The 2023 Mayoral Vote: Five Major U.S. Cities To Watch

Here are five important, upcoming local elections where your vote could make all the difference.

Although political campaigns are already underway, it will be more than a year before we find out the result of the 2024 presidential election. Before all of that hoopla ensues, there are several races happening between now and then on a more local level. Many American cities with rather large Black populations have either recently held elections or will soon decide who their local mayor will be.

Earlier this year, the people of Chicago rejected the leadership of former Mayor Lori Lightfoot and replaced her with Brandon Johnson in hopes of addressing major public safety issues. Other cities, like Dallas, Jacksonville, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Tampa, Fla., have made changes in the mayor’s office as well. And while we have some years to wait for others (like New York in 2025, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Cleveland in 2026), is shining a light on those cities that are preparing for a political shift in the next few months.

Here are five places where voters (especially Black residents) could see a shift in local government sooner rather than later.

  • Houston

    The stakes are high in the nation’s fourth largest city as Democrats Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and State Sen. John Whitmire emerge at the top of a large field wishing to succeed term limited Mayor Sylvester Turner. The two are reportedly neck-and-neck heading toward a November 7 vote.

    According to a recent survey, crime is the top priority for Houstonians, as well as climate change and weather patterns that are the cause of floods with rushing water into the low-lying city. Campaign finance records show Jackson Lee has raised more than $1 million, while Whitmire boasts a considerably larger war chest of more than $9.8 million.

    If Jackson Lee wins, she would join only a handful of other African American women leading large cities as mayors, including Karen Bass in Los Angeles, London Breed in San Francisco, Vi Lyles in Charlotte, and Tishuara Jones in St. Louis.

  • Philadelphia

    While the November 7 election in Philadelphia is approaching, it will basically be a formality in the overwhelmingly Democratic city. Cherelle Parker led a field of nine candidates from her party to get its nomination for the mayoral election. Former city councilman David Oh represents the Republicans.

    Barring any extreme changes, Parker will become Philadelphia’s 100th mayor and the first woman to ever hold the position. Ironically, in a city that is more than 50 percent Black, she was the only African American candidate to run. Nevertheless, Parker had the support of much of the Black community, as well as unions and other Democrats. She has also been a vocal supporter of reestablishing law enforcement in the community and has openly advocated for the use of constitutional stop-and-frisk, otherwise known as “Terry stops”; a long controversial policy in other cities.

  • Charlotte, N.C.

    The Queen City is headed for a rematch between incumbent Mayor Vi Lyles, who is seeking her fourth term in office, and Lucille Puckett, a former board member of the Charlotte Housing Authority and National Action Network community advocate.

    The city had a municipal election in 2022, which was delayed because data needed to redraw electoral districts came in late, forcing the date to be pushed back. It is now having its regularly scheduled vote in 2023, as Charlotte mayor serve two-year terms.

    In the 2022 election, Lyles won with 68 percent of the vote, having bested Puckett in the Democratic primary months before.

    In 2023, however, Puckett is challenging Lyles again in the September 12 primary, but the mayor is still heavily favored to win. The winner will go on to face Republican Misum Kim and Libertarian Rob Yates in the November 7 election. The favorite here is the Democratic candidate, who is likely to win because of the overwhelming majority of voters in the city who support the party.

  • Memphis, Tenn.

    Getty Images; Shelby County Sheriff's Office; Shelby County Commission; Paul Young campaign

    Tyre Nichols was a 29-year old FedEx driver who was beaten to death by five police officers earlier this year in Memphis, Tenn. His death brought the wrong kind of attention to the city. The officers have been charged in his killing, but the city has been left at a crossroads concerning public safety as it heads into a mayoral election.

    A very large field of candidates emerged in the election, last count, there were as many as 17. Since it is nonpartisan, there are no party primaries, and there is no runoff election. Voters will have to decide who will lead them on October 5. With so many candidates, however, it is also unlikely that any will receive more than 50 percent of the vote.

    In fact, there are no clear frontrunners because so many Memphisans remain undecided. Most of the attention has been garnered by four people: Willie W. Herenton, the city’s first Black mayor, who served from 1992–2009; Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner; Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner; and Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Young. One of the longshot candidates is former television judge Joe Brown.

  • Montgomery, Ala.

    Getty Images; Victorrus Felder campaign

    Before the summer ends, the citizens of Montgomery will choose a new mayor on August 22. Incumbent Mayor Steven L. Reed leads the pack with a 24-point advantage over his closest rival, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. Three other major candidates, correctional officer Victorrus Felder; real estate investor Barrett Gilbreath and entrepreneur Marcus McNeal, are attempting to topple Reed.

    Reed isn’t going away quietly into the night. He is currently enjoying a high approval rating as Montgomery has added numerous new jobs, improved city finances, and seemingly improved relationship with nearby Maxwell Air Force Base.

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