In what is being termed a watershed referendum against “Trumpism”—just as the 2016 presidential election was about
tapping into the racist tendencies of America, pushback against the political status quo—black people showed up and showed out in Tuesday night’s elections, giving Democrats several sweeping electoral victories.
This is not to say that only black people elected the mayors in the seven cities that saw their first black mayors last night; some of the cities—most of them in the South—did not have black majorities (or even pluralities). Also, at least one in the pack is a millennial and two are women; and the wins came in places as disparate as Georgia, Montana and Minnesota. Two mayors hailed from cities rocked by high-profile police shootings, but most ran on platforms of progressivism or inclusion.
The biggest mayoral story—involving the biggest city—was that of 66-year-old city administrator Vi Lyles, who was elected the first African-American woman to become mayor of Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday. Lyles handily beat Republican Kenny Smith, who heavily outspent her.
Two major issues in Charlotte included division over House Bill 2, also known as the “transgender bill,” which repealed a Charlotte ordinance that had extended some rights to LGBT people. There was also the issue of how the city handled the unrest that followed the police shooting death last year of Keith Lamont Scott.
Then there was Jonathan McCollar, the new mayor in the tiny town of Statesboro, Ga., a majority-white hamlet, who built his win on a platform of “change and inclusion.”
And Wilmont Collins of Helena, Mont.? He’s now mayor of a city that is more than 93 percent white—but, again, ran a campaign based on progressive principles including reducing teen and veteran homelessness and ensuring access to clean water.
The story of 38-year-old Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minn., involves an issue that has been a lightning rod across the nation—the killing of African Americans by police and the need for police reform. Carter, the son of a St. Paul police officer, was notably supported by the family of Philando Castile, who was tragically shot and killed by a police officer on video in 2016.
Other first-time black mayors include a woman, Mary Parham-Copelan of Milledgeville, Ga., who scored an incredible upset over her incumbent opponent with six votes.
In smaller cities, wins went to Brendon Barber of the the seaport city of Georgetown, S.C., and Booker Gainor of Cairo, Ga., a millennial in a small town with a small white majority.
This freshman class joins dozens of black mayors across the nation—in cities large and small, urban and not.
Congratulations to them all!