Muriel Bowser, Washington DC's new mayor

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Washington and Oakland victories
a boon for aspiring women mayors
By Tann vom Hove

7 November 2014: In mid-term elections that brought much misery to US President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party - the party lost control of the US Senate and has to vacate governor mansions in Massachusetts, Maryland, Arkansas and Illinois - the victory of two women in mayoral elections on opposite sides of the country will, no doubt, be noted by Hillary Clinton as she contemplates a possible run for the White House in 2016. While Oakland (California) and Washington DC are Democrat strongholds, the decisive wins of Libby Schaaf on the West Coast and Muriel Bowser in the US capital show what determined women can achieve in an environment that is still largely dominated by white, middle-aged men.

In Oakland, it was pretty clear from the beginning of the campaign that the city’s next mayor would again be a woman. In an election contested by 14 candidates, three women stood out: Jean Quan, the incumbent mayor, who, after struggling at first, had found her feet in the second half of her four-year term. Rebecca Kaplan, the civil rights activist, who married her partner Pamela earlier this year. On her campaign website she proudly stated that she is the first openly lesbian to serve on the city council. And finally, Libby Schaaf, who will be Oakland’s third mayor in five years. During the campaign she moved politically to the left by supporting a rise in Oakland’s minimum wage against the wishes of her allies in the business community. Her poll ratings rose sharply after California’s Governor and former Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown endorsed her candidacy.

Muriel Bowser will be Washington DC’s eight’s mayor since the city was granted ‘home rule’ in 1973. When the US capital was founded in 1790, the constitution stipulated that Congress shall have the power “to exercise exclusive power in all cases over the District of Columbia”. The 1973 Home Rule Act provided for an elected mayor and a 13-member city council. Walter Washington was the US capital’s first elected mayor.

Muriel Bowser succeeds Mayor Vincent Gray, whose four years in office have been tainted by an investigation into irregular financial contributions to his 2010 election campaign. While several of his aides were indicted, no charges were ever brought against the mayor, who continues to deny any wrongdoing. In April’s primary elections, Democrats backed Bowser over the incumbent.

The mayor-elect is a Washington native who the Washington Post described as “smart, hardworking and independent-minded”. Endorsing her candidacy, the newspaper wrote that, as city councillor Muriel Bowser had shown herself to be an effective advocate for the interests of her constituency and a leading voice for education reform and good government. She also won the backing of President Obama who called her a champion for working and middle-class families and a passionate proponent of Washington. Since elected in 2008, the President has rarely endorsed any mayoral candidates, the exceptions being Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, Annise Parker of Houston and most recently Bill de Blasio of New York City.

Results for major US cities
(Elections were held on 4 November 2014)

City (Population)
Mayor, new mayor in red, (result)
Little Rock (194,000) Arkansas Mark Stodola
Chandler (236,000) Arizona Jay Tibshraeny
Peoria (154,000) Arizona Cathy Carlat
Anaheim (336,000) California Tom Tait (54%)
Chula Vista (244,000) California Mary Salas (52%)
Elk Grove (153,000) California Gary Davis
Escondido (144,000) California Sam Abed (61%)
Fontana (196,000) California Acquanetta Warren
Garden Grove (171,000) California Bruce Broadwater (43%)
Irvine (212,000) California Steven Choi (45%)
Oakland (391,000) California Libby Schaaf (63%)
Ontario (164,000) California Paul Leon (70%)
Orange (136,000) California Teresa Smith (82%)
Oxnard (198,000) California Timothy Flynn (60%)
Rancho Cucamonga (165,000) California Dennis Michael (70%)
San Jose (946,000) California Sam Liccardo (51%)
Santa Ana (325,000) California Miguel Pulido (51%)
Washington (646,000) District of Columbia Muriel Bowser (56%)
Coral Springs (121,000) Florida Walter Campbell
Port St Lucie (164,000) Florida Greg Oravec (60%)
Tallahassee (181,000) Florida Andrew Gillum (76%)
Maui (145,000) Hawaii Alan Arakawa (55%)
Lexington (296,000) Kentucky Jim Gray
Louisville (741,000) Kentucky Greg Fischer (69%)
Shreveport (199,000) Louisiana Jacques Roy
Ann Arbor (114,000) Michigan Chris Taylor
Reno (225,000) Nevada Hillary Schieve (61%)
Providence (178,000) Rhode Island Jorge Elorza
Clarksville (133,000) Tennessee Kim McMillan (47%)
Corpus Christi (305,000) Texas Nelda Martinez (52)%
Laredo (236,000) Texas Pete Saenz (53%)

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