Three More Local Races to Watch

Studious readers may have noticed that in my post listing the elections I'll be blogging about tonight I mentioned a few races I haven'...
by | November 3, 2009

Studious readers may have noticed that in my post listing the elections I'll be blogging about tonight I mentioned a few races I haven't ever covered on Ballot Box before: county executive races in Westchester County and Nassau County in New York and the mayor's race in St. Petersburg, Florida. I hadn't mentioned them because I hadn't been following them, but now that I've read a little bit about these elections, I'm definitely intrigued.

Of the three, Nassau County is the place that's most likely to have a candidate you know. The incumbent is Tom Suozzi, the one-time Democratic rising star, who had the bad fortune or bad judgment to run against Eliot Spitzer in a Democratic primary for governor in 2006. He took only 19% of the vote.

Suozzi is still young (47) and apparently still ambitious. If he runs for statewide office again, he has a perfect slogan: "I told you so." But, first he has to get reelected in his Republican-leaning Long Island county. A poll from Siena University showed Suozzi comfortably ahead of Ed Mangano, but Republicans tell Newsday that the race is close.

Westchester County, like Nassau County, is a big suburban New York jurisdiction. But, the wealthy county of nearly a million people, had a much stronger case of Obamania than Nassau. President Obama scored 63% of the vote there, which, if Wikipedia is to be believed, was the best showing by a Democratic presidential candidate in Westchester in several decades -- better, even, than LBJ in the 1964 landslide.

Despite that context, the incumbent Democratic county executive, Andrew Spano, is in some trouble. A Siena poll showed Spano leading Republican Rob Astorino by only 6 points. Astorino has been hitting Spano hard on property taxes. One storyline out of Virginia tonight may be a Republican comeback in the suburbs. If you're looking for corroborating evidence elsewhere for that storyline, Westchester County may be a place to look.

Finally, in St. Petersburg the outgoing mayor, Rick Baker, is a rarity in American politics. He's a white Republican who has won strong support from black Democrats throughout his tenure.

Both of Baker's potential successors, Democrat Kathleen Ford and Republican Bill Foster, have struggled to replicate the outgoing mayor's success in the black community. As a result, polls show this race is tight, with Foster perhaps clinging to a narrow edge.

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

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