Republican Governor Chris Christie cruised to reelection Tuesday in Democratic-leaning New Jersey amid talk of a possible 2016 presidential run. Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly won the Virginia governor’s race, leading what Democrats hoped would be their first sweep of statewide offices in decades.
New Yorkers chose Bill de Blasio as mayor, electing the first Democrat since 1989. In Detroit, Mike Duggan, a former medical center chief, defeated Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
Alabama Republicans chose the establishment-backed Bradley Byrne over a Tea Party-supported rival in a special congressional runoff election in the conservative state.
In other, widely scattered off-year balloting, Houston rejected a plan to turn the Astrodome into a convention hall, likely dooming it to demolition, while Colorado agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent.
Taken together, the results in individual states and cities yielded no broad judgments on how the American public feels about today’s two biggest national political debates — government spending and health care — which are more likely to shape next fall’s midterm elections.
Still, the outcomes of both governors’ races and the special Alabama GOP primary signaled that, in the midst of a deep division within the Republican Party, pragmatism won out over ideology.
In Virginia, McAuliffe turned back a late-game push by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli, a Republican. Both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton made appearances for McAuliffe in the final weeks, and so did President Obama over the weekend. The Democrat also dramatically outspent his GOP rival in TV ads in the final weeks.
Cuccinelli had sought to prove that a Tea Party-backed conservative could win the governorship of a swing-voting state. He brought big-name supporters to the state, too, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal — all potential presidential contenders.
Virginia Democrats hoped they were on their way to holding all statewide-elected offices for the first time since 1970 and turning back the conservatism that has dominated for the past four years under one-term-limited Governor Bob McDonnell. The state’s two senators already are Democrats. Aside from McAuliffe, Democrats also won the lieutenant governorship. The race for the attorney general’s office was neck and neck.
The governor’s race had turned McAuliffe’s way last month partly because of the partial government shutdown. Exit polls found that about a third of Virginia voters said they were personally impacted by the shutdown.
Christie’s resounding victory was intended to send a message to the GOP that a Republican with an inclusive pitch could win in Democratic territory.
‘‘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 been about getting the job done, first.’’
His victory showed his ability to draw support from Democrats, independents, and minorities. Much like George W. Bush did in his reelection race as governor in Texas in 1998, Christie now may have fodder to argue that he is the most electable in what might well be a crowded presidential primary field.
Later this month, Christie assumes the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, giving him another platform for a possible national campaign.
Christie’s victory makes him the only Republican governor considering the presidency and serving with a Democratic Legislature. He was opposed for reelection by state Senator Barbara Buono.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, the party’s internal squabbles played out in Alabama. Byrne, the choice of the GOP establishment, won against Tea Party favorite Dean Young.
The race was the first test of the US Chamber of Commerce’s promise to try to influence primaries. The group has pumped at least $200,000 into supporting Byrne, who has almost two decades in politics.
In Houston, a coalition of local and national preservation groups as well as a political action committee had banded together to try to convince voters that the Astrodome, one of the city’s signature structures, should be reborn and not razed.
The referendum had called for creating 350,000 square feet of exhibition space by removing the interior seats and raising the floor to street level. Other changes included creating 400,000 square feet of plaza and green space on the outside of the structure as part of the project, dubbed ‘‘The New Dome Experience.’’
Houston-area leaders have said the so-called ‘‘Eighth Wonder of the World’’ would probably have to be torn down if the ballot measure failed to pass.
In other races:
■ Big city mayors: In New York, de Blasio won handily over Republican Joe Lhota after Michael Bloomberg’s dozen-year tenure. In Detroit, Duggan was victorious, though the job holds little power while the city is being run by a state-appointed emergency manager. Atlanta, Minneapolis, Seattle, and other cities also chose mayors.
■ Colorado: Colorado voters agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent and apply the proceeds to regulating the newly legalized drug and building schools. Voters in 10 rural counties refused to approve secession from the state. One county narrowly voted to secede, but it was a symbolic gesture.
■ Washington state: Voters weighed in on a ballot issue over mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, a contest that has drawn hefty financial contributions in opposition from the likes of PepsiCo., Monsanto, and General Mills, which last year spent $46 million to defeat a similar measure in California.