Across US, election battles offer little political insight

Personalities, not trends, define key races, analysts say

The reelection of Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey could boost pragmatists within the Republican Party.
Mel Evans/Associated Press
The reelection of Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey could boost pragmatists within the Republican Party.

NEWARK, N.J. — Voters across America will render judgment in a slew of political contests Tuesday, including elections for governor in New Jersey and Virginia, where the outcomes could highlight the Republican Party division between pragmatists and ideologues.

New York will elect a successor to Mayor Michael Bloomberg after his 12 years in office, with a Democrat heavily favored to win. Detroit will select a mayor whose power will be limited by the city’s bankruptcy. In Colorado, voters will set a tax rate for marijuana.

Republican and Democratic strategists alike say that Tuesday’s contests are more defined by candidate personalities and region-specific issues than political trends that could influence next year’s larger fight for control of Congress. Turnout across the country is expected to be low, typical for elections held in years when the White House and Congress aren’t up for grabs.


Candidates across the country made their last pitches to voters as local elections boards made their final preparations.

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‘‘We can’t take anything for granted. We are Republicans in New Jersey,’’ Christie told supporters Monday, although polls suggest he probably will cruise to a second term over his little-known Democratic opponent, state Senator 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.

Virginia’s Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, who comes from the party’s right flank and promotes his role in challenging the health care overhaul, is struggling against former national Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe, and polls suggest that he could lose.


He has been hurt both by the government shutdown, for which Republicans are bearing most of the blame, and by a political scandal involving accusations of lavish gift-giving by a political supporter to another Republican, Governor Bob McDonnell, and his family.

A McAuliffe victory would break a three decade-long trend: Virginia has elected a governor from the party not occupying the White House in every gubernatorial election since 1977.

Neither race will offer significant clues about the state of the electorate heading into a midterm election year.

‘‘They’re a far cry from being a crystal ball for 2014,’’ said longtime Democratic pollster John Anzalone. ‘‘These two big races are all about the individuals.’’

On Monday, Cuccinelli raced from stop to stop, trying to overcome a deficit in the polls, a crush of negative ads, and a lingering wariness among fellow Republicans about his deeply conservative views.


‘‘I'm scared to death about what Obamacare is doing to Virginians. Terry McAuliffe is scared to death what Obamacare is doing to Terry McAuliffe,’’ Cuccinelli said. ‘‘Tomorrow, we need to have his fears fulfilled.’’

McAuliffe enjoyed a last-minute visit from Vice President Joe Biden on Monday and pledged to use the national health care law to give 400,000 Virginians insurance coverage.

In a speech in Annandale, Va., Biden said the entire nation is looking to the Virginia race to see whether there will be a new direction for American politics. He called Cuccinelli the loudest voice in the nation against women’s access to health care, depicting him as part of a Tea Party faction that’s turning back progress.

Mayors will be elected in some of the nation’s largest cities Tuesday.

In New York, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is the heavy favorite, with polls suggesting he is 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 from 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.

Detroit may feature the nation’s most unusual contest.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and former Detroit Medical Center chief Mike Duggan are competing for a mayor’s title that will have little immediate power as the debt-ridden metropolis is guided through the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history by a state-appointed emergency manager.

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.