Because of the busy day we had yesterday we’re re-upping the preview of today’s races in case you haven’t seen it.
Tomorrow is the second-busiest election day of the fall. New York City is the star of the show, with all major city offices up. But there are also 5 other big mayoral elections in Charlotte, Cleveland, Toledo, Buffalo, and Rochester, plus a number of other local elections across New York State and legislative specials in Oklahoma and Mississippi. Poll closing times are as follows: NC & OH – 7:30 ET || MS & OK – 8 ET || NYS – 9ET. Our Liveblog will start tomorrow at 7:30 ET. The Mayoral races are above the fold – flip over for County Executive, DA, Sheriff, and NYC Council races!
NYC-Mayor (D): The big race tomorrow, albeit a drama-free one, is the partisan primary for Mayor of New York City. New York City is of course the nation’s largest city by far, with a population of 8.5M, and extensive home-rule powers without equal among American cities. As a result, the Mayor of New York is really more like the nation’s 51st Governor than any other Mayor, and fittingly it is elected in traditional partisan races. NYC is, of course, solidly Democratic: it has a PVI of D+29 (2016) and a multi-ethnic population that breaks down roughly 45% White, 20% each Hispanic and Black, and 10% Asian.
Bill de Blasio
Incumbent Bill de Blasio (D) is seeking a second term. If you’re reading this blog you probably don’t need me to recount the various trials and tribulations of DeBlasio’s mayoralty, but DeBlasio’s four years in office have been a mixture of some high-profile embarrassments and failures: a significant rise in homeless living on the streets, poor response to snowstorms, massive maintenance problems with the subway, small up tick in crime and a crazy vendetta against the Central Park horse carriage system. DeBlasio has also been the focus of an expanding investigation into his campaign finance operation, specifically a scheme to funnel money to state candidates, but so far that investigation has not borne significant fruit. Additionally, like many of his predecessors, DeBlasio transparently harbors higher ambitions, but in this case that may be working to his benefit. Through his term, he has never hesitated to use his position to cast himself as a national left-wing hero – and in that respect the election of Trump was an enormous gift to him. Instead of getting a seriously contested race on his vulnerabilities as an administrator, DeBlasio’s use of the bully pulpit to preach left-wing causes (and prepare for a 2020 Presidential run) has largely insulated him from a viable primary challenge.
All “A” and “B” list Dem candidates surprisingly declined to take on DeBlasio, leaving just one even remotely serious Democrat running against him. That rival is 90s-era ex-city councilman Sal Albanese (D). Albanese represented Brooklyn’s middle-class Bay Ridge area in the 80s and 90s before losing a 1997 mayoral primary. Albanese left politics before reappearing to make an asterisk-level run in the 2013 mayoral primary. This year, Albanese was able to raise enough to force DeBlasio to debate. But few voters remember Albanese’s fight for left-wing progressive policies during the Giuliani administration and his lower-middle-class white-ethnic persona is a poor fit for the city’s Democrats, so he seems likely to draw only protest votes – I would guess at most drawing a third of the vote. However, Albanese’s vote share could be a good indicator of generic anti-DeBlasio Democratic sentiment that might indicate to 2021 aspirants whether to start running toward or away from the DeBlasio legacy.
An equally easy challenge for DeBlasio awaits in the general from State Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R). Malliotakis is considered a rising star on NYC’s thin GOP bench, ousting a Democratic incumbent from a purple Staten Island and Brooklyn district in 2010. Due to her youth (she is 37), Greek-Cuban background, and proven political skills, she is considered likely to climb the ladder at some point, topping lists of potential successors for Staten Island’s State Senate and Congressional seats when they come open; this mayoral run is most likely about banking name rec for a bid of that nature down the line. However, Malliotakis is not independently wealthy and has little pre-existing name recognition, meaning her chances to outperform the Generic R baseline this year (especially to the level needed to be competitive in ultra-blue NYC) are slim.
