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Contests in Virginia, New Jersey are highlight of off-year election

Voters line up at a polling station at Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean, Virginia Tuesday. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The polls are open. The closing arguments have been made. And by the end of the day Tuesday voters in New Jersey and Virginia should know who will be in charge of their respective states for the next four years.
The Morning Line

In the Garden State, incumbent Gov. Chris Christie is expected to score a convincing reelection victory over Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, which could boost the blunt-talking Republican’s prospects heading into 2016.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe appears to hold the advantage in Virginia over the state’s Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, in a campaign that has been defined by sharp clashes over personality more than substance.

The two races offer a study in contrasts for Republicans, with Christie showcasing an ability to win support from groups critical to winning not just statewide, but on the national stage. According to a Quinnipiac University survey released Monday, Christie has a 21-point advantage among women in New Jersey, and a 35-point lead among independent voters.

The latest Quinnipiac survey in Virginia showed Cuccinelli splitting the independent vote with McAuliffe, but trailing by 14 percentage points among women.

The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak examines the importance of female voters in the Old Dominion, given the McAuliffe campaign’s focus on painting Cuccinelli as too extreme for women.

A bigger question in Virginia is whether voters there will choose a Democrat to be the state’s attorney general for the first time in two decades.

Should McAuliffe have strong coattails, that could carry Mark Herring over the finish line to defeat Mark Obenshain for that post. Democrat Ralph Northam is expected to easily beat E.W. Jackson for the lieutenant governor slot. State legislative races are on the line as well, and Northern Virginia Democrats think it’s possible they will finally be able to oust one of the most socially conservative lawmakers, Delegate Bob Marshall, from his seat, reports Politico’s James Hohmann. He writes:

Democrats would then hold all three top statewide offices–governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general–as well as both U.S. Senate seats for the first time since 1969. Party strategists think they might be able to pick up as many as five state legislative seats if it’s a really good night.

Hohmann also notes that just two in five voters are expected to turn out Tuesday.

Politico’s Maggie Haberman has details on Christie’s strategy that led to his expected blowout Tuesday over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, and the Republican’s not-so-subtle moves to position himself for a national race. And the New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore gets at the massive money spent in the Garden State.

Also happening this Election Day are mayoral contests in New York City, Boston and Detroit. Democrats are poised to win the New York and Boston contests, and Mike Duggan is likely to become Detroit’s first white mayor in four decades in that non-partisan race.

And in the South, a runoff election to fill a vacant House seat in Alabama pits a business-friendly Republican against a tea party conservative and is the first GOP test for voters since the 16-day partial government shutdown.

There are more than just candidates on the ballot this Tuesday. On top of choosing a governor, New Jersey voters will also decide whether to increase the minimum hourly wage by $1 to $8.25 for workers in the state.

In SeaTac, Wash., a small city south of Seattle, there is a referendum on requiring most businesses to pay a wage of $15 an hour. We’ll take a look at the debate over that measure on Tuesday with a report from economics correspondent Paul Solman.

Washington State residents also will decide whether to mandate the labeling of genetically modified food.

Voters in Colorado, meanwhile, will weigh two statewide ballot measures related to the taxation of recreational marijuana and an increase in the income tax to expand education funding. (And in 11 Colorado counties, voters will decide whether to secede.)

On Monday, Gwen Ifill spoke with Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio and Enrique Cerna of KCTS in Seattle about those initiatives.

Watch the segment here or below:

And Politics Desk Assistant Bridget Bowman rounded up all of the interesting ballot initiatives and state contests. The NewsHour will be tracking the major elections and we’ll have analysis for you Wednesday morning.


  • The Senate advanced legislation Monday that would ban discrimination against gays in the workplace. Fifty-four Democrats and seven Republicans voted to begin debate on the measure, likely clearing the way for final passage later this week. The bill faces obstacles in the Republican-controlled House, where Speaker John Boehner has voiced his opposition and declared he will not bring the proposal to the floor for a vote.

  • The Associated Press reports that a private foundation in California is targeting Hollywood screenwriters to make sure the Affordable Care Act is scripted into small-screen plot lines.

  • Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad deconstructs one of the most interesting 2014 contests, looking at how Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas made it to the “most vulnerable” list and how he might avoid suffering the same fate as Blanche Lincoln next fall.

  • And speaking of vulnerable, Roll Call’s political team has the top 10 most vulnerable members of the House one year from the midterms.

  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is facing new charges of plagiarism over an editorial the Republican wrote for the Washington Times in September.

  • The Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo notes it didn’t take long for the Florida governor’s race to turn negative following former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s announcement Monday that he would seek the office as a Democrat.

  • Some federal workers are suing the government over the shutdown.

  • The Washington Post previews a strange treaty case to be heard Tuesday before the Supreme Court.

  • And Sen. Ted Cruz penned an op-ed arguing the case can be used to stop federal overreach.

  • Outgoing Boston Mayor Tom Menino was emotional Monday, apparently about the end of his two-decade reign leading the city.

  • Former Rep. William Coyne, D-Pa., died over the weekend. He was 77.

  • In his op-ed coming out as gay Monday, Maine Rep. Michael Michaud, a Democrat, wrote about his candidacy for governor and said he decided to make the announcement because of “whisper campaigns” and “insinuations” from opponents. “Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: ‘Yes, I am. But why should it matter?'” Michaud wrote.

  • ProPublica has crafted a nifty Voting Rights Act map showing everything that’s happened in the states since the Supreme Court issued its decision gutting a key provision of the decades-old law earlier this year.

  • The three women serving as Supreme Court justices joined former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for this portrait.

  • Former NewsHour senior correspondent Ray Suarez is joining Al Jazeera America to host a daily 5 p.m. show.

  • The Washington Post’s Martin Weil noticed that the Washington skyline got a little darker Monday, with daylight savings, a partial eclipse and the end of illumination of the under-construction Washington Monument.

  • On pool duty Monday, BuzzFeed’s Evan McMorris-Santoro actually made a listicle of the five “OMG” things that the president said to the Chicago Blackhawks while honoring them at the White House. Have we mentioned #potuslovessports?

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow


Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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