Connecting state and local government leaders
Here's a roundup of the hottest governors' and mayors' contests around the U.S.
Residents in two states—New Jersey and Virginia—and a number of municipalities nationwide are going to the polls today to elect governors, mayors and other officials. And in some places, mail-in voting has been bigger than expected.
Here's Route Fifty's rundown of some of the most interesting contests in this year's state and local elections.
Governor: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is vying for a second term, facing off against Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, a former member of the state General Assembly. The race favors Murphy, who has held a substantial lead in polls over the last six months and whose party has roughly 1 million more registered voters in the state than his opponent’s.
Legislature: All 120 seats in New Jersey’s General Assembly are up for grabs. The 80 members of the Assembly serve two-year terms, but the 40 state senators elected this year will serve two years instead of the standard four, a quirk of the legislature designed to allow elections directly following the redrawing of districts after each census. Each legislative district has two assembly members and one senator.
Several districts are up for grabs, with the costliest race—$3.3 million—in the 2nd District, which encompasses parts of Atlantic County. But Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers—25 of 40 seats in the Senate and 52 of 80 in the Assembly—making it unlikely that either will flip to Republican control.
Governor: Virginia law prohibits an incumbent governor from seeking two consecutive terms, leaving this year’s race to former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and Glenn Youngkin, a Republican businessman with no prior political experience. The race is seen as a bellwether for next year’s midterm elections and for President Joe Biden, a close ally of McAuliffe. The race is essentially tied, with the exception of one Fox News poll that gave Youngkin an eight-point lead over McAuliffe. The candidates have raised nearly identical sums of money throughout their campaigns—$57.3 million for McAuliffe, $57.6 for Youngkin—though Youngkin out-raised McAuliffe by $2.5 million in the last disclosure period.
Legislature: All 100 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates are up for grabs. Democrats hold a 55-seat majority in the chamber, which experts say could flip to Republicans. Competitive races include the 83rd District, including most of Virginia Beach, where incumbent Nancy Guy, a Democrat, won by less than 30 votes in 2019. Her challenger, Republican Tim Anderson, has campaigned on tax cuts and limits on the executive emergency powers of future governors.
Incumbent Mayor Jenny Durkan declined to seek re-election, leaving the city’s mayoral race between Bruce Harrell, former city council president and interim mayor, and M. Lorena González, the current city council president. Seattle mayor races are officially nonpartisan, though the Associated Press classified González as a leftist activist and Harrell as a more moderate progressive. National politicians have offered endorsements in the race, with U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders supporting Gonzalez and U.S. Reps. Marilyn Strickland and Adam Smith endorsing Harrell.
For the first time in 200 years, Boston will not have a white man as mayor. Tuesday’s election marks a new era in Boston politics, as voters will elect a woman -- and the candidates vying for the office are people of color. Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, both at-large city council members, were the two top vote getters in the city’s nonpartisan primary election. They beat out acting mayor Kim Janey, a Black woman, among others. Wu’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan, and Essaibi George describes herself as a first-generation Arab-Polish American. In recent years, an increasing number of women and women of color have been elected mayors of some of the largest U.S. cities, which can be attributed in part to a more diverse voting electorate. For example, census data shows that people of color make up a majority of Boston’s residents.
Fourteen candidates are vying for Atlanta’s top elected office after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced she would not seek a second term. The five top-polling candidates are City Councilman Antonio Brown, City Councilman Andre Dickens, attorney and former city hall aide Sharon Gay, City Council President Felicia Moore, and former Mayor Kasim Reed. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election between the two leading candidates will be held Nov. 30. Crime and public safety are top issues in the election, with homicides up 60% since 2019 and organizers of a movement for the wealthy Buckhead neighborhood to secede from Atlanta citing the crime rate as a key factor.
Mayor Jacob Frey will face off against 16 challengers in an election seen as a referendum on the city’s response to the 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and unrest that followed. The city has ranked-choice voting, meaning that if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then votes will be retallied to include second-choice selections. Noteworthy challengers to the incumbent include Somalia-born attorney AJ Awed, former state Rep. Kate Knuth and community organizer Sheila Nezhad. The race is on pace to be the most expensive in the city’s history.
Also on the ballot is a charter amendment that would replace the police department with a department of public safety that would take a “comprehensive public health approach.” The measure would remove the requirement for the city to have a specific number of police officers and would put the mayor and City Council in charge of the new agency. Frey and Awad oppose the amendment, Knuth and Nezhad support it.
Cincinnati councilperson and former mayor David Mann and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval are running for mayor of Cincinnati in the general election Tuesday on the same platform—cleaning up corruption. The election takes place following the arrest of three of the nine city council members on felony corruption charges in 2020 stemming from allegations the members had taken bribes from developers for city business.
Mann said that his decades of experience in city hall would allow him to mentor the next council members, which he said would likely be younger and less experienced due to Cincinnati’s term limits and the resignations following the corruption charges. Pureval said while he would be a newcomer to city hall, he would continue to fight corruption. He pointed to his firing of 15 employees in the clerk of courts office as an instance where he had done that.
India Walton, a self-described Democratic socialist, scored an upset win in a Democratic primary election, beating out the city’s four-term incumbent mayor, Byron Brown. Brown has mounted a write-in campaign in the general election to try to keep his job. If Walton prevails again on Tuesday, she would become the first socialist mayor of a major U.S. city in decades and the city’s first Black woman to hold the office in Buffalo.
Walton, whose background is in nursing and community activism, has outlined a fairly detailed policy agenda, focusing on core areas like public safety, housing, budgeting and economic development. She’s pledged to bring greater transparency and accountability to the city’s police department, while rejecting claims that her plans to shift funding to social services instead of law enforcement will result in the loss of police officer jobs. Brown touts his record on economic development, job creation and avoiding tax hikes in the city. He’s receiving support from realtors and Republicans. His campaign has also reportedly purchased thousands of rubber stamps with his name, to distribute to supporters, with the hope that it will cut down on the number of voters who misspell his name on ballots.