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Friday, November 07, 2003  

Politics: How 'bout those mayors?

There is a tendency for political commentary in the blogosphere to focus on state and national politics. However, local elections can have considerable impact on the citizenry. They can also be quite colorful. There were varied outcomes in this week's mayoral races nationwide.

  • Mayoral loss leads to fist fight
  • The most exciting result of a mayoral race may have occurred in Fredericktown, Ohio.

    FREDERICKTOWN (AP) -- A losing mayoral candidate has been charged with assaulting the incumbent after he was re-elected, police said.

    Mike Wagner showed up at Mayor Roger Reed's home after election results were in Wednesday.

    An argument outside became heated, with Wagner throwing punches, police Chief Jerry Day said.

    Reed, who had been out picking up his campaign signs, called police when he noticed a vehicle following him, Day said.

    "I've been here 25 years and this is the first time that something like this has happened," Day said.

    Voters elected Reed by a vote of 438 to 284, according to unofficial results from the Knox County Board of Elections.

    Wagner sounds like the kind of he-man blogger Kim du Toit, author of "The Pussification of the Western Male," could relate to.

  • Liberal against liberal in San Fran
  • San Francisco's mayoral race didn't end. There will be a run-off between the top vote getters Dec. 9. Both are Democrats and liberals. However, the leader, Gavin Newsom, has broken with liberal orthodoxy in regard to the homeless.

    SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Mayor Willie Brown's hand-picked successor and a Green Party upstart seeking to preserve San Francisco's left-of-liberal identity on Tuesday advanced to a runoff that will determine who becomes the next mayor.

    Democrat Gavin Newsom, a city supervisor with a get-tough approach to the city's homeless problem, was the top vote-getter Tuesday, followed by Matt Gonzalez, who is vying to become the Green Party's only mayor of a major U.S. city.

    Newsom got 73,635 votes, or 41 percent. Gonzalez had 35,753, or 20 percent, despite entering the race just 13 weeks ago. The runoff next month is necessary because neither candidate got a majority of the vote.

    "Round One!" Newsom, 36, said in his victory speech. Now, he said, "we have to work stronger, we have to work harder."

    . . .Newsom, who would be the youngest San Francisco mayor in more than a century if elected, is best known for his efforts to get panhandlers off city streets. His proposal to outlaw panhandling in many public places was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday.

    Both Newsom and Gonzalez are city supervisors.

    I doubt Gonzalez can come from behind to win. But, if he does, having a Green Party mayor could be a boost for that third party in California. Either man will have a hard act to follow. 'Da Mayor,' Willie Brown has become so identified with the city, it will be difficult for people to stop thinking of him in the role.

  • Takin' it to the Street
  • Intriguing elections of mayors include the one in the City of Brotherly Love, where a scandalous discovery helped the incumbent win reelection.

    PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 4 -- In an emotional finish to a controversy-ridden campaign, Mayor John F. Street won a second term on Tuesday, beating his Republican opponent, Sam Katz, an executive who lost narrowly to him four years ago.

    With more than 90 percent of the ballots counted, Mayor Street had an insurmountable lead of 58 percent of the votes, The Associated Press reported, to 42 percent for Mr. Katz.

    In his victory speech, the mayor said, "This victory today is a very impressive one, and I will be the first one to admit that when we started this campaign, it would not have crossed my mind that I would be standing here today with the margin of victory that seems apparent here today."

    Mr. Street may owe his victory, at least in part, to a scandal that many Philadelphians believed, just four weeks ago, would end his 25-year political career. A listening device was discovered in the mayor's City Hall office early last month, and investigators from the F.B.I. then disclosed that Mr. Street was a subject in a corruption investigation.

    The mayor and his allies deftly turned the incident to their advantage by suggesting that the investigation was engineered by the Republican Party in an effort to discredit a black Democrat. The accusations, which fueled widespread racial and partisan rancor, energized voters in this heavily Democratic city, whose black population is roughly equal to that of whites.

    National Democratic figures came to town to stoke the flames of suspicion. Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore spoke at rallies for Mr. Street over the weekend.

    Is the investigation of Street and his associates are discrediting an African-American Democrat and bolstering Republicans? Who knows? However, it seems the FBI could have learned something from its probes of other black mayors, including Marion Barry during his tenure in D.C. That something? That investigations of African-American political leaders appear to be attacks unless clearly justified and lead to a circling of the wagons.

    So far, no evidence of wrongdoing by Street has surfaced publically. But, in an ironic twist, Katz' former partner has been convicted of a crime.

    Mark Robins, the former employee of defeated mayoral candidate Sam Katz was sentenced to 14 to 30 months in prison yesterday for stealing $290,000 from a company owned by Katz and other investors.

    The failed venture became an issue in the mayor's race because three former partners sued Katz, charging him with participating in Robins' theft.

    The Montgomery County District Attorney's office investigated the allegation and concluded Katz was not involved.

    Stereotypes about who must be up to something illegal are so strong they should be handled with care. I hope the FBI is not relying on them in probing Street.

    12:00 PM