One year removed from the most divisive election in modern history, voters were heading back to the ballots in a series of pivotal political contests across the country. Several intriguing battles have taken center stage and include African-American candidates.
Here are six of them to watch:
Eyes are on the Atlanta mayoral race because Mary Norwood, a 65-year-old city councilwoman, has a chance to become the city’s first White mayor in more than four decades. At one point, Norwood held a double-digit lead in the polls. However, one of the latest surveys showed that one of her competitors, Keisha Lance Bottoms, has pulled ahead of her.
Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson has an uphill climb to beat incumbent Mayor Martin J. Walsh and become the city’s first African-American mayor. The Boston branch of the NAACP released a scathing 175-page report criticizing Walsh for not keeping his promises to communities of color. One things to look for is whether Black voters will punish the mayor at the polls.
Coleman Young was Detroit’s first African-American mayor. Now his son, Coleman Young II, is trying to walk in his father’s footsteps. But he’s competing against a popular White mayor, Mike Duggan. Even though the city’s population is more than 80 percent Black, many analysts said voters wanted to give Duggan a chance to continue his economic recovery efforts.
New Orleans Mayor
The winner of the New Orleans contest will become the city’s first woman mayor, and both candidates are African-American. City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former judge Desiree Charbonnet topped a field of 18 candidates in October to compete in a two-candidate runoff, scheduled for Nov. 18.
Analyzing the road ahead, The Advocate reported that Cantrell, who emerged as a champion of the working-class after Hurricane Katrina, had the support of prominent individuals in the White business community.
Her opponent had the backing of the city’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as key players in New Orleans’ political establishment.
St. Paul Mayor
The St. Paul Police Federation not only targeted African-American candidate Melvin Carter for a racist attack that included the creation and distribution of a political flier that suggested he was somehow responsible for a surge in gun violence, pinning that claim on the theft of two guns from Carter’s home. However, the scheme backfired, with scores of voters and elected officials condemning the police union. Carter won the support of several top Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
Virginia Lt. Governor
Justin Fairfax, the Democratic candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor, was running for office amid racial tension within his party and from his GOP opponent. Ralph Northam, who was running for governor, created uproar in the party when he omitted Fairfax from a group of campaign fliers that lists Democrats running for statewide office.
Meanwhile, Fairfax also received subtle racist attacks from the right. His Republican opponent, Jill Holtzman Vogel, raised a question during their final debate about whether Fairfax can “talk intelligently” about issues.
If Fairfax wins, he will become the first African-American elected statewide in Virginia since Douglas Wilder became governor in 1989.