New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a possible Republican presidential candidate, was easily re-elected in one of the key races in the US’ off-year elections. Republicans narrowly lost the governor’s seat in Virginia, while New Yorkers elected a liberal Democrat to succeed billionaire Michael Bloomberg as mayor.
Christie’s landslide victory on Tuesday in a Democratic-leaning state demonstrated his broad, bipartisan appeal and could boost his candidacy should he seek the presidential nomination in 2016.
The off-year vote will be scrutinized for clues to the mood of Americans ahead of next year’s congressional elections — especially with a pragmatic conservative Republican, Christie, prevailing in New Jersey, while a more ideological one, Ken Cuccinelli, lost in Virginia.
However, the answers could be murky. Both races were shaped by the personalities and issues in those states and it could be hard to judge if there are national implications. And the Virginia race, won by Democratic businessman Terry McAuliffe, turned out much tighter than polls had anticipated.
New Yorkers elected Bill de Blasio, head of the city’s public watchdog agency, to replace Bloomberg, the Republican-turned-independent who has been the city’s mayor for 12 years.
Though New York is overwhelmingly Democratic, it has not had a Democratic mayor in 20 years, after Bloomberg’s three terms and two by his Republican predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani.
In other, widely scattered balloting, Colorado voters agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent with the proceeds dedicated to regulating the newly legalized drug and building schools. In Washington state, a ballot measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified food was failing in early returns.
Alabama Republicans chose the establishment-backed Bradley Byrne over a Tea Party supported rival in a special congressional primary runoff election.
Turnout was relatively light given that it was not a presidential or congressional election year, and voters were primarily hard-core partisans.
In New Jersey, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, Christie had 60 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono. He is the first Republican in a quarter-century to receive more than 50 percent of the vote in New Jersey, a state that voted overwhelmingly for US President Barack Obama last year.
“As your governor, it has never mattered where someone is from, whether they voted for me or not, what the color of their skin was, or their political party,” Christie said in his victory speech. “For me, being governor has always about getting the job done, first.”
In Virginia, McAuliffe, a former top Democratic Party official and close friend of former US president Bill Clinton and his wife, former US secretary of state Hillary Rodman Clinton, defeated Cuccinelli, the state attorney general.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, McAuliffe had 48 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Cuccinelli, with Libertarian Robert Sarvis receiving 7 percent.
McAuliffe, who characterized Cuccinelli as outside the mainstream, repeatedly cast himself as a dealmaker willing to compromise with a Republican-controlled state legislature.
Cuccinelli’s candidacy was hurt by his ties to the small-government Tea Party movement, which is widely blamed for instigating last month’s federal government shutdown. A large number of federal employees live in northern Virginia, where McAuliffe received the large majorities that finally put him over the top.
In New York City, De Blasio’s overwhelming victory over Republican Joe Lhota, a onetime Giuliani deputy, is seen as reflecting unease with the inequality of wealth among city residents, even as New York prospered over the past two decades.
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, De Blasio, who ran on a tax-the-rich platform that contrasted sharply with Bloomberg’s record, had 73 percent of the vote compared with 24 percent for Lhota.
Among other races, former health care executive Mike Duggan was elected mayor of Detroit, now undergoing the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. In Boston, Democratic State Representative Martin Walsh was elected to succeed Mayor Thomas Menino.