (from not all that long ago) as a blue-collar industrial city, but in recent years it has quickly turned into something of a slightly watered-down San Francisco. And like San Francisco, politics in the city takes the form of a two-party system between left and far-left, mainstream/sane liberal candidates and ultra-left moonbats. The open-seat mayoral general election is between one member of each faction. Incumbent Ed Murray (D), a mainstream liberal, was thought to be headed toward an uneventful re-election, but his campaign was derailed by a series of lawsuits alleging past sexual abuse. Ex-US Attorney Jenny Durkan (D) is the mainstream liberal choice and generally considered the overall front-runner; she led the first round with 28%. Durkan, who touts her status as the first openly-gay US Attorney, is a mainstream liberal by Seattle standards (though she would be considered pretty far left just about anywhere else). She has received the endorsement of outgoing Mayor Murray (though she has disavowed that after Murray’s scandal) as well as most of the Dem establishment’s support; she has also dominated the fundraising race. Durkan’s major liability is her close establishment ties, which are not endearing to far-left voters, as well as her top-down management style that may grate on Seattle’s relatively cordial political sensibilities. Durkan’s base is likely to be the same as Murray’s, establishment liberals, particularly on the north side. The two other establishment liberals in the primary took 21%. Durkan faces a far-left rival in urban planner Cary Moon (D). Moon has attempted to run as an upscale far-left outsider, along the lines of the successful 2009 campaign of ex-Mayor Mike McGinn (D). Like McGinn, Moon made her name opposing a freeway relocation project and seems to be casting herself as the champion of Seattle’s far-left community, especially the influential ultra-environmentalist bloc. She was helped to a second place finish in the primary with 18% by the endorsement of the city’s influential Stranger alternative weekly, narrowly beating out an even further-left (borderline neo-communist) candidate. Underscoring how much the city’s ultra-left-wing has grown in the last decade, the two other ultra-left candidates in the primary took 23%, for a net score of 49-41 in favor of the establishment candidates. Durkan looks like a very slight favorite due to her stronger position in the first round and the better performance of establishment liberals. However, Seattle’s far-left community is quite powerful and has overperformed in the past, and Moon could easily prevail.
Boston: Boston has a population of 675K and a PVI D+33 (2016), which breaks down as roughly 45% White, 25% Black, 20% Hispanic, and 10% Asian. In spite of Boston’s reputation as a student/hipster/upscale liberal town, most of those sit outside the city limits in Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, and those within Boston are low-turnout and largely irrelevant in local elections. Instead, elections are dominated by moderate white ethnics: the city includes a huge section of high-turnout middle-class-white suburban territory in the southwest (West Roxbury) and some urban poor white ethnic neighborhoods. The only other real bloc in municipal elections is the minority community: Boston has a large Black community in the south-central part of the city, and a Hispanic community in East Boston. This year, incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh (D) is seeking a second term. Walsh is a union-backed white ethnic Dem who won a close race in 2013 and has been a mainstream to slightly moderate liberal in office. Walsh has been relatively popular and has long been considered a strong favorite for re-election; indeed, it was something of an open question whether he would get a serious challenger at all. Walsh did draw a serious rival, however, in councilman (not that) Tito Jackson (D), who represents the African-American heavy Roxbury neighborhood (which, PSA for those of you not from Boston, is a very different neighborhood from, and nowhere near, West Roxbury). Jackson is attempting to run to Walsh’s left, but he remains little-known outside his district and there isn’t an obvious reservoir of discontent with Walsh to tap into. As such, Walsh led the primary by a large 63-29 margin and looks like the prohibitive favorite in the general. It would likely be a shock if Jackson came close to toppling the incumbent.
Detroit: Detroit has a population of around 675K (which is still dropping, though not quite as precipitously as it has been) that is roughly 85% Black, with a small Mexican community on the southwest side and a few white hipsters downtown. It had a PVI of D+44 (2008). Incumbent Mike Duggan (D) is the first white mayor of the city since the 70s. Duggan is a typical machine hack liberal, but he has done a decent job of slowing the city’s freefall and even reversing the decline in some neighborhoods. Clearing that low bar is enough to make him a huge favorite for re-election to a second term. Duggan’s rival, State Sen. Coleman Young Jr. (D), son of Detroit’s polarizing 70s and 80s era mayor of the same name, is running to his left, accusing Duggan of not paying enough attention to the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Duggan led Young 67-27 in the August preliminary round, and it would be surprising if the general election result winds up being significantly different.
