L.A. Leads Again?

IN Los Angeles on Tuesday, voters elected the first Republican mayor since 1961. In Atlanta on Wednesday, Mayor Maynard Jackson announced that he will not seek a fourth term. In New York, trial-heat polls show a one-percentage-point split between incumbent Mayor David Dinkins and GOP challenger Rudolph Guiliani.

Just as 1992 marked a year of change in Washington, 1993 is shaping up as a year of political change for key urban centers in the United States. The change would be particularly significant if a Republican moved into New York's Gracie Mansion.

In Los Angeles, Mayor-elect Richard Riordan defeated former City Councilman Michael Woo by 54 to 46 percent. At 44 percent, voter turnout was higher than expected, fed by insecurities resulting from last year's riot in South Central Los Angeles. Riordan's support came mostly from whites, but it also included some middle-class Hispanics and Asians who felt that their concerns were not being sufficiently addressed at City Hall under five-term Mayor Tom Bradley.

Although he will not be sworn in until July 1, Riordan already is lobbying for state aid for the city.

Ironically, his election, especially if repeated in a GOP victory in New York, could help cities that are trying to get Washington to develop an effective urban policy.

During the Reagan and Bush years, big-city mayors found it hard to get the attention they sought from the White House, although this was less a problem on Capitol Hill. This is not surprising; the majority of mayors are Democrats. This year, however, a Democrat holds the White House. Initiatives that would benefit cities, such as President Clinton's $16 billion stimulus package, have taken hits in Congress, especially among Republicans.

Having a Republican as mayor of the nation's second-largest city, perhaps even as mayor of the largest, could open important doors.

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