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Atlanta Mayoral Race Heads to Run-Off

ATLANTA - Turnout was sparse here Tuesday as voters went to the polls in a mayoral election that could give the city its first white mayor in a generation.

"Everybody I talked to says it's been light," said Barry Garner, Fulton County's director of registration and elections.

Based on an average of mayor's races in 2005, 2001 and 1997, he expected voter turnout of about 35%.

Early returns showed City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is white, ahead of two strong African-American candidates, City Council President Lisa Borders and state Sen. Kasim Reed, and three lesser-knowns.

If no candidate won outright with a majority plus one vote, the top two vote-getters would be on the ballot for a Dec. 1 runoff.

Voters were electing mayors in several other big cities:

In Boston, incumbent Thomas Menino won a fifth term after a campaign against his toughest challenger in 16 years, City Councilor at Large Michael Flaherty.

The race showed how changing demographics affect a city's politics, said Charles Stewart III, chairman of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's political science department.

"The outside world might just say you've got an Italian-American and an Irish-American running for mayor - ah, this is Boston," Stewart said. "But both are making very, very strong appeals to the minority community. Boston is a majority-minority city," and minority residents and younger, newly arrived whites are pivotal voters, he said.

Flaherty announced after the primary that he would name losing candidate Sam Yoon his deputy mayor.

"Flaherty brought in as his running mate, so to speak, Sam Yoon a Korean American, and he was attacking Menino for appointing a Cabinet that was too white," Stewart said. "And you're thinking, this isn't your father's Boston."

Charlotte voters were electing their first new mayor in nearly 15 years. Republican John Lassiter and Democrat Anthony Foxx, both members of the City Council, were locked in a down-to-the-wire battle to replace incumbent Pat McCrory, a Republican who is leaving after seven terms.

Foxx would be the city's first African-American mayor since Harvey Gantt, who served 1983-87, and only the second in its history.

The race was the most expensive local contest - more than $1 million - in the city's history.

In Houston, four candidates were vying for mayor. In early voting - Houston allows voting for two weeks leading up to Election Day - City Controller Annise Parker, who would be the city's first openly gay mayor, was locked in a dead heat with former city attorney Gene Locke.

City Councilman and architect Peter Brown and Roy Morales, a county school official, were also running.

"The only thing that's stood out in this race is the high number of undecideds," said Marc Campos, a political consultant not working in the race. "Close to 30% of the voters had not made up their minds well into early voting."

He and other political analysts predicted that no candidate would win a majority, making a runoff likely.

"I don't think there are any odds on somebody winning without a runoff," Campos said.

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