For many, Tuesday's elections were filled with surprises. Two of the most interesting races involved mayoral bids. In Philadelphia, W. Wilson Goode was reelected, and in Hartford, Conn., voters elected New England's first black female mayor.
Newspapers were calling the race between Republican challenger Frank L. Rizzo and Goode a choice of the lesser evil. Indeed, some described the choice as between the perceived racism of Rizzo and the proven incompetence of Goode.
Rizzo, who had twice been mayor and failed in his bid to be elected for a third time, was ungracious in defeat, obdurately refusing to concede Goode's victory and continuing to heap the insults that were characteristic of both camps in what was clearly a dirty campaign.
Goode's narrow reelection might make it appear that he has risen from the ashes of the charred houses that resulted when police dropped a bomb on a house occupied by the radical MOVE group, but only time will tell if he can ever live down his ignominous role in the deaths of 11 people.
If the mood in Philadelphia, however, could be described as bittersweet, the temper farther north was jubilant.
In Carrie Saxon Perry's office in the Connecticut House of Representatives, the telephone rang all morning. By 11 a.m. yesterday, scores of messages -- an aide estimated "hundreds" -- had arrived.
By defeating Republican Philip Steele, Democrat Perry, 56, a four-term member of the legislature, became the first black woman mayor not only in New England but of any major city in the Northeast, joining 48 other black women mayors of cities across America. Perry, who had hoped for a day to unwind and organize after the election, was tired but exuberant.
I have to admit that my interest in Perry stemmed partly from her response to her city's challenges that are not unlike those we face in the District.
What Hartford and Washington have in common is not size (Hartford's population is about 135,000 compared with the District's 623,000) but a building boom downtown that exists in juxtaposition with deep poverty pockets in certain neighborhoods.
Like Washington, Hartford, in many ways, is "a tale of two cities."
In Hartford's case, it's the fourth poorest city in a state with the nation's highest per capita income, a city whose building boom is fueled mainly by rapidly expanding insurance companies and banks.
"Downtown continues to prosper while our neighborhoods don't flourish," Perry said yesterday. "Some of our neighborhoods look like war-torn areas -- filled with vacant apartments and housing that needs rehabbing."
To revitalize those neighborhoods, Perry proposes establishing a "linkage" policy in which businesses would be under a formal mandate to make an "ongoing and substantive" commitment to address jobs, housing and education.
What is different about Perry's plan is that it would be mandatory for Hartford businesses to participate.
"Most businesses don't like the mandatory aspect," she concedes, "they prefer the carrot to the stick. But I like a combination of both."
She also hopes to push businessmen to tap into Hartford's potential labor pool. Recognizing that, like other cities across the nation, there is a decline in the size and quality of Hartford's labor force at a time when available jobs require more skill than ever, Perry plans to stress job training as a priority.
"If our people are trained properly, they can be part of the work force in the year 2000," she stresses. "I know the potential exists."
Perry's ideas are right on track. Increasingly business is expressing concern at the very problems she outlines.
But like Goode's challenge to refurbish his administration's tarnished reputation and rebuild faith in his leadership, Perry's priorities will take time, and the patience of voters.