Atlanta (LRTT): Atlanta has a population of 475K, roughly 50% Black and 40% White. It has a PVI of D+28 (2008). Atlanta has four major socioeconomic areas, which are conveniently clustered around the north, south, east, and west parts of the city. The northern part of the city is known as Buckhead, a wealthy urban to inner suburban neighborhood that has historically been the origin and piggybank of the Georgia GOP, though it has been trending left recently. The eastern part of the city, which includes the downtown area, is a historically-black area that has become gentrified in recent years and is now largely upscale liberal whites. The western part of the city is overwhelmingly black and largely poor, though it does have some middle-class areas near the western edge. Finally, the southern part of the city is also overwhelmingly black, but more middle-class, though it does have some poor areas closer to downtown. There are 12 candidates for the open seat mayoral race this year, 8 of them serious. Councilwoman Mary Norwood (I) is the consistent front-runner in first-round polls. Norwood lost the 2009 runoff to now-incumbent Kasim Reed (D) in a squeaker by 714 votes. That 2009 campaign featured extensive campaigning from the state Democratic party on Reed’s behalf, casting the white Norwood as a closet Republican. That characterization is sincerely overblown; to the extent Norwood’s ideology can be identified, it’s probably best described as Bloombergish pro-business centrism. But directly opposite Bloomberg, Norwood is unapologetically small-ball in focus, eschewing major initiatives of any type in favor of a focus on local and neighborhood concerns. In a field with no serious right-of-center candidates, that means Norwood is a natural fit for the city’s GOP minority and upscale Buckhead residents, and she is likely to get a large margin in the high-turnout northern part of the city. However, polls have shown her in the 20s and she may find the runoff more difficult as the currently-fractured liberal vote coalesces. Councilwoman Keisha Lance-Bottoms (D) looks most likely to advance with Norwood. Lance-Bottoms has been surging in polls in the last few weeks, boosted by Reed’s endorsement and the support of his network. Like her mentor, Lance-Bottoms is an establishment liberal. She has benefited deeply from being seen as Reed’s handpicked successor, which has allowed her to stand out in a crowded field of similar candidates. She is likely preparing to use Reed’s 2009 playbook again in the runoff against Norwood, casting herself as the true Democrat in the race and the champion of the city’s black vote. There are seven other serious candidates in the race with the potential to upset the Norwood/Lance-Bottoms pairing. City official Peter Aman (D) has led the field in fundraising, and has been surging in polls in recent weeks. Aman, one of the three major white candidates in the race, has been taking aim at Norwood’s base, with an upscale moderate liberalism that seems deisgned to poach Buckhead votes from the left. Polls show the strategy may be working, as his vote share has gone up while Norwood’s has gone down in recent weeks, and there is a chance he could make the runoff or even take Norwood’s spot. Council President Caesar Mitchell (D) has citywide name recognition from his post and has also fundraised well. Mitchell is a moderate liberal with citywide name recognition from his post, and has been polling towards the front of the pack. Mitchell has also fundraised well, as he has a decent relationship with the business community, which could allow him to pull an upset and make the runoff. State Sen. Vincent Fort (D) is the most left-wing candidate in the field and has Bernie’s endorsement. Fort, who calls for making Atlanta a sanctuary city and for marijuana decriminalization, may be able to perform well with high left-wing enthusiasm. However, the black vote in Atlanta is generally fairly establishment-oriented, and Fort’s staunch leftism on both economic and social issues has left him on poor terms with establishment figures. As a result, he has been polling in the middle of the pack, though he has a decent chance to surprise if left-wing enthusiasm is higher than expected. Councilman Kwanza Hall (D) is a moderate liberal who may have some significant appeal to black middle-class voters. However, he has not really stood out in this field as his niche is overcrowded with bigger names like Lance-Bottoms and Mitchell. Thus, he has been polling towards the middle of the pack. That seems likely where he will finish barring a significant surprise. Ex-Council President Cathy Woolard (D) is the final white candidate in the race. However, unlike Norwood and Aman, Woolard is a staunch progressive. Woolard, who is openly gay, could draw a few points from white progressives on the east side, but has been at middling levels in polls as the white liberals in Atlanta are largely young and low-turnout, and Fort is also a home for their votes. Finally, Fulton CE John Eaves (D) was thought to be a strong candidate; however, his campaign has never really gotten off the ground. Eaves entered the race exceptionally late, after other candidates had long been campaigning hard. He is also an establishment black liberal, a niche in this field that is more than oversaturated, and thus he has been polling in low single digits. Overall, right now CW seems to be betting fairly strongly on Norwood and Lance-Bottoms advancing, though there are slight chances for Aman, Mitchell, Fort, Hall, and Woolard to pull an upset and snatch one of the runoff spots away.
