Some sweeping victories, some close calls -- few surprises; Koch, Young among mayors reelected

Mayoral elections in many of the nation's big cities Nov. 3 offered little indication of the direction of the nation's political winds. Local issues, such as maintaining vital services while keeping the city checkbook in balance, held sway with voters, who generally reelected incumbents by wide margins.

Highlighting the major races: New York

Mayor Edward I. Koch's convincing reelection raises both hopes and questions for the nation's largest city.

Mr. Koch, who ran on both the Republican and Democratic tickets, garnered 75 percent of the total vote, winning every election district, include the so-called ''minority districts.'' His strong showing in the city's 16 black and Hispanic assembly districts was in sharp contrast to a poor showing there in the September primary. The turnaround is traceable in large part, urban experts say, to the ''olive branch'' Koch held out after the primary.

Koch pledged in his victory speech to couple efforts to ''pull the city together'' racially with his intention not to ''abandon principle or fiscal realism.'' Looking at the implications of his victory, Koch said: ''My election on both the Democratic and Republican lines demonstrates that the fight to save our cities is not a partisian fight, either in New York or the rest of the country.''

Specifically, Koch aides told the Monitor that they expect the mayor to speak out more on the problems many cities are facing. Traditionally, New York City mayors have explained away their absence at regional and national meetings addressing urban issues, either saying that New York's situation was ''unique'' or that they were too busy.

New hiring policies, the devaluation of the US dollar which has cut sharply into tourism, and the mayor's own renewed pledge to improve city services, may take a toll on the financial stability of New York despite Koch's dedication to ''fiscal realism.'' Administration officials hope, however, that they can further reduce the cost of city government through consolidation of certain agencies and other efficiency measures.

Koch said for the first time publicly this week that he may not seek reelection for a third term. Thus, the unprecedented support of the mayor by both major parties could end in 1985. It also could be jeopardized as he tries to carry out his campaign promises: improving city services and backing up his overtures to the minority community with deeds. Detroit

In many ways the real test of public support for plain-spoken Coleman A. Young, mayor of Detroit since 1974, came not with his overwhelming reelection but with his success last summer in getting voters and city workers to agree to raise taxes and freeze wages.

The controversial preelection move was considered nothing short of an economic necessity to veer the city away from an almost certain multimillion-dollar deficit. Mayor Young's skill in engineering the win at a time of record-high unemployment in the Motor City was viewed as a strong personal triumph. The Detroit Free Press, in urging his reelection this week, noted that the sometimes ''arrogant'' and often ''infuriating'' Young had exhibited a leadership during the crisis that was ''little short of genius.''

The flamboyant black Democratic, a one-time labor organizer who worked hard for former President Jimmy Carter's reelection, has been criticized by some for capitalizing on the issue of race in his pitch for the economic package and his stress on the importance of a black majority on the city council. But his efforts on behalf of downtown economic development, more diversified industry for auto-dependent Detroit, and the snaring of convention coups such as last summer's GOP presidential convention and this month's National League of Cities Conference have all helped prod white voters to support him by bigger margins in each election.

''Basically the perception is that he's done a pretty good job,'' notes Richard Elling, professor of political science at Detroit's Wayne State University. ''His ability to get that fiscal package through last summer made him virtually invulnerable politically.''

Cleveland Although he happens to be a white Republican, a rare combination among big-city mayors these days, Cleveland Mayor George V. Voinovich was considered a shoo-in from the start of his race for a second term. His support has been particularly strong in the city's black community.

Mr. Voinovich came into office two years ago, following combative populist Mayor Dennis Kucinich, who this time around chose to write his mayoral memoirs rather than step back into the fray as a candidate. Voinovich promised - and delivered - on a promise to take a low-key businesslike approach to improving the financial condition of the city.

After carefully mapping a plan of action, reforging ties with the city's alienated business community, and developing a cooperative relationship with black City Council President George Forbes, the mayormanaged to successfully lead the city out of default in November 1980. In response to growing citizen concern about crime, he also recently added more police to the city force.

The Democratic challenger, state Rep. Patrick Sweeney, argued that the mayor's efforts to stem crime and unemployment have been far from adequate and that peace at City Hall does not equate with forward movement. But it was Voinovich who garnered most of the publicity, winning with 76 percent of the vote in what many voters considered the dullest campaign in the city's history.

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