Political Terms of Empowerment: As New African-American Mayors Take Office, Black New Yorkers Work to Fill a Power Void

By Hogan, Candace Lyle | Black Enterprise, January 1994 | Go to article overview

Political Terms of Empowerment: As New African-American Mayors Take Office, Black New Yorkers Work to Fill a Power Void


Hogan, Candace Lyle, Black Enterprise


As new African-American mayors take office, black New Yorkers work to fill a power void.

As newly elected officials are sworn in across the nations on Jan. 1, black mayors begin new terms in the cities of Rochester, N.Y., Detroit and Minneapolis. Their entry on the political scene coincides with the retirement of Detroit's Coleman A. Young and New Haven, Conn.'s John Daniel, the first black mayors of their cities. Seattle's Norm Rice, one of only two black mayors of a mayor city up for reflection last year, begins a second term after winning by one of the largest margins in city history.

Meanwhile, African-American New Yorkers are working to fill the void in political power left by the defeat of the the city's first black mayor, David N. Dinkins. Dinkins is the first big-city black mayor to lose reelection after only one term.

Elected as a racial healer, Dinkins beat Republican Rudolph Giuliani by two percentage point in their first political battle in 1989. In the rematch, Giuliani won by 3% to become New York's fist Republican mayor in a generation.

How could a city where Democrats outnumber Republican five to one have voted out a Democrat to elect a Republican with no previous city government experience? According to many observer of the New York political scene - not to mention the more than 90% of African-Americans who voted for Dinkins - the answer boils down to the "R" word. No, not record, but race.

Simply put: Had Dinkins been white, with the same first-term track record, Giuliani wouldn't have stood a chance. New York City voting demographics suggest that race superseded party affiliation as the primary influence among white voters - 77% of whom voted for the challenger. …

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