Elections today: How mayor races stack up

Elections today: Incumbents such as New York's Mayor Bloomberg have spent big to ensure they keep their seats on Election Day.

By , Staff writer

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    Elections today: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves the voting booth after casting his ballot in New York.
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If there’s a common thread to the mayor races in major cities across the US, it’s that incumbents are facing more difficult races than usual. Most are spending heavily to hold their ground, setting spending records in Boston and New York.

Still, pollsters across the country are reporting high numbers of undecided voters, and turnout is expected to be low, typical of local races in off-election years.

New York

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to be successful in his bid for a third term, but challenger Bill Thompson – the city’s first African-American comptroller – isn’t going too quietly. A new poll of likely voters released Monday by Quinnipiac University found Mr. Thompson had closed his deficit by six percentage points from the previous week prior.

Still, polls show 50 percent of likely voters say they'll vote for Mr. Bloomberg, compared with Mr. Thompson’s 38 percent. Ten percent of voters were undecided.

Bloomberg has spent an estimated $100 million from his own pocket, according to the New York Times – a record in personal campaign spending. By contrast, Thompson had only spent about $6 million.

Boston

Seeking an unprecedented fifth term, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is operating a well-oiled campaign machine. Still, he’s facing some tough competition from City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who has joined forces with his closest rival coming out of September’s primary, Sam Yoon.

Mr. Menino has spent the most money ever in a Boston mayoral race – approximately $2 million at last count to Flaherty’s $1.3 million.

Like Bloomberg, Menino maintains a solid lead – and a 60 percent approval rating – but his numbers have been slipping in recent weeks. A poll by the University of New Hampshire's Survey Center in mid-October had Menino with 52 percent of registered voters, compared with Flaherty’s 32 percent. In May, Menino lead Flaherty 61 to 23 percent.

Houston

Candidates in Houston are struggling to differentiate themselves in a race that has been less about the issues and more about the candidates’ background and experience, according to Marc Campos, an independent political analyst.

“The conventional wisdom is that it will be [City Controller Annise] Parker and [City Councilman Peter] Brown in a runoff,” says Mr. Campos.

Early polls showed the openly-gay Parker with a slight lead over Brown. After spending about $2.4 million from his family’s fortune, Brown pulled ahead of Parker. But it seems unlikely that either candidate will receive enough of the vote to avoid a December runoff.

Atlanta

Going by recent polls, Atlanta may be poised to elect its first white mayor since 1974. Councilor-at-Large Mary Norwood is leading Lisa Borders, a former city council president, and Kasim Reed, a lawyer and former state legislator. All three have spent about the same amount – $1.6 million for Mr. Reed, $1.5 for Ms. Norwood, and $1.3 for Ms. Borders.

Detroit

Businessman and former professional basketball star Dave Bing has only been mayor of Detroit since May, when he won a special election to replace Kwame Kilpatrick, who resigned and subsequently served jail time for lying in a civil trial to cover up an affair with a staff member.

In his brief tenure, Mayor Bing has preached tough love to the ailing city, which is facing a steep budget deficit. Bing has said that layoffs may be needed to help balance the budget, a move his challenger Tom Barrow has criticized and which has cost Bing some union support.

Still, Bing seems posed to retain his post Tuesday, with a poll of likely voters choosing him over Mr. Barrow 46 to 24 percent, though a quarter of those polled remained undecided.

See also:

Economic woes challenge incumbent mayors 

Election Day 2009:  Five things to watch

Maine: A potential first for gay marriage

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