A sideshow in the general is retired detective and Arby’s pitchman Bo Dietl (I), who was laughed out of a GOP primary bid before continuing a non-serious campaign as an Indie; he will likely take a few percentage points of anti-DeBlasio votes from Malliotakis. All in all, DeBlasio remains on course to a depressingly easy re-election. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.
Charlotte-Mayor (D): The second-biggest election today is the partisan primaries for Mayor of Charlotte. Charlotte is America’s 17th-largest city; it has a population just shy of 850K that breaks down as roughly 50% White, 35% Black, and 10% Hispanic. It had a PVI of D+13 (2008), though it has probably trended left since then. 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. In today’s Mayoral race, five Democrats are running, but only three are serious; if no one cracks 40%, the top two finishers will head to a runoff in four weeks.
Incumbent Jennifer Roberts (D) won her first term two years ago, and has had a tumultuous first term as mayor. Roberts had been a mainstream to moderate liberal in her prior role on the county commission, but she has recast herself as a staunch progressive in the mayor’s office. Her brief tenure has been marked by a long-running clash with the state legislature over the city’s bill to regulate transgender bathroom use, which triggered the national brouhaha over the state’s HB2. The incident estranged Roberts from the council, as she was an advocate of continuing the standoff when the council ultimately negotiated a settlement with the legislature, and that dynamic has contributed to a poor working relationship. Additionally, Charlotte was hit by riots last year in response to a police shooting, for which Roberts was criticized for a lackluster response. Roberts is seeking to win a second term by coalescing the liberal base and harnessing her name recognition; her best shot at a win is probably by clearing the 40% mark and avoiding a potentially perilous runoff with one of her two more moderate rivals. But her tenure has been controversial enough that even being boxed out of a runoff is a possibility. City councilwoman Vi Lyles (D) is somewhat more centrist than Roberts; overall Lyles, a longtime council veteran, is a mainstream black establishment liberal. More than ideology though, the main difference between the two is temperament. Lyles is considered much more easygoing than Roberts and has a better relationship with the council; as a result, she has received significant establishment support. Lyles has also garnered the endorsement of the Charlotte Observer. Her inoffensive nature leaves Lyles in a good position to win a runoff if one occurs; however, her low-energy style and lack of a committed base could leaver her boxed out in the first round. State Sen. Joel Ford (D) is the most centrist candidate in the field. Ford is a moderate Democrat, particularly on social issues. That has given him bipartisan support, even receiving donations from several Republicans in the legislature – were this a non-partisan race, he would be well-positioned to win GOP votes. Within the Dem party though, he still has a strong base in the black community, particularly among more middle-class blacks, and name recognition from representing a quarter of the city in the legislature. Roberts would most likely prefer to face Ford in a runoff and make the race a referendum on her socially liberal views. Two other non-serious Democrats are running and could serve to lower the odds of anyone cracking 40%. Overall each of the three candidates has a chance to advance to a runoff – or even to crack 40% and win outright – and any winner or pairing shouldn’t be particularly surprising.
The Dem primary winner will head on to a November general election with city councilman Kenny Smith (R), who faces two non-serious Some Dudes in his primary. Smith is a conservative from the wealthy southern part of the city, and is clearly to the right of most candidates Republicans have put up for the seat in recent years. Thus, due to the lean of the city, he is generally considered a long-shot to beat any of the Democrats. However, he is definitely a credible candidate, outpacing all the Democrats in fundraising, and could have a small chance to win, particularly if Roberts is renominated. More likely though is that Smith may be someone to watch for a state legislature or NC-9 campaign in the future.
