Boston — Voters in scores of American cities are about to elect officers to fill various municipal seats. At stake on November ballots across the United States are nearly 100 mayoral slots - including those in Boston; Philadelphia; Columbus, Ohio; and Phoenix, Ariz., where incumbent mayors are not seeking reelection. Nearly one-third of the nation's largest cities are having municipal elections.
Candidate personalities, rather than specific issues or sharply differing philosophies, appear to be a dominant factor in most of the campaigns.
With the mayoral races moving into the final days, there is little to suggest that many political upsets are in the works for big-city leaders seeking reelection. Mayoral challengers in Baltimore, Indianapolis, and San Francisco are facing tough uphill battles against strongly rooted incumbents.
Particular attention is being focused on Boston and Philadelphia, where for the first time blacks have won mayoral nominations.
W. Wilson Goode of Philadelphia, a black and a former city managing director who topped former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo for the Democratic nomination last May, is generally viewed as the front-runner in a three-way contest to succeed Mayor William J. Green. Mayor Green is not seeking a second term as head of America's fourth largest city.
Mr. Goode's toughest opposition on Nov. 8 is expected to come from Republican John J. Egan Jr., a one-time Democrat and former head of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. The third mayoral aspirant is Thomas A. Leonard, a former city councilor, running now as an independent.
Blacks comprise 38 percent of the Philadelphia electorate, and Goode scored 98 percent among this segment of voters in the primary. Race has not been an issue, outwardly at least, in the campaign.
From a purely partisan standpoint, Goode is in a specially strong position. He has not only the endorsement of Mayor Green, but also of Mr. Rizzo. In addition, Philadelphia Democrats outnumber Republicans 5 to 1.
Both the Democratic and Republican nominees have come out against increased taxes, but to differing degrees. Mr. Egan makes a firm no-tax commitment; Goode shys away from going that far, although he makes it clear his administration would have a similar goal.
Squaring off in the Nov. 15 Boston mayoral contest are Melvin H. King, a former state representative, and Raymond L. Flynn, a third-term city councilor and former state representative. The winner will replace Mayor Kevin H. White, who has held the city's top office for the past 16 years and decided not to seek a fifth term.
Mr. Flynn narrowly bested Mr. King in topping the nine-candidate field in the city's primary.
Although King is a black candidate, it is uncertain to what extent race may figure as an issue in the campaign. Both candidates have shied away from raising the question. Each has promised administrations embracing all segments of the city's population, which is 30 percent nonwhite. The substantial majority of that segment is black.
Flynn and King agree that increased municipal revenue will be needed, but they differ on the type of possible new taxation. King suggests a 1 percent payroll tax. Flynn would increase the hotel-motel and parking excise taxes.
In Phoenix, voter attention in the municipal primary ballot is centered on the contest to succeed Mayor Margaret Hance, who is stepping down voluntarily after eight years in the city's top office. Terry Goddard, an attorney and son of a former Arizona Gov. Sam Goddard is competing with Peter Dunn, an attorney and former state legislator.
A recent poll conducted for the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette newspaper gave Mr. Dunn a nine-point lead over Mr. Goddard. But 29 percent of the voters were ''undecided.''
In Columbus, where Mayor Tom Moody is leaving office after 12 years, a fairly issue-starved mayoral campaign pits Republican nominee Dana Rinehart, the Franklin County treasurer, against Democrat Michael Dorrian, a Franklin County commissioner.
Focal point of the Nov. 8 Houston election is the reelection bid of Kathy Whitmire. Main opposition among her seven ballot foes is expected to come from Bill Wright, a veteran political activist but first-time candidate.
The campaign centers on the future direction of Houston. Mr. Wright favors moving the city along in its present industry-oriented course, while Mrs. Whitmire suggests more emphasis on building Houston as a cultural center.
Mayor Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco is generally expected to breeze past all five of her opponents into a second four-year term at the municipal helm. Prospects for her Nov. 8 political toppling were substantially diminished last April when she survived a recall attempt with 82 percent of the vote in her support. Her best known, and perhaps chief challenger, on the coming ballot is Cesar Ascarrunz, a nightclub owner.
In Baltimore, Mayor William Donald Schaefer is looking for a fourth four-year term. Republican nominee Sam Culotta, a local attorney, is his challenger in the Nov. 8 election. Democrats outnumber GOP enrollees better than 8 to 1 in the city.
Mayor Schaefer won renomination in the city primary, polling 71.4 percent of the vote in downing William J. Murphy Jr., a prominent black and former Baltimore city judge.
Front-runner in the Indianapolis mayoral race is incumbent William Hudnut. The former Republican congressman and Presbyterian minister's major opponent on the Nov. 8 ballot is Democrat John Sullivan, a local attorney. Candidates from the Socialist Workers Party and Libertarian Party also are running.
The year's two biggest mayoral upsets thus far were those of former US Rep. Harold Washington, who ousted Jane Byrne from the mayoral seat in Chicago's municipal primary, and Federico Pena, who ended the 14-year reign of William McNichols Jr. in Denver.