FEW of the races in this off-year election made national headlines. But many of them were of vital importance to state and local voters - not to mention humorists. Mayor's races
* In Atlanta, City Councilman Bill Campbell and former Fulton County Commission chairman Michael Lomax face a runoff on Nov. 23 to see which one will succeed retiring Mayor Maynard Jackson. The city's other big race saw Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, upset in his bid for chairman of the Fulton County Commission. Mitch Skandalakis, a white lawyer, defeated Mr. King by a narrow margin.
* Houston Mayor Bob Lanier was elected to a second two-year term with 91 percent of the vote. ``Well, that's pretty good,'' the laconic incumbent said.
* In Pittsburgh, Democrat Tom Murphy easily defeated Republican and independent challengers by banging on 50,000 doors.
* Former Miami Mayor Steve Clark and City Commissioner Miriam Alonso will meet in a Nov. 9 runoff after a bitter campaign among six candidates.
* In Syracuse, Republican Roy Bernardi trounced Democrat Joe Nicoletti. The GOP also recaptured control of the Common Council.
* Seattle Mayor Norm Rice turned aside a fierce challenge from white businessman David Stern by a 2-to-1 margin. Mr. Stern, an advertising executive who popularized the ``Happy Face'' logo in the 1960s, wasn't grinning after the defeat.
* In Minneapolis, City Council President Sharon Sayles Belton was elected mayor, while in St. Paul, Minn., the job went to State Attorney Norm Coleman. Initiatives
* Staten Island voters overwhelmingly opted out of New York City, with its crime, homelessness, drug, and welfare problems. The decision by the white, suburban borough now puts pressure on the governor and legislature to decide the secession question. Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) hasn't taken a position on the issue yet.
* In perhaps the most closely watched election in the nation, San Francisco voters gave a thumbs-up to a candidate who makes Vice President Al Gore Jr. look lively by comparison. Police Officer Bob Geary won permission to patrol the city's mean streets with his ventriloquist's dummy, Officer Brendan O'Smarty. The police brass aren't amused.