Cleveland-Mayor: Cleveland is America’s 51st-largest city, with 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. The mayoral primary is today in a California-Rules Top Two format. Incumbent Frank Jackson (D) is seeking a fourth term. Jackson, a moderate liberal, has 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 has left him hard to challenge. But this year, Jackson dabbled with retirement before deciding to run again, and that seems to have opened up the floodgates for challengers. He now faces eight challengers, seven of them notable. Overall Jackson should be a lock to come in first, but how strong his showing is may determine how contentious the race in November becomes. Three east side black candidates are taking on Jackson from the left. City councilman Jeff Johnson (D) is considered the slight front-runner among Jackson’s challengers, particularly due to his strong support from the SEIU. Johnson is on the second act of his political career; his prior tenure on the council and State Senate ended in the late 90s with a conviction and 15-month sentence for shaking down convenience store owners. Though Ohio law prohibits those convicted of bribery from holding office, Johnson was able to return to the city council through a ridiculous loophole: he was convicted of extortion, not bribery (world of difference, right!). City councilman Zack Reed (D) is similarly a biting critic of Jackson from the left. However, he trails Johnson in labor support, and like Johnson he has his own legal history to deal with in the form of three DUIs. Reed’s campaign has been energetic and he could make the second slot, or he and Johnson could bump heads and allow a more centrist candidate to come in second. The third candidate on the left, Eric Brewer (D), who previously served as mayor of the slumburb of East Cleveland, is staking out a claim as the farthest left candidate in the field and strikes some black-nationalist themes; he is a longer-shot. Four other candidates are centrist or center-right. State Rep. and 2009 candidate Bill Patmon (D) was a city councilman in the 90s. After a string of losses in the 2000s, he was able to make a comeback by winning a safe State House seat, representing a big chunk of the east side, in 2010. Patmon, who is black, is a moderate, but mostly notable as a gadfly; his campaign is not very serious, but he could take second on name rec. Nonprofit exec Brandon Chrostowski (I) has a very interesting story: he runs a well-regarded French restaurant that doubles as a job-training program for ex-cons. Chrostowski is running on a centrist platform and his fundraising has been enough to be credible. Two Republicans are also in the race. Businessman Tony Madalone (R) runs a T-shirt company, and at age 32 has rising-star potential. As the most serious right-of-center candidate, he may have some chance to make the runoff based on conservative votes. However, Madalone’s chances to advance are complicated by another Republican, 2009 candidate and nonprofit exec Robert Kilo (R), who has surprisingly fundraised enough to be a factor, but whose staunch conservatism is a poor fit for the deep-blue city. A non-serious Some Dude is also in the race. Overall any of the seven have some chance to advance with Jackson, with Johnson and Reed having the best shots. However, all will probably face an uphill race in November unless Jackson seriously underperforms.
Toledo-Mayor: Toledo is America’s 71st-largest city, with 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. Like Cleveland, it is using a California-Rules Top Two format for its mayoral primary. There are three serious candidates, two Dems and one Republican. 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, and CW is that she is likely to come in first again tomorrow. However, she has been hit for continuing problems with the city’s water system, and this year’s race, in which a majority will be eventually necessary, may be tougher for her. Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz (D) is Hicks-Hudson’s better-funded rival. 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 is likely to have a base of white Democrats, but he risks being boxed out by his rivals’ more coherent bases. Councilman Tom Waniewski (R) is the third candidate in the race. Waniewski represents a middle-class suburban area on the northwest side, and is a mainstream to moderate conservative. He has been underfunded relative to Kapszukiewicz, but he does have a ready-made base of Republicans and voters in his council district. A perennial candidate is also running. Overall the CW seems to be betting on Hicks-Hudson and Kapszukiewicz advancing, but the three candidates seem relatively evenly-matched and it’s very possible for Waniewski to box out either. Any candidate getting more than about 40% here would be at least a mild surprise, and regardless of the pairing most expect the general to be competitive.
