Dems add to edge in big-city mayoralties

Dems add to edge in big-city mayoralties
© Getty Images

New Mexico state Auditor Tim Keller (D) on Tuesday won a landslide victory to become Albuquerque’s next mayor, adding another Democratic takeover to the party’s strong performances this fall.

Keller took 62 percent of the vote, besting city council member Dan Lewis (R) for the right to replace two-term Mayor Richard Berry (R).


Keller’s win, and Berry’s exit, mean Democrats will now control the mayor’s office in 63 of the nation’s 100 largest cities. Republicans control just 28 mayor’s offices, and nine mayors are independents, according to a count maintained by Ballotpedia

Many mayor’s offices across the country are technically nonpartisan, but candidates openly align themselves with one party or another. Seattle Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan, for example, did not run under a party label, though she and her opponent both identified as Democrats.

Local government experts say demographics are often a major factor advantaging Democrats in large cities, especially because recent Democratic platforms often match up with the priorities of minority groups, which make up a larger chunk of urban areas. 

“Democrats particularly are very organized and very energized, especially in places where they’ve been historically strong,” Dave Beaudoin, who oversees municipal election research at Ballotpedia, said.  

Mayor Michael Tubbs (D) of Stockton, Calif., said that while demographics may play into the results, there are other factors, both in highly populated urban centers and sparse rural areas. 

“In this day and age, people are looking for solutions,” Tubbs said. He added that “solutions aren’t about looking back at some imaginary past.”

Beaudoin said that focusing on local issues instead of national politics is the best bet for both Republicans and Democrats in municipal elections.

He added that mayors of either party in major cities don’t always translate into viable statewide candidates, but can become household names if their city hall tenures are well-regarded.

City boundaries, and how far they extend beyond an urban core, impact local races too; some jurisdictions that include suburban areas may be more hotly contested by Republicans than cities whose boundaries include fewer suburbs.

Beaudoin said Republicans do best in municipal elections when they simply run candidates for as many seats as possible.

Democrats control the executive branch in 20 of the nation’s 25 largest cities. San Diego is the largest city in America run by a Republican, Mayor Kevin Faulconer. San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-largest city, is run by an independent, Mayor Ron Nirenberg.