At least one news organization reported yesterday that Mayor Don Ness is the first Duluth mayor to be unopposed in an election. Well, it’s not true.
Mayor Ness is indeed the only mayor in the past 126 years to go unopposed, but Maryanne Norton at the Duluth Public Library has found three Duluth mayors in the 1800s who were unopposed.
Sidney Luce was elected unopposed in 1872 and served one term.
Dr. Vespasian Smith was elected twice with no opposition — in 1873 and 1874. (Mayors served one-year terms until 1913, when the current four-year system began.)
Horace B. Moore was elected unopposed in 1885 and served one term.
Local historian and book publisher Tony Dierckins notes there were few people living in Duluth when Luce and Smith were elected, so it’s not really surprising they ran unopposed. And Moore was elected during the period in which Duluth had lost its city status and was a township. (So although Moore is kind of considered a mayor in retrospect, at the time he was actually village president).
Anyway, in spite of all that, Ness running unopposed in 2011 is still a remarkable historical note.
(By the way, some news organizations did phrase the story properly, noting that it’s the “first time in more than a century” a Duluth mayor has gone unopposed. However, at least one mentioned “Mayor Ness is the first mayor in the city’s history to run unopposed,” and that is incorrect.)