The crowded race for Sochi mayor may signal a backlash against Putin's 'managed democracy.'
Polls indicate more than two-thirds of voters plan to vote for Vladimir Putin's longtime aide, despite little campaigning.
The Russian president hinted for the first time, however, that the balance of power shift in his favor if he becomes prime minister.
The race to replace Vladimir Putin officially starts Saturday, but Mr. Putin's handpicked successor has declined to campaign or publicly debate his opponents.
President Putin's chosen successor, he kicked off his campaign Tuesday with a Kremlin-sponsored speech.