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8 Critical Mayoral Elections Happening In U.S. Cities

From Seattle to NYC and several municipalities in between, here are some of the major races up for grabs across the country.

Although the presidential election was a year ago and the midterms are a year away, there are still several important mayoral elections taking place in major cities across the country.   

Some are in hotly contested areas of the country like in Atlanta, where three well-known candidates seek to succeed Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has chosen not to run for reelection; Detroit, where a challenger wants to unseat two-time incumbent Mike Duggan and in Pittsburgh, where Ed Gainey is vying to become that city’s first Black mayor.  

The municipal elections, although not as widely publicized as national, gubernatorial or congressional elections, still impact the African American community greatly because the number of Black-majority cities continues to rise, standing at about 1,262, according to the Brookings Institution.  

Here’s a list of some of the major mayoral races citizens will cast ballots in on Election day.

  • ATLANTA

    City Council member Andre Dickens,  Council president Felecia Moore and former mayor Kasim Reed are among 14 candidates battling for the seat. Two major issues in the city are spikes in violent crime and the possibility of the Buckhead community seceding and forming a stand alone city. In polls, Reed leads with 19 percent of voter support with Moore close behind at 16 percent. But 36 percent remain undecided.

  • BUFFALO

    Incumbent Byron Brown is facing a formidable challenge from progressive Democratic Socialist candidate India Walton. This particular race is more tense than usual because Walton upset Brown, Buffalo’s longest-serving mayor, in the June Democratic primary. Brown is now campaigning as a write-in candidate. City development, jobs, police reform and affordable housing have been the major push and pull issues in the Western New York city.

  • CLEVLAND

    In an election regarded as officially non-partisan, but with two Democrats running, nonprofit executive Justin Bibb is facing off against City Council member Kevin Kelley to replace outgoing mayor Frank Jackson, who decided against seeking a new term. Police accountability and misconduct figured heavily into the issues because of a proposed change to the city’s charter that would give a civilian review board more power to deal with officer misconduct. Also changes to the city’s health department are high on the list for both candidates.

  • DETROIT

    Voters are faced with a choice between two local government veterans, incumbent Mike Duggan who is credited with bringing the city back from its bankruptcy, the largest in U.S. urban history, and Anthony Adams, a former deputy mayor in the administration of Kwame Kilpatrick who has criticized Duggan for not paying enough attention to the day-to-day needs of residents. Duggan is the first white mayor of the 82 percent Black city since 1973 and is vying for a third term. But for all the corporate investment there, Adams believes the neighborhoods have been left behind.

  • MINNEAPOLIS

    The city has been the focal point of contention since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in 2020. Mayor Jacob Frey has been both praised and blasted over his response, but now he is seeking voter support over 16 other Democratic, Republican and third party or independent candidates in the nonpartisan election. Frey’s most serious challenges are from Democrats AJ Awed, Kate Knuth, and Sheila Nezhad. Republicans Laverne Turner and Bob "Again" Carney Jr.,have also filed along with Libertarian Nate "Honey Badger" Atkins and a longer list of alternative candidates. Each candidate has focused on how to move the city ahead in a post-Floyd era.

  • NEW YORK CITY

    The primary season saw a large number of candidates competing to get the vote in the heavily Democratic city with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams winning out over activist Maya Wiley; former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia; city comptroller Scott Stringer; and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Spiking crime rates across the city were of particular concern, and Adams, a former NYPD police captain, convinced New Yorkers he could make them safer. He now faces Republican Curtis Sliwa, founder of the volunteer anti-crime group the Guardian Angels and is heavily favored to win. The next mayor, who replaces term-limited Bill de Blasio will face not only crime issues, but also affordable housing issues and climate change problems that are only beginning to affect the city’s infrastructure.

  • PITTSBURGH

    After upsetting incumbent Bill Peduto in the primary, Democratic State Rep. Ed Gainey is looking to make history as the first Black mayor, while Republican retired policeman Tony Moreno wants to be the first from his party to be mayor since the 1930s. Both have a list of issues they say are crucial for the next to hold office to tackle. Gainey wants police reform and a public health plan that focuses on communities and equity particularly with Black women. Moreno, however, is pushing for more cops in the neighborhoods and better enforcement of police policy along with training individuals to repair property in the community while funding an office targeted strictly at neighborhoods.

  • SEATTLE

    The social unrest of the past year and massive homelessness are issues that challenge the city and will face the winner between former City Council president Bruce Harrell and current president M. Lorena Gonzalez in the mayoral election. Current officeholder Jenny Durkan decided not to run again, leaving the field open in the nonpartisan race. The issues of the opioid epidemic and tent cities springing up in west coast cities and Seattle’s problems are among the most pronounced. Voters must decide on which approach is best: whether bringing in more police, Harrell’s plan, is better than Gonzalez's idea of overhauling the police department, which is under federal investigation. Last year, the police chief, Carmen Best, resigned after a city council vote to defund the department.

  • Photo credits: Top (L to R): Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Ron Schwane/AP Images; Laura McDermott/Bloomberg via Getty Images. Bottom (L to R) Jeff Swensen for The Washington Post via Getty Images;  Nicholas Pfosi/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Luca Prizia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images; Elaine Thompson/Pool/AP Images

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