Raleigh: North Carolina’s capital has a population of 460K which breaks down as 55% White, 30% Black, and 10% Hispanic. It has a PVI of D+11 (2008), though that has likely shifted well to the left over the last decade. The city is relatively diverse socioeconomically, with white liberals on the west side, upscale white moderates in the northern part of the city, and a mixture of lower and middle-income blacks on the east side. Incumbent
Spanky Nancy McFarlane (I) is seeking a fourth two-year term. McFarlane is a moderate, business-friendly liberal who has generally had the support of the Dem establishment. She has been quite popular as mayor and has generally cruised to her first two re-elections over token GOP opposition. However, Raleigh has been shifting strongly left in recent years with an influx of minorities and upscale liberals. And this year, McFarlane is facing a much more serious challenge, from her left rather than right. Attorney Charles Francis (D) hass running to McFarlane’s left, striking SJW notes in contrast to McFarlane’s business liberalism. This year, Francis has the official endorsement of the Wake County Democratic Party, which has previously gone to McFarlane. Francis has also outraised the incumbent, and has backing from some big names in the area’s Democratic establishment (including the heads of liberal polling firm PPP). Many more moderate Dems are still backing McFarlane, but Francis was able to force a runoff by holding McFarlane below 50 in October. That said, the remainder of the vote went to a Republican (though he has somewhat strangely endorsed Francis) and Francis’s 48-38 deficit seems like a tough hill to climb. Thus, McFarlane looks like a moderate favorite for re-election, though there is still a possibility that high black and liberal turnout could allow Francis to pull the upset.
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Miami (LRTT): Miami has a population of 450K, which is roughly 70% Hispanic, 20% Black, and 10% White. It has a PVI of D+7 (2008). Blacks (a large chunk of whom are of Haitian descent) are largely concentrated in the northern tip of the city, while Whites are almost exclusively found in a narrow strip along the shoreline. That leaves the large central and western parts of the city as nearly monolithically Hispanic, with a majority of those being Cuban – and unsurprisingly, local politics are dominated by the Cuban GOP machine. The open seat race uses a Louisiana Rules Top Two format, with a runoff in two weeks if no one clears 50%, but that’s an academic point this year. This isn’t really a race at all, in fact – city councilman Francis Suarez (R) is the prohibitive favorite and faces only token opposition. Suarez, the son of 90s-era mayor Xavier (D), fundraised very well and coalesced establishment support – and was thus (somewhat surprisingly) able to scare off literally all serious challengers. Instead, he faces three little-known candidates, none of whom have run serious campaigns; thus, it would be a shock if Suarez did not win with a huge majority.
Minneapolis (RCV): Minneapolis has a population of 415K that breaks down as roughly 60% White, 20% Black, and 10% Hispanic. It has a PVI of D+29 (2008). Minneapolis ranks with Seattle and San Francisco as among the nation’s most liberal cities, with the main division between establishment/sane liberals and ultra-left neo-communist types. Minneapolis also uses Ranked Choice Voting (branded as Instant Runoff Voting) in which voters rank their choices by number and votes are redistributed. The main impact of that from my point of view is that it makes the race nearly impossible to accurately handicap. There are generally considered to be 5 serious candidates in the race. Incumbent Betsy Hodges (D) is seeking a second term, and it seems nearly certain she will not get it. Hodges was elected in 2013 as an ultra-left candidate and has since proceeded to show she is far over her head in the mayor’s office. Hodges’s term has been marked by an uptick in crime amid deteriorating relations with the police department. She has also been criticized for mismanagement of several public works projects that are behind schedule and over budget. Hodges has attempted to boost her flagging re-election chances by casting herself as the ultimate Trump opponent and grandstander-in-chief. But facing opponents from both left and center and unlikely to be the beneficiary of any redistributed votes, it looks like Hodges’s shot at a second term is remote at best. She faces four candidates, two establishment liberals and two ultra-left