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Mixed Results for City Initiatives as Local Election Results Trickle In

Results were still pending in the biggest races of the night, but a major initiative to raise taxes for transit projects failed in Orange County, Fla., while early results for a “mansion tax” in L.A. showed promise.

Muriel Bowser speaks with constituents
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks with constituents earlier this year in Washington. Bowser won a third term on Tuesday.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Muriel Bowser won a third term as mayor of Washington, D.C., by a comfortable margin Tuesday night. Bowser’s victory was more or less a sure thing after she won the primary election in June, but it was still a rare feat for a District politician, last achieved by another “M.B.” Former Mayor Marion Barry was elected to his third consecutive term in 1986, and later, after a brief imprisonment, to a fourth term in 1994.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, a former mayor of Austin was seeking a return to office as well. Early voting results announced as polls closed Tuesday night showed Kirk Watson, who served as Austin’s mayor from 1997 to 2001 and later as a state senator, trailing Celia Israel, a current state senator, by five points. The next closest candidate in the six-way race had 17 percent of early votes. Even without Election Day votes counted, it appeared likely that the race would end up in a runoff between Israel and Watson, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

In Raleigh, incumbent Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin held an early lead over two challengers. Frank Scott, the first Black mayor of Little Rock, Ark., was ahead in his bid for a second term. Democrat Craig Greenberg beat Republican Bill Dieruf in the race for mayor of Louisville, succeeding the city’s term-limited Democratic mayor. Voters ousted incumbent Mayor Adrian Perkins in Shreveport.

In the biggest mayoral race of the night, a runoff contest between Congresswoman Karen Bass and businessman Rick Caruso for the Los Angeles mayor’s office, votes were just beginning to be reported as of midnight Eastern time.

Hidalgo Holds On

Everything did not go smoothly in Harris County, Texas. Some polling locations were reporting a shortage of paper ballots, and one polling place closed after a city worker died by electrocution, according to local reports. Early in the day, the Texas Organizing Project sued to extend voting hours after several voting centers had failed to open on time. The request was granted, but the Texas Supreme Court later ruled that votes cast in the additional hour wouldn’t count. Overall, “a very confusing night,” as one local TV reporter said.

Hours after the polls closed, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo was holding onto a 10,000-vote lead over Republican challenger Alexandra del Moral Mealer. Hidalgo won an upset victory over the previous county Judge four years ago at the age of 27, raising hopes of potential political stardom within the Democratic Party nationally. Three staffers who worked in Hidalgo’s office were indicted on charges related to the awarding of a contract for a COVID-19 vaccine outreach campaign. Hidalgo said the investigation was politically motivated.

If Hidalgo does win, says Robert Stein, a political scientist at Rice University, it’ll likely be because of the staying power of straight-ticket voting in a largely Democratic county — even in the absence of a straight-ticket button, which Texas outlawed before this year’s election. Update: Hidalgo won. Mealer conceded Wednesday morning, as Hidalgo increased her lead to some 16,000 votes, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Housing and Transit Ballot Measures

Voters in Orange County, Fla., rejected a one-cent sales tax that would have helped generate around $600 million a year for transit and roadway improvement projects. It was one of the biggest transit measures to go before voters this year, and it followed years of advocacy by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

A proposal to impose a “millionaire’s tax” in Massachusetts was polling slightly ahead with a bit less than half of votes reported.

On the West Coast, results of the vote for a number of potentially high-impact housing measures were trickling in. In Los Angeles, early votes favored Measure ULA, a proposal to raise fees on homes sold for more than $5 million and put the revenue into housing and homelessness programs. A first report of votes showed that the citizen-sponsored ordinance, which requires majority approval to pass, had 56.2 percent of the vote.

Laura Raymond, director of the Alliance for Community Transit, part of a broad coalition that supported the so-called mansion tax, said it was “a really good position to be in” after the first votes were reported. She noted that supporters had been outspent by opponents by a factor of two to one. But the campaign for Measure ULA included more than 200 organizations and around 830 volunteers, Raymond said.

“The real estate industry, they’ve got money, but the city has absolutely rallied behind this proposal, and this is what we’re starting to see in the vote count,” Raymond said just before midnight Eastern time. “This is really the community’s proposal.”

A New Higher Benchmark for the Minimum Wage

Still on the West Coast, the city of Tukwila, Wash., may have begun another round of minimum wage increases. Tukwila is sandwiched between the city of SeaTac, where the $15 minimum wage movement began, and Seattle, which was a fast follower in adopting the higher minimum.

Initiative Measure No. 1, requiring large employers to pay about $19 an hour starting next summer, was passing with 82.48 percent of the vote early Wednesday.

This story was revised on November 9 to reflect the final result of the Harris County, TX race.

Governing's election coverage will continue this week as remaining races are called. For more analysis, subscribe to our politics newsletter, Inside Politics: State & Local with Alan Greenblatt.
Jared Brey is a senior staff writer for Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @jaredbrey.
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