New Mayors Elected in Honolulu, Portland, San Diego

Three major cities will get new mayors next year.
by , | November 7, 2012

For full election coverage and analysis, go to Governing's 2012 Election Center.

Three major U.S. cities -- Honolulu, Portland and San Diego -- elected new mayors Tuesday night.

In all of those races, the incumbents didn't appear on the ballot.

Kirk Caldwell, who has previously served as the Honolulu's managing director and acting mayor, defeated former governor Ben Cayetano in a race that focused on the fate of the city's multi-billion elevated rail project.

Caldwell succeeds Mayor Peter Carlisle, who in the primary earlier this year.

Caldwell won Tuesday night with 52.9 percent of the vote, capping a campaign he entered as an underdog. He benefited from millions spend by unions and contractors who had hoped to preserve the rail project, seen by many as crucial to alleviating the island city's famously congestion roads.

Cayetano's campaign focused on his pledge to stop the project in its tracks and replace it with a less expensive combination of bus rapid transit and other congestion-relieving efforts.

Honolulu Civil Beat has the wrap-up:

"The race highlights the political power structure in Hawaii that has been trying for decades to build a rail system envisioned to relieve traffic congestion in Honolulu. It's also the biggest public works project in the state's history, expected to provide hundreds of jobs and a significant boost to the economy.

But public opinion polls in recent months have shown that most residents have turned against the project, concerned that it costs too much and really won't do much about traffic."

In San Diego, Democratic Rep. Bob Filner will succeed incumbent Jerry Sanders, a Republican, who is term limited. Filner faced Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio, whom he beat by a narrow 51%-49% margin.

Voice of San Diego provides a solid background report on Filner, who has embraced traditional progressive causes like affordable housing and renewable energy,

Filner's consistently struggled to grasp the import of the city's most significant issues, even the ones he raised himself like port commerce. There's no doubt Filner will preside over a much different City Hall than San Diego's seen for a long time. Exactly what it might look like, though, remains less clear than it could have been.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams, who came into office with broad support, opted against a re-election run this year amid waning popularity. He'll be succeeded by Charlie Hales, a former city councilman, who beat state legislator Jefferson Smith by wide margins Tuesday. Hales has pledged to "refocus the city on basic services."

The city's alt-weekly, Willamette Week, has a run-down on the bizarre campaign that raised many questions about the character of both candidates:

Voters learned (Smith) was kicked out of an intramural basketball league last year for punching another player, that his driver's license had been suspended seven times, and that he recently visited the home of the woman he was charged with assaulting 1993.

Hales' image has also been tarnished. He lied about living in Washington state while voting in Oregon (and avoiding Oregon taxes), and he recently broke a promise to limit campaign contributions to $600.


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