candidates. State Rep. Ray Dehn (D) is the most serious far-left candidate, and probably the overall front-runner. Dehn, an ex-con who overcame addiction in his youth decades ago, somewhat surprisingly won the official DFL convention endorsement. Dehn’s fundraising has been weak, but he is running on a far-left platform (most notably calling for disarming some police officers) that is in sync with the city’s Dem base. Dehn also has enough establishment support to likely pick up a few more mainstream crossover votes. Councilman Jacob Frey (D) is probably the better-positioned of the mainstream/sane left candidates. Frey, a first-term councilman, is an establishment liberal with the strongest labor backing in the field and the endorsement of the Star-Tribune. He also has some business community support that has allowed him to fundraise well. Frey’s biggest problem is that he is very much a pol’s pol, a skilled glad-hander and spinmeister who transparently harbors ladder-climbing ambition. As a result, he has been the subject of mistrust from the left-wing activist community. Nonprofit exec and former city official Tom Hoch (D) is the most moderate candidate in the field (i.e. an establishment liberal). He has strong ties to the business community that have allowed him to raise the most of the field, and will probably get crossover votes from the small GOP minority. However, his history of some small donations to Republicans, including Hennepin Sheriff Rich Stanek (R), has rankled some activists and he will face a hard time getting redistributed votes from the left side of the field. Finally, at the left edge of the field is attorney and former NAACP official Nekima Levy-Pounds (D). Levy-Pounds, who was arrested in a Black Lives Matter protest for blocking traffic on Interstate 94, has a brew of leftism that looks strong even by Minneapolis standards and looks like probably the longest shot of the four major anti-Hodges candidates. Overall I’d peg Dehn as the front-runner, with Frey and Hoch having significant chances, but the Ranked Choice system makes this race very hard to handicap from afar.
Cleveland: Cleveland has a population of 385K that breaks down roughly 50% Black and 40% White. It has a PVI of D+33 (2008). Cleveland has a split personality between its two halves: the eastern half of the city is overwhelmingly black and generally very poor (the gentrified urban areas of the east side near Case University almost entirely sit outside the city limits), while the western half of the city is mostly lower-middle-class blue-collar white areas, with some Hispanic pockets. Incumbent Frank Jackson (D) is seeking a fourth term. Jackson, a moderate liberal, has historically been fairly popular as mayor, winning fairly easy re-elections in 2009 and 2013. His position as an African-American from the east side with significant crossover appeal to west side whites had left him hard to challenge. But this year, Jackson dabbled with retirement before deciding to run again, and that opened up the floodgates for challengers. In the 9-way September primary, Jackson was held to just 39%, a weaker than expected showing. His rival in the general is city councilman Zack Reed (D), who took 21% in the primary. Reed, who hails from a poor neighborhood on the east side, is a biting critic of Jackson from the left, and known for a flashy rhetorical style. Reed also somewhat strangely received the endorsement of the police union, which has a record of being anti-Jackson. In spite of that endorsement though, Reed’s staunch liberalism and public reputation as a loose cannon seem unlikely to net him strong crossover support from moderate and white voters. He also has a problematic personal history in the form of three DUIs – a record Jackson has not hesitated to raise. The primary was fractured enough that some math is necessary: another left-wing candidate (to the left of Reed) took 16%, while a trio of centrist and center-right candidates (to the right of Jackson) took 18%. As a result, it will be hard for Reed to coalesce such diverse anti-Jackson sentiment. Thus, Jackson looks like a moderate favorite. But the primary results certainly show that there is a widespread desire for change, and if Reed is successful at making this a referendum on the incumbent, he has a chance to prevail.
Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is a city of 305K that is roughly 70% White and 25% Black; it had a PVI of D+22 in 2008. This is the most boring election on the list; incumbent Bill Peduto (D) is totally unopposed after beating two rivals in the Dem primary.
