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Democrats look forward
to victory in urban USA

By Andrew Stevens, Political Editor

17 October 2006: Campaigning for the 2006 US mid-term elections on 7 November has been overshadowed by the stream of revelations concerning Republican Representative Mark Foley’s inappropriate online liaisons with a Congressional boy page. In local races however, the national swing against the Republicans is unlikely to have any impact in the mayoralties that look likely to re-elect the Democrats in their urban heartlands. But in some cities a close finish may be likely among candidates of the same party.

As Jay Leno remarked, the Foley scandal is the worst to hit the Republicans since the last one. And for those turned off by Foleygate or disinterested in whether the Democrats can return to their pre-1994 Congressional majority, there are the state races. Bill Clinton’s favourite novelist Kinky Friedman is livening up the Texas gubernatorial election, surprisingly polling in second place against incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry. In California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has expounded on his green credentials with a visit to New York to sign a Kyoto Protocol observant carbon-reduction deal with seven North-eastern states and tour green initiatives with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell looks a dead cert for another term in the Pennsylvania Governor’s mansion in spite of voter outrage at state politicians’ pay that saw off a number of party colleagues in earlier primaries.

In spite of earlier predictions of a tighter than usual race in the newly-created single-tier mayoralty of Louisville Metro, incumbent Jerry Abramson has managed to raise $1.5m for his campaign coffers, suggesting his Republican opponent Kelly Downard has more than incumbency to take on. Downard, a city council member, has managed to raise just one third of that total and is polling 45 per cent behind Abramson, who also served three terms as mayor of the former Louisville city government.

As Democratic candidate for Washington DC mayor, Adrian Fenty can be forgiven for being presumptuous in announcing his likely cabinet before the 7 November poll, given no Republican has ever been elected mayor in the city where the Democrats out-poll them 10-1. Fenty romped home in the September primary against rival and fellow council member Linda Cropp, thus guaranteeing election in November short of a major scandal or catastrophe befalling him.

Republican mayoral candidate David Kranich is making zero impact in his campaign, where his fellow activists are concentrating on increasing their council tally from two at-large seats to possibly gaining a ward in an affluent quarter of the capital. The DC Statehood party is also fielding its own candidate, though this could be largely redundant given that both main parties have come around to the idea of DC statehood in recent years and are actively campaigning on the proposal. While the next mayor’s in-tray will include the legally vexatious issue of recognising gay marriages in the capital, the DC Democrats might also ponder the diminishing pool of talent on which to draw representatives for the city. As might the Republicans, for that matter.

In the charged San Jose, California contest triggered by the departure of indicted mayor Ron Gonzales, the environment has emerged as a sparring issue between serving Deputy Mayor Cindy Chavez and her city council opponent Chuck Reed. Chavez has received the endorsement of California Senator Barbara Boxer for her clean energy strategy, while Reed has focused on his planning commissioner experience and professional credentials as a real estate lawyer. While Chavez and Reed are both registered Democrats, Reed has been labelled a ‘DINO’ (Democrat in Name Only) by some observers. Reed has however accused the Chavez campaign of acceptance of donations from gambling interests and sought to personally associate Chavez with the scandal surrounding outgoing mayor Gonzales. The San Jose poll currently offers one of the best prospects of a dead heat until polling day of the big city races.

Among the minor city races is a recall election in the Texan city of Lockhart, where supporters of incumbent Mayor James Bertram have been accused of vandalising pro-recall posters across the city, in a poll demanded by those opposed to the mayor’s budget cuts in the city police department. Mayor George Bukowski of Marine City, Michigan, also faces a possible recall attempt, as does Mount Olive, New Jersey Mayor Richard De La Roche, depending on the outcome of court hearings.

Regardless of the tally in Congress, the 7 November national polls will have significance for America’s cities as candidates assess their own political future. Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson Jr is already said to be contemplating running for the Democratic ticket in Chicago against current Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Democrat city titan and scion.

World Mayor 20/21

The best Mayors for Stronger | Fairer | Greener cities. Elect your candidate for the 20/21 World Mayor Prize and Honours. The Prize has been awarded since 2004