Racial Milestone in York, Pa.

YORK, Pa. -- Forty years after race riots erupted on its streets, this city in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania is about to elect its first African-American mayor.

Both the Democrat and Republican candidates are African-American, with Democrat Kim Bracey, York's former director of community development and a relative newcomer to politics, the favorite to win in a city where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2 to 1.

Republican Wendell Banks failed to appear at the only scheduled debate earlier this month, later saying that he was ill. He couldn't be reached to comment.

It has taken a long time for this city to heal from the racial strife, in part because of lingering echoes of the riots. More than 30 years passed before any charges were brought -- after new evidence came to light and an investigation was revived -- in the 1969 killings of a white police officer and an African-American woman during weeks of violence between white and black youths.

In 2001, York's mayor, who had been a police officer during the unrest, was charged with murder for allegedly inciting white gangs involved in killing the African-American woman. The mayor resigned before being acquitted in 2002. Others were convicted of murder, in separate cases, of the woman and the police officer.

"It took a while to clean that slate," said John Brenner, York's current mayor, adding that the coming election "is something for us to celebrate."

Civil-rights historians say the election is an important symbolic shift for the city and credit decades of antidiscrimination initiatives and the more recent influx of minorities, particularly Hispanics, who have eroded the dominance of white voters. Those gradual changes received a boost from last year's election of President Barack Obama, which energized the African-American community here and led to increased voter registration...

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