NEWARK, N.J. – From rural Iowa to urban New York, voters across America will render judgment in a slate of political contests today, including in New Jersey and Virginia where gubernatorial race outcomes could highlight the Republican Party division between pragmatists and ideologues.
New York City will elect a new mayor for the first time in 12 years, while Boston’s mayoral race pits white collar against blue collar.
Republican and Democratic strategists alike say that Tuesday’s contests are more defined by candidate personalities and region-specific issues than political trends likely to influence next year’s larger fight for control of Congress. Turnout is expected to be low across the country.
“We can’t take anything for granted. We are Republicans in New Jersey,” incumbent Gov. Chris Christie told supporters Monday, although polls suggest he likely will cruise to a second term over his little-known Democratic opponent, State Sen. Barbara Buono. A potential presidential candidate, Christie could become the state’s first Republican to exceed 50 percent of the vote in a statewide election in 25 years.
And a Republican victory in a Democratic-leaning state could stoke the notion within part of the GOP that a pragmatic approach is the answer to the party’s national woes. To the south, a defeat of a conservative Republican in the swing-voting state of Virginia also could feed into that argument.
Former national Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe is favored against Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who comes from the GOP’s right flank and promotes his role as the first state attorney general to challenge the health care overhaul. Cuccinelli has been hurt both by the government shutdown that Republicans are bearing most of the blame for and by a political scandal involving accusations of lavish gift-giving by a political supporter to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family.
In Colorado, voters will decide on a tax rate for marijuana, a suggested 25 percent tax to fund school construction and regulation of the newly legal drug. Also, 11 counties in northern and eastern Colorado were taking nonbinding votes on secession and creating a new state.
Mayors will be elected in some of the nation’s largest cities.
In New York, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is the heavy favorite to succeed outgoing Mayor Michael R. Boomberg, with polls suggesting that he’s on the verge of being the first Democrat to be elected mayor since 1989.
De Blasio, an unabashed liberal, positioned himself as a clean break with the Bloomberg years, promoting a sweeping progressive agenda. He faces Republican rival Joe Lhota, former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a one-time deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani. Lhota has largely campaigned on continuing the policies of both his former boss and Bloomberg.
In Boston, it’s a race of blue-collar Democrat against white-collar Democrat as state Rep. Martin Walsh and City Councilor John Connolly vie for the chance to succeed longtime Mayor Thomas Menino.
Walsh, a union laborer before being elected to the state House, has highlighted his life story, including surviving cancer as a boy and overcoming alcoholism as a young adult. Connolly, a corporate attorney, has focused on education issues. Polls suggest the race will be close.