St. Paul (RCV): St. Paul has a population of 305K that breaks down as roughly 60% White, 15% each Black and Asian, and 10% Hispanic. It has a PVI of D+23 (2008). St. Paul may be smaller than Minneapolis, but it is a true twin city politically, with the main division being between establishment liberals and the ultra-left. The major distinction is that the mainstream establishment left is slightly stronger in St. Paul than in Minneapolis, which has gone full-on San Francisco. But again, Ranked-Choice Voting makes this an extremely difficult race to handicap. There are generally considered to be 5 serious candidates in the open-seat race. Ex-councilman and Dayton administration official Mel Carter (D) looks like the front-runner as he has the strongest establishment support, including endorsements from Gov. Dayton (D) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D). Carter also has a base in the black community, where he is popular for work in enhancing transit options in a historically-black neighborhood. Carter’s main rival for the establishment liberal vote is fellow ex-councilman Pat Harris (D), who is probably the most moderate candidate in the field (though he’d be considered a staunch liberal almost anywhere else). Harris has strong labor support and the endorsement of the Pioneer Press newspaper, and could get important crossover support from the GOP minority. Three other candidates are running for the ultra-left vote. Councilman Dai Thao (D) is a Laotian immigrant who is running on a left-wing platform. He has some significant left-wing support, including the endorsement of Sanders’s Our Revolution group (which has had some success in city races this year). Thao is also in the middle of this field as the least radical of the far-left candidates, potentially making him a solid choice to win on redistributed votes. However, Thao’s campaign was kneecapped by an accusation of bribery at the start of the race. Thao allegedly asked for a contribution in exchange for a regulatory vote; prosecutors declined to press charges. Still, the cloud is still a significant problem for him. School board member Tom Goldstein (D) is also running on a left-wing platform. Goldstein is a fairly typical aging-hipster moonbat and is running on much the platform you would expect. Finally, 2005 candidate Elizabeth Dickinson (G) is running a serious campaign on an ultra-environmentalist Green Party platform. Dickinson took 20% 12 years ago, and the city has only moved left since, so her appeal should not be underestimated. Overall CW seems to be pegging Carter and as the likeliest to win, with Harris also having some chance, but the system of redistributing preferences is complex enough that it’s hard to say for sure.
Cincinnati: Cincinnati has a population of 300K, which breaks down as roughly 50W/40B. It had a PVI of D+22 in 2008. Cincinnati’s socioeconomic geography is complex; the sprawling city has large black, white liberal, and white moderate populations distributed in a large number of pockets. Incumbent John Cranley (D), a moderate Democrat who came into office four years ago campaigning against a new streetcar system, is seeking a second term. The system has been built over his objections, but Cranley is still making it an issue, pledging to resist expansion. Cranley’s term as Mayor has generally been well-regarded, and he was originally thought to be on course for a relatively easy re-election. However, Cranley shockingly came in second in the May preliminary round with just 35%. Coming in an upset first place with a surprisingly strong 45% was councilwoman Yvette Simpson (D), a streetcar proponent who is running to Cranley’s left on a variety of issues and has a base in the city’s black community. Simpson also benefits from the support of the network of Cranley’s predecessor, Mark Mallory (D). As another candidate left of Cranley took the remainder of the vote in the primary, if turnout is similar to May, Simpson should be in a very good position. But while the primary results are seriously bad news for Cranley, there is a strong possibility that higher white turnout could propel him to victory in the second round. Overall Simpson appears to be a moderate favorite, but there is a chance Cranley could surprise.
Greensboro: Greensboro has a population of 285K that breaks down as roughly 45% White, 40% Black, and 10% Hispanic; the south and east sides are mostly black while the northwest part of the city is mostly upscale whites. It has a PVI of D+16 (2008). Incumbent Nancy Vaughan (D) is seeking her third two-year term. Vaughan is a mainstream white liberal who has been relatively popular in her tenure. She faces relatively token opposition from little-known pastor Diane Moffett (D). Moffett has some support in the black community and is running slightly to the left of Vaughan. However, Moffett doesn’t have much establishment support, and Vaughan led the primary by a whopping 61-22 margin (with the rest of the vote going to a Republican). Thus, Vaughan looks like a prohibitive favorite.
Toledo: Toledo has a population of 275K that breaks down as roughly 65% White and 25% Black. It has a PVI of D+21 (2008). Toledo remains mostly a blue-collar white city, with some working- and middle-class black neighborhoods near the center of town. Incumbent Paula Hicks-Hudson (D) won a special election in 2015 after being appointed to fill a vacancy. Hicks-Hudson is a mainstream black liberal. Her base in the black community, incumbency, and Dem establishment support were enough for her to win a plurality in the fractured, winner-take-all 2015 contest. However, she has been hit for continuing problems with the city’s water system. And this year’s race, in which a majority is necessary, may be tougher for her. Hicks-Hudson led the primary with 39%, but close behind her with 33% was Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz (D). Kapszukiewicz is a blue-collar type moderate liberal who has been best known for importing Michigan’s Land Bank concept (in which the county confiscates distressed tax-delinquent properties, knocks them down, and re-sells the land). Kapszukiewicz did well in the whiter and more suburban outer neighborhoods of the city. Kapszukiewicz has outraised Hicks-Hudson by a significant margin, and is a more natural home for the voters of the third candidate in the primary, a Republican. The two have also split union support, though Hicks-Hudson does seem to have more support from the Dem establishment. Overall it seems Kapszukiewicz is a marginal favorite, but Hicks-Hudson could easily prevail as well.
