Estimates put the number of posts filled through US off-year elections at about 176,000



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Democrat city mayors did well
in American off-year elections

By Andrew Stevens, Deputy Editor

7 November 2007: In any other country it would be tempting to consider the results of municipal races as part of a national trend affecting the outcome of future general elections, but in the US the familiar saying all politics is local truly holds sway. While presidential contenders continue to vie for their party’s endorsement, across urban America the Democrats either returned mayors or introduced new faces into city halls. Most significantly, San Francisco’s Gavin Newsom, Houston’s Bill White, Baltimore’s Sheila Dixon and Pittsburgh’s Luke Ravenstahl, all Democrats, easily won re-election, while in Philadelphia Michael Nutter coasted home to replace term-limited John Street.

Discuss the 2007 election results

2007 is an ‘off year’ in American electoral politics – with the 2006 mid-terms firmly out of the way and all eyes on the 2008 presidential election, currently the widest open in living memory. In terms of the scheduled off-year elections, most concerned mid-sized and smaller cities, with only three gubernatorial races to speak of.

In Kentucky, the Republican incumbent Governor Ernie Fletcher lost to Democrat challenger and former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear following a scandal over hiring political allies, which led to his being indicted in office. Louisiana’s race for governor was already settled in the primary of October 20, where Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal replaced departing Democrat Governor Kathleen Blanco, who was heavily criticised for her performance in the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. 36-year old Jindal is the first non-white Governor of Louisiana and the first Indian American governor in the US. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat and Ray Nagin’s chief opponent in the 2006 New Orleans mayoral election, won a second term and will serve alongside Jindal.

Mississippi’s incumbent Governor Haley Barbour was re-elected for a second term. Though hailed for his “Giuliani-like” handling of the Katrina crisis, Barbour is allied to a number of right-wing causes and raised eyebrows when he refused to criticise members of a segregationist group he had been photographed with. Barbour, a former tobacco industry lobbyist in DC, also refused to raise tobacco taxes in the state while keeping grocery taxes the highest in the US, as well as eliminating state support for anti-teen smoking programmes.

Though votes are not yet all counted and new state balloting laws may see the count go on for weeks, Gavin Newsom confidently predicted victory and a second term from his San Francisco campaign headquarters, promising a new hospital for the city. Houston’s Bill White scored a third term in office with 86 per cent of the vote against two unknown opponents, dismissing persistent rumours of a gubernatorial or senate run in 2010. In the Maryland coastal city of Baltimore, Sheila Dixon was able to turn her partial term as mayor into re-election with an easy victory over her Republican challenger, as an all-black female team were voted into city offices. Michael Nutter, a Philadelphia city council member and critic of retiring mayor John Street, was elected with 83 per cent of the vote tally. Pittsburgh’s youthful mayor Luke Ravenstahl was also re-elected to serve out the remainder of the term following the death of former mayor Bob O’Connor.

In other races, Democrats surged ahead in Ohio, with Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman breezing to a third term of office and the Republicans’ loss of the mayoralty of Canton placing the Democrats in charge of all eight large cities in the state ahead of the 2008 polls.

Salt Lake City's trailblazing progressive two-term Mayor Rocky Anderson was replaced by state legislature minority leader Ralph Becker after standing down from the post.  Becker, also a Democrat, beat Republican Dave Buhler 64% to 35% in the non-partisan race and will assume office in January 2008.

A number of races in North Carolina saw interesting outcomes, with Charlotte’s Republican Mayor Pat McCrory sealing an historic seventh term of office with voter approval for a transit tax in a separate ballot. Three-term Mayor Kevin Foy also coasted to re-election in the university town of Chapel Hill in the state. Foy is a leading member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition.



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Houston Mayor Bill While won re-election with 86 per cent of the vote


On other pages
Even in an ‘off-year’ Americans are asked to elect hundreds of thousands of officials
The world watches closely every four years as the United States elects a new president, and most people know that congressional elections are held every other year. But many people may not realize that even in off-years, such as 2007, thousands of elective positions are filled around the country.

The combination of a strong democratic tradition, a highly decentralized political system and the vast size of the United States creates a mind-boggling number and variety of elective offices across the country. Estimates put the number of posts filled through off-year elections at about 176,000.

These positions include governors, mayors and city council members, of course, but also lesser known posts such as library and school boards, fire and police commissioners, county tax auditors and water district advisory boards. Many of these posts are unpaid, offering only the satisfaction of public service and the chance to make a difference.

Nevertheless, in the United States, local office holders wield broader powers than in most other countries. They can establish taxes, regulate business transactions and set environmental and building requirements. The majority of criminal cases prosecuted in the country are for violation of state and local laws, not federal statutes. More