Buffalo-Mayor (D): 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 some multi-ethnic poor neighborhoods, some lower-middle class white areas, and some 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; he was even considered a short-lister for the Senate appointment that went to Sen. Kirsten Gillirband (D). As Mayor, Brown has been reasonably successful in slowing the city’s decline. He has built an electoral alliance of black voters and upscale whites, with crossover support from blue-collar whites, that has been powerful in a Democratic primary – and only seems to be getting moreso as downscale whites slowly defect to the GOP. As a result, he retains establishment support and is a strong favorite for re-election, though he faces two challengers from left and right. City comptroller Mark Schroeder (D) is Brown’s more serious rival. Schroeder is a moderate Democrat who is popular among his southside base. He was considered likely to give Brown a strong challenge, but it hasn’t really panned out that way; Brown has some crossover support among the blue-collar voters that would be Schroeder’s base and there is little sense that Schroeder has appeal to blacks or upscale voters. As a result, he is considered likely to finish well behind Brown. The third candidate in the race is county commissioner Betty Jean Grant (D). Grant has a strong base among liberals in the black community, one that allowed her to come within 200 votes of winning a State Senate seat in a 2012 primary. However, her campaign is running on a shoestring budget and her appeal outside of the black community is low, so Grant is likely to finish a distant third. A recent poll had Brown securing an outright majority of the vote, so it would be a shock to say the least if either Schroeder or Grant could even come close, let alone defeat him. Republicans are not contesting this seat after their prior nominee dropped out.
Rochester, NY-Mayor (D): Rochester has a population of 210K that breaks down as roughly 45% White, 35% Black, and 15% Hipanic. 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. Monroe County commissioner James Sheppard (D), a former city police chief, is Warren’s main competitor. Sheppard is a more moderate liberal and was supported by the faction of the party that backed Warren’s predecessor. Historically there has been, a major divide between the black and white establishments in Rochester; while both Sheppard and Warren are of African-American descent, most of Warren’s establishment backers are black and most of Sheppard’s establishment backers are white. A third wheel in the race is former TV anchor and 2016 State House candidate Rachel Barnhart (D). Barnhart challenged an incumbent in a 2016 State House primary, which did not endear her to the local establishment, but she does have high name recognition and a base in the white liberal community as the most progressive candidate. She is considered something of a long-shot, but may draw a significant number of votes. It’s unclear who Barnhart hurts more; while Warren is the more left-wing candidate, Sheppard seems to have more white support, so defections to Barnhart may wind up being close to a wash. A fourth non-serious Democrat is also running. Overall, the significant split in establishment support means that there is no clear favorite between Warren and Sheppard. 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 against any of the Democrats barring a DGLB; the bid is probably more about gaining name rec for a countywide, legislative, or congressional run down the line.
State Legislative Special Elections: There are 3 legislative specials this week: one Louisiana-Rules Top Two race, one general, and one primary. The general is for OK-LD-46, an R+6 (2016) seat covering western Norman. Businessman and professor Darrin Chambers (R) and 2016 nominee Jacob Rosencrants (D) are facing off; due to Dems’ strong streak in special elections recently, especially in Oklahoma, I would consider Rosencrants a slight favorite to pick up the seat. The primary is for OK-SD-37, an R+21 (2016) seat covering the suburban southwestern part of Tulsa west of the Arkansas River and the suburb of Sand Springs. 7 Republicans are facing off. Rep. Jim Bridenstine staffer and ex-Jenks city councilman Brian O’Hara (R), local judge Jay McAtee (R), Sand Springs councilman and 2016 candidate Brian Jackson (R), manager Phil Nollan (R), husband of a sitting State Rep., local GOP official Nicole Nixon (R), and two Some Dudes. I would peg O’Hara as the slight front-runner, but any of the five I named have a chance to win. The primary winner will face Dem activist Allison Ikley-Freeman (D) in a November general. There is also a Louisiana Rules Top Two race for MS-LD-102, an R+9 (2008) seat covering the western part of Hattiesburg. Democrats have gone all-in on this race for social worker Kathryn Rehner (D), who is likely to finish first. She faces three Republicans, former congressional staffer Missy McGee (R), attorney Corey Ferraez (R), and retired civil servant Casey Mercier (R); McGee looks like the slight front-runner among the Republicans. It seems like a coin-flip whether Rehner can flip the seat tomorrow or whether the race will head to a runoff.
Flip over for other County-level and NYC Races!