Welcome to the Thursday, October 28, Brew.
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
This is the final full week ahead of the Nov. 2 general elections. Each day this week, we will be bringing you previews of battleground races at all levels of government. Here’s our schedule for the week:
- Monday: Federal
- Tuesday: State
- Wednesday: School boards
- Thursday: Cities
- Friday: Ballot measures
Ballotpedia covers municipal elections in the 100 largest cities in the U.S. by population and in all 50 state capitals regardless of population. Our coverage of municipal elections this year includes 40 mayoral elections, 27 of which are taking place Nov. 2.
In this edition of the Brew, we take a step back to look at the partisan affiliation of the mayors of the 100 largest cities and preview five battleground municipal elections.
Rounding out today’s edition is a look at recent redistricting developments in Arkansas and Texas.
A look at mayoral partisanship ahead of the Nov. 2 elections
Seventeen of the 100 largest U.S. cities by population and 10 state capitals outside of the 100 largest cities are holding general elections for mayor Nov. 2.
In these 27 cities, 26 incumbent mayors are Democrats and one is a Republican. Fourteen of the incumbents are not on the general election ballot, including 10 who did not file for re-election and four who were eliminated in primaries. Between 2014 and 2020, 18% of incumbent mayors running for re-election in the 100 largest cities were defeated.
So far in 2021, partisan control of two mayoral offices has changed. In April, North Las Vegas Mayor John J. Lee switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party. In May, David Bronson (R) was elected mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, succeeding nonpartisan acting mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson. Quinn-Davidson took office following Ethan Berkowitz’s (D) resignation in October 2020.
Sixty-three mayors of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. are Democrats, 26 are Republicans, six identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated, four are independents, and one has not responded to inquiries about his partisan affiliation.
Thirty-nine mayors of state capitals are Democrats, three are Republicans, two are nonpartisan, and one is an independent. Five more have not responded to inquiries about their partisan affiliation.
Atlanta, Georgia (mayoral)
Sixteen candidates are running in a nonpartisan election for mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. Incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms, first elected in 2017, did not file for re-election. Bottoms is Atlanta’s first mayor since World War II to not seek a second term.
Unless one candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a Nov. 30 runoff.
Local political commentary has focused on two candidates—City Council President Felicia Moore and former Mayor Kasim Reed.
Moore was first elected to the city council in 1997 and was elected council president in 2017. Reed served as mayor between 2010 and 2018 and in the state legislature from 1999 to 2009.
The winner will serve a four-year term. Atlanta has a strong mayor and city council system, where the city council serves as the city’s legislative body and the mayor as the chief executive.
Buffalo, New York (mayoral)
India Walton (D) will be the only candidate whose name will officially appear on the ballot in Buffalo’s mayoral election. She and five write-in candidates, including incumbent Byron Brown (D), are in the running for a four-year term.
Brown was elected as a Democrat in 2005 and won re-election in 2009, 2013, and 2017. Brown lost the Democratic primary to Walton 51% to 46%. He had won his previous four primaries by an average margin of 26.5 percentage points.
Political commentators have connected the race to the broader political trends within the Democratic Party.
In the general election, Walton has endorsements from U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), the local and national branches of the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Working Families Party. The Erie County Democratic Party, which backed Brown in the primary, is supporting Walton in the general.
Brown’s endorsers include U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D), three members of the common council, former Mayor Anthony Masiello (D), and The Buffalo News.
Minneapolis, Minnesota (mayoral)
Incumbent Jacob Frey (D), AJ Awed (D), Katherine Knuth (D), Sheila Nezhad (D), and 13 other candidates are running in a ranked-choice election for mayor of Minneapolis.
Frey was elected in 2017, defeating Raymond Dehn 57% to 43% on the fifth round of ranked-choice balloting.
The major policy divisions among the candidates include the city’s criminal justice policies and approach to policing in the wake of the death of George Floyd, as well as a set of three charter amendments also on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The proposed amendments to the charter, if approved, would:
- Switch Minneapolis from a weak mayor-council system where the mayor shares executive power with the city council to a strong mayor-council system,
- Replace the city’s police department with a department of public health
- Authorize the city government to enact rent control.
Frey and Awed have stated their opposition to the amendment replacing the police department with a department of public health, while Knuth and Nezhad have said they support it.
Seattle, Washington (mayoral)
Lorena González and Bruce Harrell are running in a nonpartisan election for a four-year term as mayor of Seattle. Incumbent Jenny Durkan, first elected in 2017, did not file for another term.
González is the current city council president, while Harrell served as council president from 2016 to 2017 and again from 2018 to 2019.
The candidates differ on their approach to housing policy and Seattle’s homeless population. González said she supported changing zoning rules to eliminate single-family residential zones and opposed the forced removal of homeless individuals from public areas. Harrell said he supported maintaining single-family zoning and enforcing consequences for homeless individuals who remain in public places after being offered shelter.
González’s endorsers include four of the nine members of the city council and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), while Harrell’s include two members of the city council and former Mayor Charley Royer.
Seattle, Washington (city attorney)
Ann Davison and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy are running in a nonpartisan election for Seattle city attorney, the position responsible for managing the city’s Law Department. Incumbent Pete Holmes was eliminated in the primary with 31% of the vote to Thomas-Kennedy’s 36% and Davison’s 33%.
Davison is an attorney and arbitrator who said she wanted to focus on a proactive approach to crime and address what she described as the under-prosecution of misdemeanors. She was a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2020 election.
Thomas-Kennedy is an eviction attorney and former public defender who said she wanted to focus on decriminalizing misdemeanors she described as connected to poverty, addiction, and disability, and on ending homeless sweeps.
Davison’s endorsers include the Seattle Times and former Govs. Dan Evans (R), Christine Gregoire (D), and Gary Locke (D), while Thomas-Kennedy’s include The Stranger, former Mayor Mike McGinn (D), and the King County Democrats.
Redistricting roundup: The latest from Arkansas, Colorado, and Connecticut
As of Oct. 27, 2021, six states have adopted new congressional district maps following the 2020 census and eight have adopted new state legislative district maps. As of Oct. 27, 2011, 25 states had adopted new congressional district maps and 27 had adopted new state legislative district maps. Here’s the latest on redistricting news out of Arkansas and Texas.
On Oct. 14, the secretary of state’s office approved veto referendums brought by Arkansans for a Unified Natural State against the state’s new congressional maps, clearing the way for the group to gather signatures to put the measure on next year’s November ballot. Supporters would need to gather 53,491 signatures opposed to both the House and Senate versions of the bill from registered voters in at least 15 different counties by Jan. 6, 2022.
On Oct. 25, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed Texas’ new congressional and state legislative district maps into law. The state Senate approved the new congressional map 18-13, the new state Senate map 20-11, and the new state House map 18-13. The state House approved the new congressional map 84-59, the new state Senate map 81-60, and the new state House map 83-66. Republicans hold an 18-13 majority in the Senate and an 83-66 majority in the House. Both maps will take effect for the 2022 elections.