Jersey City (LRTT): Jersey City, just across the Hudson from Lower Manhattan, has a population of 265K and a PVI of D+29 (2008). It is probably the nation’s most diverse major city, with a population that is almost perfectly evenly split 25-25-25-25 among Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. The population is also relatively well-mixed, with many neighborhoods having high racial and socioeconomic diversity – though there are concentrations of upscale priced-out-of-Manhattan Whites downtown, poor Blacks on the south side, and poor Hispanics on the north side. The mayoral election is a Louisiana Rules Top Two race, but with only two candidates it will wrap up in one round. Incumbent Steven Fulop (D) is seeking a second term. In a freakishly unusual occurrence for New Jersey, Fulop got his political career off the ground without rising through the machine, winning a city council seat despite active opposition from the establishment. For his 2013 mayoral bid, he made common cause with the less-powerful secondary machine in the area, which was largely Christiecrat in sympathies, and was able to oust the incumbent (tied to the city’s major machine) with a good-government type coalition of moderates and white liberals. Since entering office though, Fulop has shed any moderate sympathies and pivoted to become a fairly typical upscale progressive. He transparently harbors higher ambitions and was thought a lock to run for Governor this year; however, he surprisingly passed on a run, effectively throwing the race to former ambassador Phil Murphy (D) with his endorsement. Instead, Fulop is now thought to be interested in the Senate seat of Bob Menedez (D). Fulop is definitely still considered a rising star in Dem circles, but his machine is historically the weaker one in the city, and his lack of attention to locking down his home base has netted him a significant challenger for re-election. Fulop’s rival is former city official Bill Matsikoudis (D), a close confidante of ex-Mayor Jerramiah Healy (D), who Fulop ousted in 2013. If Fulop has been in practice an upscale progressive tied to a machine out of mutual convenience, Matsikoudis is an organization man through and through. Matsikoudis spent nearly a decade as the city’s top attorney under Healy, during which he established strong establishment connections. This year he is running as a more typical old-style blue-collar liberal, hoping to harness Healy’s old base in the poor minority neighborhoods far from downtown. Overall, Fulop has been fairly popular and is considered a moderately strong favorite, but Matsikoudis’s machine backing should not be understated as a force. Thus, an upset is not out of the question. Additionally, this race might be seen as a test case for how easily poor minorities can handle prominent urban Democrats’ shift away from meat-and-potatoes New Deal liberalism to a more upscale focus – a Matsikoudis upset would likely send shock waves through major urban Dems contemplating a more upscale focus.
Durham: The college town of Durham has a population of 265K, which breaks down as roughly 40% each White and Black and 15% Hispanic. Durham is socioeconomically divided east-west; the east side is largely poor blacks, while the west side is mostly upscale white liberals, with Duke as its main economic driver. Both groups are solidly Democratic; the city has a PVI of D+27 (2008). Councilman Steve Schewel (D), is the clear front-runner. Schewel is a fairly typical upscale white progressive who founded the city’s alternative newspaper before entering politics. His rival is ex-councilman and Airport board member Farad Ali (D). Ali is a business-friendly black establishment liberal, and seems to have the most support from the city’s establishment; he has also snagged an endorsement from the retiring incumbent, who cuts a similar profile. Schewel led the October primary by a surprisingly strong 51-29 margin, with much of the remainder going to a black candidate who was to the left of both runoff participants. Thus, Schewel looks like a moderately strong favorite in the general; Ali will likely need significantly higher black turnout than in the primary to have a chance, which might be a problem this year with white liberals extremely motivated.
