KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ City Councilman Emanuel Cleaver battled colleague Bob Lewellen today in a bid to become Kansas City's first black mayor.

Cleaver, a Methodist minister and three-term council member, was favored to defeat Lewellen, who is white.

Cleaver, 46, had a strong showing in white districts in the sharply segregated city in the Feb. 25 primary, picking up 37 percent of the vote in the eight-candidate race - more than twice what Lewellen, 53, received.

A poll by the Kansas City Star two weeks ago showed Cleaver leading 2-to-1, although both sides said the race had tightened since then.

Taxes have been a key issue. Cleaver favors raising the earnings tax in part to fund $3 million worth of improvements in the police force each year.

Lewellen wants to appoint a task force to review revenue needs and says a gasoline tax should be considered for street and bridge improvements.

Kansas City has a population of 435,000. About 32 percent of its voters are black. U.S. Rep. Alan Wheat, a Democrat, became its first black congressman in 1982.