President Clinton didn’t want to play at CityVote, but he seems to have won anyway.
Colin Powell wasn’t technically in the running, but he edged Kansas Sen. Bob Dole for second in most cities.
In Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and 13 other cities reporting partial returns, Clinton topped a field of some 21 current, former and perhaps future presidential candidates.
In partial returns in Spokane, Clinton won nearly 40 percent of the vote.
Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who said Tuesday he will announce his plans by Thursday, was running just ahead of Dole for second.
Dole finished slightly ahead of Powell in Coeur d’Alene. In all other cities, however, the top three slots were the same as in Spokane.
The other candidates trailed far behind, with vote percentages in the single digits.
The real question, however, was: What do the vote totals mean?
Clinton will be hard-pressed to claim victory today because the Democratic National Committee tried to have his name removed from the ballot. The party leaders were unsuccessful, but the fight was one of many bumps in the road for the project.
CityVote was billed as a non-binding straw poll, rather than a traditional primary because it did not choose the delegates who actually pick the major party’s presidential candidates at next year’s national political conventions.
The concept of giving urban areas an early say in the presidential selection process was proposed by Larry Agran, a former mayor of Irvine, Calif., and an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1992.
The organization tried to schedule candidate debates at four participating cities.
But three were canceled, and the sole forum in Spokane was ignored by Clinton and the major Republican candidates.
When national Democrats failed to get Clinton removed from the ballot, Washington state Democrats went to court to try to block the straw poll in six Washington cities. They failed.
But several cities in other states had to drop out because their election laws didn’t give them the authority. By Tuesday, CityVote consisted of 15 cities - the largest was Tucson, Ariz., with 405,000 residents; the smallest, Fayette, Mo., with 2,888.
That meant there were more candidates than cities - 21 in most municipalities, although Moscow, Idaho, dropped the names of California Gov. Pete Wilson because he quit the presidential race and Texas businessman Ross Perot because he wrote the town a letter saying he wasn’t currently a candidate.
Moscow did, however, add the name of Tom Schellenberg of Montana, a long-shot Republican who didn’t meet CityVote’s rather lax standards to be considered.