Mayoral Mismatch


Mayors have had little success in becoming president, with only one big-city chief executive, Grover Cleveland of Buffalo, later governor of New York, actually making it to the White House. Yet this year’s running of the donkeys includes several: a minor-city chief executive, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend; a former big-city mayor, Cory Booker of Newark; former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro; and John Hickenlooper, formerly chief executive of Denver before becoming Colorado’s governor. They may yet be joined by New York’s Bill de Blasio. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti considered a run but thought better of it, perhaps realizing that his city’s burgeoning homeless population and rampant inequality would dog him on the campaign trail. The other mayors’ records are not much better than Garcetti’s, but they didn’t hesitate to jump in.

Buttigieg’s record is nothing remarkable. South Bend remains plagued by racial tension and a high murder rate. Buttigieg’s big challenge, according to Slate’s woke take, is whether being gay will make up for the unfortunate reality that he is also white and male, especially given his failure to embrace “the idea of gayness as a cultural framework, formative identity, or anything more than a category of sexual and romantic behavior.”

As mayor of Newark, Cory Booker was an improvement over the corrupt Sharpe James, particularly in attracting philanthropic investment, but he left behind the same crime-ridden, impoverished municipality. Castro, as CityLab has noted, operated under a weak-mayor system, and his city’s healthy economy owed more to Texas’s free-market allure and policies of earlier mayors than to anything that he accomplished. Hickenlooper, a rare species of pragmatic Democrat, was arguably more successful than the others, but his greatest accomplishment, the expansion of Denver’s troubled transit system, has become plagued by overruns and declining ridership. In any case, Hickenlooper, the most attractive of the mayoral brood, has made no impression in the polls and seems destined to finish out the race on the sidelines.

Read the entire piece on City Journal.

Joel Kotkin is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, director of the Chapman Center for Demographics and Policy and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston, Texas. He is author of eight books and co-editor of the recently released Infinite Suburbia. He also serves as executive director of the widely read website and is a regular contributor to, Real Clear Politics, the Daily Beast, City Journal and Southern California News Group.

Photo: Via Bill de Blasio Twitter.