Mayoral Tossups in Atlanta and Charlotte

This fall we have an excellent slate of mayoral races, which I expect to be covering in more detail in the weeks ahead. Just this ...
by | August 20, 2009

This fall we have an excellent slate of mayoral races, which I expect to be covering in more detail in the weeks ahead. Just this week, polling has pointed to very close races in two Southern contests.

In Charlotte, we have a rarity in mayoral politics: a true partisan showdown. Charlotte is generally thought of as a Democratic city, but Republicans do well in mayoral elections. Since the mayoralty gives Republicans a base in a Democratic-leaning area, they've often used it to pursue statewide office, though without much luck.

The last three mayors have been Republicans Sue Myrick (now a member of Congress), Richard Vinroot (later a failed candidate for governor) and Pat McCrory (the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee last year). McCrory isn't running for another term, setting up an open-seat race.

Public Policy Polling took a look at this election earlier this week:

The race to be the next mayor of Charlotte is a statistical dead heat, with Republican John Lassiter leading Democrat Anthony Foxx 44-43 in the contest to replace Pat McCrory.

...

There are two key groups of voters who may well decide this race: independents and the Democratic voters whose crossover support of Pat McCrory has allowed the Republican to remain mayor of the Democratic city for over a decade. Lassiter has a 47-31 lead with independents, but Foxx has the 59-30 advantage with Democrats who approve of McCrory's job performance, indicating that he will do a better job of locking up his party's vote than recent Democratic nominees have.

Next, we have Atlanta, where the contest is non-partisan, though (I think) all of the major contenders are Democrats. Without a partisan angle, most outside observers are looking at this contest through the prism of race.

Atlanta has exclusively elected African-American mayors since Maynard Jackson became the city's first black mayor in 1974. Now, though, Atlanta is becoming whiter, suggesting a possible shift in local politics. The contest has one leading white candidate, Mary Norwood, and two leading black candidates, Lisa Borders and Kasim Reed.

InsiderAdvantage polled the election this week:

An InsiderAdvantage survey conducted the evening of Monday August 17 among registered voters who said they were likely to vote in the November race to replace outgoing Mayor Shirley Franklin showed City Council Member Mary Norwood continuing to lead the race, with 30% saying they would vote for Norwood. But statistically tied with Norwood was City Council President Lisa Borders with 28%.

Lagging behind the two women were state Sen. Kasim Reed with 8% and attorney Jesse Spikes with 2%. The rest said they were undecided.

Matt Towery of InsiderAdvantage added this analysis:

Because none of the candidates has taken to television yet, this race remains anyone's ballgame. What clearly has happened, since we last polled the race, is that people have started to form early opinions. I think we will find, looking at the crosstabs, that these numbers will shift a great deal once the candidates are seen in television ads. For example, Norwood currently has 18% of the African-American vote, while Borders has 35%. Yet Reed, who is an African-American official endorsed by Andrew Young has only 11% black support. I expect that percentage to rise for him and perhaps for Borders and Spikes once they hit television.

If no one takes a majority in November, we'll have a runoff in December. If you're interested in the backgrounds and policy proposals of the candidates, Creative Loafing had a good overview recently.

--Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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