Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

City Voters Speak, and They Want Competence ; in Mayoral Races, Ability to Get the Job Done Trumps Party Politics - except in St. Paul

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

City Voters Speak, and They Want Competence ; in Mayoral Races, Ability to Get the Job Done Trumps Party Politics - except in St. Paul

Article excerpt

Competence trumped partisanship in most mayoral elections this week. Voters showed what they really want is the garbage picked up on time, potholes filled, and the city budget balanced, proving once again Tip O'Neill's old adage that all politics is local.

In Democratic New York, voters overwhelmingly reelected Republican Michael Bloomberg, giving a vote of confidence to his managerial skills while ignoring his ties to President Bush and the GOP.

"Party label doesn't matter nearly as much anymore at the mayoral level," says Andrew White, director of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School. "The real long-term trend everywhere is moving away form the party operations that rooted urban politics in patronage, but that's not to say there isn't still a strong liberal social leaning in many cities."

The exception to O'Neill's adage is St. Paul, Minn. A city as partisan "blue" as New York, voters there ousted Democratic Mayor Randy Kelly, but not because of his governing skills. Rather, they were punishing him for endorsing Mr. Bush over Democratic presidential rival John Kerry in 2004, polls showed. They elected Chris Coleman instead, also a Democrat.

In Detroit, voters were more tolerant of mayoral missteps. Kwame Kilpatrick, the so-called hip-hop mayor, was accused of misusing city funds for personal gain even as the city budget racked up deficits. After he apologized and pledged to do better in the future, 53 percent of voters decided to give him another chance. But even as they were at the polls, the FBI said it was investigating absentee ballots to see if some had been cast in the names of deceased voters and if others had been improperly handled by city officials.

San Diego, a long-time GOP stronghold even though it now has more registered Democrats, gave the nod to former police chief Jerry Sanders, a Republican. …

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