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I thought about the fact that cities in the US elect mayors in many different ways. Most notably for this question, some elect mayors on partisan ballots others do not.

Given that most or all of the top populated cities are overwhelmingly Democratic depending on how you many count as "top populated", it would make sense that the answer is yes.

But I want data to answer the question. Out of the top 100 most populated cities in the United States, how many elect the mayors on a partisan and nonpartisan basis, and how many of each category elect mayors who openly identify as Republican?

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  • Can you give an example of a non-partisan ballot? Are you saying the candidates don't identify with any party? Does that exist in the US?
    – JohnFx
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 19:53
  • @JohnFx Sub-county level elections in the U.S. to municipal, special district, and school board elected offices are predominantly non-partisan. Partisan elections for local government office are predominantly limited to county governments and big cities. Non-partisan elections are particularly common in municipalities with a council-manager form of government. On a non-partisan ballot each candidate runs by name only for open offices, sometimes by district and sometimes at large.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 2:15
  • Most of the question is answered quite comprehensively at ballotpedia.org/… (63 Dems and 29 GOP and 8 others in the top 100) and ballotpedia.org/… (setting forth the history of local government non-partisanship in the U.S.).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 2:21

1 Answer 1

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Here are the results from the cities in the top 30 who have non-partisan elections (I got bored before I reached 100):

You will note that there does not appear in this sample to be much advantage for republicans. There are only two republican mayors on this list: Fort Worth and Jacksonville.

Rank City Name State Party
2 Los Angeles CA Democratic
3 Chicago IL Democratic
5 Phoenix AZ Democratic
7 San Antonio TX Independent (progressive)
8 Dallas TX Democratic
9 San Diego CA Democratic
10 San Jose CA Democratic
11 Detroit MI Democratic
12 San Francisco CA Democratic
13 Jacksonville FL Republican
15 Austin TX Democratic
16 Columbus OH Democratic
17 Fort Worth TX Republican
19 Memphis TN Democratic
21 Boston MA Democratic
22 El Paso TX Democratic
23 Milwaukee WI Democratic
24 Denver CO Democratic
25 Seattle WA Democratic
26 Nashville TN Democratic
28 Las Vegas NV Independent (formerly Democratic)
29 Portland OR Democratic

But Among the top thirty cities, and the eight that have partisan elections, all have Democratic party mayors.

So 2/22 Non partisan elections returned Republicans and 0/8 partisan ones. Statistically this is marginally significant, p=0.04. (see https://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/113602/test-if-two-binomial-distributions-are-statistically-different-from-each-other)

So this provides some support for the idea that non-partisan elections allow more republicans to get elected. But note that New York has elected Republicans in the (recent) past: Guliani and Bloomberg. And it may be the case that the cause and effect is reversed: Being more right-wing causes cities to choose non-partisan elections, rather than non-partisan elections causing more right-wing candidates to be elected.

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  • "this provides some support for the idea that non-partisan elections allow more republicans to get elected" It is also key to note that in the U.S. unlike many countries, there is not strong linkage or coordination policy-wise between national and state level political parties (that extend down to county government) and municipal government, even though there could be. Mottos like "there is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up garbage" predominate as the prevailing attitude.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 2:20

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