Democrats Re-Up with Pivotal Mayoral Elections in Black Cities
1 year ago
Re-election of black mayors in these cities are positive signs for 2012
Though an off-year for elections, Democrats had plenty to smile about yesterday. In Mississippi, the anti-abortion "personhood" amendment was fought back, as was the anti-labor union efforts in Ohio. And there was much to sigh about when Russell Pearce, the guy responsible for the far-reaching, immigration-restricting suite of laws passing in Arizona, Alabama and pending across the South, was voted out of office. Unfortunately Johnny Dupree was denied the opportunity to be the first black governor of Mississippi, and suppressive voter ID laws were passed in Mississippi as well, but elsewhere across the country there were glimmering signs of hope, especially in local mayoral races where African American, Democrat mayors held onto seats to help steer the progressive agenda. But what do the races say at the local level, especially in terms of voter turnout, Republican backlash and how black communities are actually being helped? Below are five mayoral races in major black cities yesterday with answers for all of those questions:
City: Gary, Indiana
Black population: 68,107 (total pop: 80,294)
Winner: Karen Freeman-Wilson
What the election says: Gary elected the first black woman mayor in Indiana after she survived a primary of ten other Democrats. It looks like Gary is looking for significant change.
Voter turnout: 11,465 people came out to vote for Freeman-Wilson. Her challenger, Republican Charles R. Smith: 384 votes. It was no contest. Total turnout won’t be available for another couple weeks, but considering the voting age population is 57,762 turnout may have been around 20%.
Summary: Gary is popularly known as the birthplace of Michael Jackson, but it’s known more notoriously as a city that lives with perennial poverty, extreme poverty even. Freeman-Wilson, who lost two previous bids for mayor, is a lawyer and former attorney general for the state who’s looking to turn around the blight and crime paving the city primarily through using the “broken windows” law enforcement method.
Nod to black community: Founded the Second Chance Program, which would help nonviolent drug offenders find treatment instead of throwing them in jail.
Black population: 395,781 (total pop: 620,961)
Winner: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
What the election says: Not much. This will be Rawlings-Blake’s first full term after taking over for the former mayor Sheila Dixon who resigned under a cloud of corruption.
Voter turnout: Rawlings-Blake took in roughly 38,000 votes against her Republican challenger who got less than 6,000 votes. Those are miserably low numbers for the city.
Summary: The former Baltimore city council president took office after former mayor Dixon had to resign in shame over stealing gift cards that were supposed to go to low-income residents. Now formally and officially elected, Rawlings-Blake is inheriting a mayor’s office that has a perception problem, and a city that is still suffering from a lot of the same problems exhibited on HBO’s TV drama “The Wire”: blight, crime and poverty. The city is actually doing better than it was ten years ago, the time setting for “The Wire,” but residents have yet to internalize that.
Non-Nod to black community: Rawlings-Blake neglected to respond to the African-American newspaper “The AFRO” in their endorsement questionnaire. She was the first sitting mayor in the history of the city to do so. In return, the newspaper endorsed her challenger state senator Catherine E. Pugh.