St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg is a city of around 260K on the west shore of Tampa Bay, shaped like a sideways “T” with north, south, and west arms. Its population is roughly 65% White and 25% Black, the latter concentrated on the poorer south side, while the north and west sides are generally suburban and middle class. It has a PVI of around D+11 (2008), but as St. Petersburg was among the first beachheads of the GOP in Florida, Republicans have a history that has allowed them to do quite well in local elections. outright Incumbent Rick Kriseman (D) is seeking a second term. Kriseman, a former state legislator, defeated an incumbent Republican in 2013 in a mild upset and was for some time considered a rising star in Dem circles, being talked about as a potential FL-13 candidate. However, his tenure has been complicated by problems with the city’s sewage treatment system. Kriseman followed through on a prior decision to close one of the city’s four sewage treatment plants without upgrading capacity at the other three, a decision that led to sewage overflows and water contamination. This year, his rival for the post is 2000s-era ex-Mayor Rick Baker (R). Since leaving office in 2009, Baker has retained high popularity, and has been the subject of multiple entreaties to seek other offices. Though Baker has explored multiple runs for higher office from Congress to Governor, he never pulled the trigger until announcing his bid to get his old job back this year. Baker is incredibly well-regarded from his successful prior tenure – for example, he has a history of outright winning the city’s majority-black precincts(!) and nabbed the endorsement of the reflexively liberal Tampa Bay Times. This year Baker has run a strong campaign hammering Kriseman on the sewage issue. However, though Baker led by large margins in all the polls of the primary, Kriseman was able to harness a late endorsement from Obama and gin up high liberal election-day turnout. As a result, though Baker was heavily favored, Kriseman actually came in first by 70 votes and non-serious minor candidates sent the race to a runoff. The runoff campaign has continued to be hard-fought, with both sides trying to stimulate higher turnout. The primary results certainly show Kriseman has been fairly successful at the tough task of nationalizing the race by reminding voters of his broader liberalism. But Baker is an incredibly well-regarded figure locally, and higher turnout could benefit him by diluting the energized liberal base. Overall this race looks as close to a pure Tossup as it can get.
Buffalo: Buffalo has a population of 255K that breaks down as roughly 50% White, 35% Black, and 10% Hispanic. It has a PVI of D+28 (2008). The city can be thought of as divided into 3 equal pie slices away from downtown; the southeastern part of the city is lower-middle-class blue-collar whites, the northeastern part of the city is largely poor blacks, and the northwestern part of the city is a diverse mix of multi-ethnic poor neighborhoods, lower-middle class white areas, and more upscale white areas. Incumbent Byron Brown (D) is seeking a fourth term. Brown is a mainstream liberal who has been considered a rising star in Dem circles. As Mayor, Brown has been reasonably successful in slowing the city’s decline. Brown is a prohibitive favorite for re-election. He technically faces a rematch with his primary rival, city comptroller Mark Schroeder (D), a moderate Democrat who has the Reform Party line and might have been able to make it a race with crossover support. However, Schroeder is not actively campaigning, meaning the race will be a walkover for Brown.
Hialeah (LRTT): Hialeah is a lower-middle-class northwest Miami suburb with a population of 235K, essentially all of whom are Hispanic. Cubans make up around 75% of the population and Hialeah has long been the epicenter of Cuban machine Republican politics. Hialeah had a PVI of R+17 in 2008; though it has likely shifted left considerably since, it remains deeply GOP-dominated. The race is a Louisiana-Rules Top Two primary with three candidates. Incumbent Carlos Hernandez (R) is a fairly typical Cuban-machine Republican. Hernandez has recently had some ethical questions about a taxpayer-funded trip to Las Vegas. But he has solid establishment backing and was able to box out any serious competition this year. He faces two little-known rivals, 2015 city council candidate Tania Garcia (R) and 2013 mayoral candidate Juan Santana (R), who both do not seem particularly serious. Hernandez is likely to comfortably clear 50 today, but there is a slight chance he might be held to a runoff if the ethics allegations prove exceptionally salient.
Tacoma: Tacoma sits in Seattle’s shadow, but it is a substantial city in its own right. It has a population of 210K, which breaks down as roughly 65% White, and 10% each Black, Hispanic, and Asian. It has a PVI of D+14 (2008). Unlike Seattle, Tacoma has retained much of its blue-collar identity and the electorate is heavier with establishment liberals as opposed to Seattle’s far-left moonbats. City councilwoman Victoria Woodards (D) has most, but not all of the support of the city’s Dem establishment, and the endorsement of the outgoing mayor. Woodards is an inoffensive mainstream liberal, which is of the same mold as several recent Tacoma Mayors. Her rival is architect and 2009 candidate Jim Merritt (D). Merritt lost an open seat race eight years ago to the current mayor by just 3 points. He is a moderate, slightly left of center overall, and is likely to get support from the city’s Republican minority; however, he has little Dem establishment support. That did not stop Merritt from coming in first in the August primary, though by a very tight 39-37 margin over Woodards. As the remainder of the vote went to a candidate to the left of both, CW has Woodards as a slight favorite in the second round. However, Merritt has exceeded expectations before and does have a strong chance to pull the upset.
