Voters elected an unusually high number of new big-city mayors in November. Here’s a few of the fresh faces in mayor’s offices nationwide.
State Rep. Martin Walsh won the position that had been held for 20 years by Tom Menino. With support from the labor community, Walsh had served in the state legislature since 1997. His personal story—he survived cancer at age 7, battled alcoholism in his 20s and got his college degree in his 40s—struck a chord with voters. He’s pledged to diversify police leadership and abolish the Boston Redevelopment Authority, a powerful agency that has shaped city growth for decades, which Walsh says should be more transparent.
Patrick Cannon, a 20-year veteran of the city council, fills the seat vacated when Anthony Foxx was named U.S. Transportation secretary. Cannon says he’ll focus on creating jobs and streamlining the permitting process. He overcame a difficult childhood, including the shooting death of his father, to get elected to city council at just 26. He’s drawn some scrutiny for reportedly participating in closed-door meetings with the Carolina Panthers football team—which ultimately got millions in subsidies from the city—despite his parking business having a contract with the team. (Cannon did not participate in the final vote on the issue and says he recused himself from any substantive conversations on the team.)
Former city council member John Cranley will take over from Mark Mallory, who was term-limited. The election functioned largely as a referendum on the city’s $133 million streetcar project. Cranley opposed it, citing its high costs, and vowed to halt construction; his opponent was a supporter. “The conversation about the streetcar is over,” Cranley told The Cincinnati Enquirer soon after his win. But it wasn't. After temporarily putting the project on hiatus, the city council defied Cranley and opted to put the project back on track in December.
Dave Bing opted against re-election, instead opening the door for someone else to lead a city that’s in the midst of bankruptcy hearings. Detroiters elected Mike Duggan largely based on his financial turnaround of the Detroit Medical Center while serving as its CEO. Duggan faces a big challenge—at least initially—in figuring out his role. Because Detroit is still under state supervision, it’s the appointed emergency financial manager who will be making the most serious decisions. Duggan has signaled a willingness to work with him, which many have praised as pragmatic. Notably, in a city that’s 83 percent black, Duggan is the first white mayor in 40 years.
Betsy Hodges, a city councilmember, spent a career as a progressive activist before moving to elected office. Municipal employee unions and the area’s Democratic establishment overwhelmingly backed her opponent. But Hodges aligned herself with outgoing Mayor R.T. Rybak, who opted against a fourth term, and pledged to continue his policies. She’s crafted a reputation as a taxpayer advocate, opposing a city deal for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium and working to overhaul the city’s pension system.
New York City
Bill de Blasio becomes the city’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years following Michael Bloomberg’s term-limited departure. De Blasio won his party primary despite never being a frontrunner until the campaign’s final month. He’s highlighted the income inequality in New York and portrayed himself as an unwavering progressive with a dramatically different outlook from Bloomberg. De Blasio previously served as the city’s public advocate and has a long history in politics, working on the election campaigns of David Dinkins, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
Longtime city council member William Peduto had a relatively easy campaign. Incumbent Luke Ravenstahl, mired in a series of controversies, didn’t seek re-election, and Peduto’s Republican opponent spent much of the campaign season working abroad in Israel. He campaigned as a reformer—after winning, he asked all members of city boards and authorities to resign—and emphasized his history of backing tough ethics laws. It was the third time Peduto had run for mayor.
State Sen. Ed Murray beat incumbent Mike McGinn, who leaves office after a single term. The two didn’t have major policy differences—they’re both progressives—but pundits say it came down to an issue of style: Voters were sick of McGinn, an activist with a reputation as a political brawler, and instead preferred Murray’s softer touch and pragmatic approach. Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, helped lead the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington. He supports a minimum wage hike and expanded transit in Seattle.
[UPDATED: This story has been updated to clarify Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon's participation in conversations regarding the Carolina Panthers football team.]