On Thursday, November 21, journalist Sasha Issenberg, Boston Globe reporter Andrew Ryan, and Kennedy School Professor David Luberoff discussed the 2013 mayoral races in New York, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles. The panelists began by addressing how each race will represent a change in city politics. With former Mayor Bloomberg leaving office after three consecutive terms and Mayor Menino after five, panelists acknowledged the coming transition phases in these cities. However, compared with the change in New York, the arrival of a new mayor in Boston may not be accompanied by as much of an ideological shift.
The panelists discussed the common theme of development versus neighborhood focus in the four races. Bill De Blasio’s message was cast, in part, as expressing that development has been excessively directed at making New York a “fun city for the affluent.” Marty Walsh more subtly conveyed his goal of increasing consultation with the different Boston neighborhoods. The narrative in Los Angeles was comparable, while Mike Duggan won the Detroit race as the candidate with more management experience.
After noting differences in how gentrification and class played into the elections, the panelists discussed the role of race. Short time span and fundraising difficulties may have worked against candidates of color. All four of these majority-minority cities elected white candidates. Mayor-elect Duggan is Detroit’s first white mayor in nearly 40 years.
Union funding and campaign strategy had varied impacts on these campaigns. Despite the current nationwide decline in unions as a base for the Democratic Party, they have remained effective in some cities. Unions have ready-made campaign structures, benefiting from free manpower and effective tools for targeting voters. While Wendy Greuel lost the Los Angeles election to Eric Garcetti despite strong union support, union funding that poured in from all over the country appears to have helped support Mayor-elect Walsh. The panelists agreed that the general effect of campaign funding in a smaller city like Boston has a greater impact than in New York. The outside funding for Walsh was significant in that it allowed him to allocate resources effectively toward the end of his campaign.
The panel concluded with first hundred days advice for the new mayors: Walsh should worry more about Wall Street than labor since his relationship with the latter is already strong. He should be concerned about the firefighters’ contract and how the city will respond after the first snow of the season. The panelists’ final recommendation was that both Walsh and de Blasio should focus on budgets and appointments.