Rochester, NY: Rochester has a population of 210K that breaks down as roughly 45% White, 35% Black, and 15% Hispanic. It has a PVI of D+29 (2008). Rochester is shaped like a “6”; much of the central part of the city is taken up by the “Fatal Crescent” of poor, high-crime, black-plurality neighborhoods wrapping around the north and west sides of downtown. The remaining southeast quarter is mostly upscale urban white areas, and the city also has a small northwest tail of middle-class white suburbs. Incumbent Lovely Warren (D) won her first term in 2013 in a shocking upset by galvanizing minority and left-wing voters against the prior incumbent. Warren has been a staunch liberal in office, and her tenure has not had any particularly glaring failures. But there is a general sense that the city’s slow decline has continued unabated. Furthermore, while Warren has significant establishment ties and received the official party endorsement, there is a large bloc of more moderate Democrats that has never warmed to her. However, Warren won her 3-way primary by an unexpectedly large margin and the lean of the city makes her a strong favorite in the general. Amazingly enough, this year Republicans are putting up their first credible candidate in memory for this race. County commissioner Tony Micciche (R) represents the suburban northwest tail of the city. Micciche is a credible candidate but likely stands little chance to win, though he might overperform the GOP baseline by a bit. The bid is probably more about gaining name rec for a countywide, legislative, or congressional run down the line.
Fayetteville: Fayetteville has a population of 205K, which breaks down as 45% White, 40% Black, and 10% Hispanic; however, a significant part of that population is ultra-low-turnout active duty Fort Bragg soldiers. The city has a PVI of D+10 (2008). Incumbent Nat Robertson (R) is seeking a third two-year term. Robertson, a moderate conservative, has won two tough races and seemed to be reasonably popular. However, Fayetteville is a Democratic and fairly inelastic city, and Robertson came in much weaker than expected in October, taking second place with just 32%. His rival, councilman Mitch Colvin (D) pulled a shockingly good 45% score in October. Colvin, the council’s president, is a mainstream black establishment liberal, and received the endorsement from the third candidate in the primary, another Democrat. Robertson did not spend anything or actively campaign ahead of the primary, a move to which he attributes his poor showing. But taking under a third of the vote is a pretty huge red-flag for a two-term incumbent, and it seems like Colvin is at least a slight favorite to oust the incumbent.
Syracuse: Syracuse has a population of 140K which breaks down as roughly 60% White and 30% Black; it has a PVI of D+24 (2008). Prosecutor and city official Juanita Perez-Williams (D) won the Dem primary in something of an upset. Perez-Williams is a mainstream liberal and a favorite in the heavily Democratic city. But she is facing a competitive general in manager and former city official Ben Walsh (I), son of former moderate US Rep. Jim (R). Walsh’s high name recognition from his family and centrist positions have made him a credible candidate. Three other candidates are on the ballot. Problematic for Walsh is the presence of former suburban superintendent Laura Lavine (R), who will probably draw a few percent on straight-ticket Rs.The WFP is backing Perez-Williams’s former primary opponent, but he is not actively campaigning. More concerning for Perez-Williams is Green candidate Howie Hawkins (G). Hawkins is a perennial candidate, but more serious than his 0-15 record might indicate, as he lost a city council race by just 5% in 2011. Hawkins will likely take a few points in this race as well. Overall Perez-Williams should be a significant favorite on the lean of the city, but there is a real chance for Walsh to score the upset.
Allentown, PA: Allentown has a population of 120K that is roughly 50% White, 40% Hispanic, and 10% Black; it has a PVI of D+19 (2008). Allentown is mostly poor and urban, but local elections are dominated by a small suburban neighborhood, the West End, which is high-turnout and full of moderate middle-class whites. Indicted incumbent Ed Pawlowski (D) won the Dem nomination with just 28% amid a cloud of corruption scandals by harnessing the votes of Hispanics in the central and eastern parts of the city. He is now facing a tough general election with businessman Nat Hyman (R), who actually led Pawlowski in a poll of the race and is likely to run up the score in the West End. Complicating matters is councilman Ray O’Connell (D), who lost to Pawlowski in the D primary but is running a write-in campaign. O’Connell seems likely to draw a few points of anti-Pawlowski Democrats due to his own strong support base. Overall Hyman seems to be a slight favorite, but there is a possibility straight-ticket Dem votes will carry Pawlowski to a win.