Election 2009: Economic woes challenge incumbent mayors
Incumbent mayors are facing tougher-than-usual reelection bids due, in part, to a struggling national economy.
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Albuquerque, N.M. Richard Berry will be Albuquerque's first Republican mayor in 24 years after he defeated incumbent Democrat Martin Chávez in October. Mr. Berry garnered just enough support – nearly 44 percent of the vote, according to unofficial estimates – to avoid a runoff.Skip to next paragraph
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The slow economy was a factor in Mr. Chávez's defeat, says Timothy Krebs, a political scientist at the University of New Mexico who specializes in urban politics. But he also says Democrats split the vote by having two candidates against one Republican and that the threshold to avoid a runoff election – 40 percent – is fairly low.
Seattle. Mayor Greg Nickels didn't even make it out of last month's primary.
"Nickels was troubled by a buildup of issues," says Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. He notes the mayor's unpopularity was largely due to local issues, like letting the SuperSonics, a professional basketball team, move to Oklahoma City, and how he handled a major snowstorm last winter.
But the backdrop of a bad economy "didn't help him," Mr. Barreto says.
Atlanta. The struggling economy in Atlanta has hampered candidates' ability to distinguish themselves, says William Boone of Clark Atlanta University. "Any solution any candidate comes up with really raises the question, ‘Where are you going to be getting the money from?' "
Race has also been a factor. The city has had an African-American mayor since 1974. This year, three African-Americans are running. But it's Mary Norwood, a white woman from the suburbs, who's leading current polls.
Houston. Undecided voters are a prominent force in Houston, where 36 percent of voters say they are unsure whom they will vote for.
Four candidates are battling to replace Mayor Bill White, who cannot run again due to term limits. City Controller Annise Parker had been leading, but a new poll shows city councilman Peter Brown may have surpassed her. Mr. Brown – who is favored by 24 percent of likely voters, to Ms. Parker's 19 – has spend $2.4 million of his own fortune on the campaign. Ms. Parker, who is openly gay, has enjoyed the support of Houston's gay and lesbian community but has been targeted by conservative groups.