Election Day is Tuesday in the United States. And while there are no presidential or midterm races in this “off” year, there are still plenty of intriguing contests in cities and states around the country. Here are 12 worth watching.
The Virginia governor’s race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe, 64, and Republican Glenn Youngkin, 54, is being billed as a bellwether for the national political mood, and could have major implications for President Biden’s domestic agenda and the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. That’s why high-profile Democrats, including Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama, have gone to Virginia to stump for McAuliffe in recent weeks. And it’s also why Democrats have tried to make the race a referendum on former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Youngkin.
Republicans have not won a statewide election since 2009, and the last Republican presidential candidate to win Virginia was George W. Bush in 2004.
McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014 to 2018, led Youngkin, a former private equity executive, by around 8 points in August, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average. But the race has since tightened, with polls showing a dead heat between the two on the eve of the election.
The nation’s other gubernatorial race isn’t expected to be as close, with Democratic incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy, 64, polling roughly 10 points ahead of 59-year-old former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. If the polls are accurate, Murphy would become the first Garden State governor to be reelected since 1977. Biden carried New Jersey by 16 points last November, but Republicans are hoping they can repeat recent history, when the GOP’s Chris Christie won the race in 2009 just one year after Barack Obama — and his running mate — were victorious in New Jersey by the same amount.
Fourteen candidates are vying to replace Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she would not be running for reelection. According to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, City Council President Felicia Moore and former Mayor Kasim Reed were leading the crowded field of mayoral candidates as of Oct. 20, with 24 percent and 20 percent of voter support, respectively. But 42 percent of voters were still undecided on who should be mayor.
Both candidates have pledged to combat violent crime, a leading issue in the mayoral race, which comes as residents of Atlanta’s wealthy Buckhead neighborhood are pushing to secede from the rest of the city because of a recent uptick in robberies, violent assaults and other crime.
A tentative Georgia runoff election is already scheduled to take place on Nov. 30 for any of Tuesday’s races that don’t result in one candidate winning more than 50 percent of the vote.
New York City
After winning the Democratic primary earlier this year, Eric Adams is poised to become the next mayor of New York City on Tuesday. Recent polls show Adams, a 61-year-old retired police officer and Brooklyn borough president, with a commanding 40-point lead over Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa, 67, in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio. The margin is not terribly surprising, given Democrats outnumber Republicans 7 to 1 among registered voters.
Issues of crime and COVID-19 have dominated the campaign, with Sliwa vowing to put an end to vaccine mandates for city employees.
Adams would become only the second Black mayor in New York City history. The first, David Dinkins, served as mayor from 1990 to 1993.
One of the most surprising election results of the year already occurred in June’s Democratic primary for Buffalo’s mayoral race, when 39-year-old India Walton upset four-term incumbent Byron Brown. Walton, a registered nurse, activist and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, shocked the New York state establishment with the win, setting her up to be the first female mayor of Buffalo and the first socialist mayor of a major U.S. city in decades.
While Walton would have typically cruised into office following the primary victory, Brown has not relented, turning to a write-in campaign in an attempt to retain his seat. The state Democratic Party has distanced itself from Walton, with party Chair Jay Jacobs comparing her in an interview last month to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. (Both Walton and Brown are Black.) Jacobs initially defended his statement before later apologizing. Walton has earned the endorsements of major players in the state, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A recent poll from Emerson showed Brown leading.
Boston is set to elect its first woman and first person of color as mayor on Tuesday, when voters pick between two rival City Council members — Annissa Essaibi George, 47, who is Arab American, and Michelle Wu, 36, who is Asian American — to replace interim Mayor Kim Janey, the first woman and first woman of color to hold the post. (Janey was appointed when Mayor Marty Walsh was tapped by Biden to be his secretary of labor.)
By law, all local elections in the city of Boston are nonpartisan, so the candidates are not affiliated with any party. Wu, who was endorsed by Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, is progressive; George, an ally of former Mayor Walsh, has run as a centrist.
A WBUR poll conducted last month found Wu ahead of George by 32 points among likely voters, with solid leads across the city among Black, white, Latino and Asian voters.
A mayoral election in Stamford would normally be pretty unremarkable. But this year’s features a familiar face, especially for sports fans: Bobby Valentine, the former New York Mets manager who once memorably returned to the dugout disguised with a fake mustache after being ejected from a game. Valentine, 71, a Stamford native and longtime restaurant owner, is running against 35-year-old Caroline Simmons, a four-term state representative who defeated incumbent Mayor David Martin in the Democratic primary in September. (Valentine is running unaffiliated because of what he called “the damaging political party system.”)
The race has attracted the attention of former presidents, with George W. Bush endorsing Valentine and Barack Obama backing Simmons.
President Obama understands what is at stake for our community on November 2 and I'm incredibly honored to receive his endorsement. pic.twitter.com/7zuRPDBh1f
— Caroline Simmons (@CarolineforCT) October 21, 2021
On Tuesday, Seattle residents will choose between City Council President M. Lorena González and Bruce Harrell, a former City Council member, to be the city’s next mayor. Recent polls have shown Harrell, 63, with a slight lead over González, 44, but many voters were still undecided as of a couple of weeks ago.
Harrell and González emerged as the top two out of 15 candidates in Seattle’s nonpartisan primary election in August, setting up what the Associated Press described as “a choice between candidates representing the political divide between activist-left residents and more moderate progressives in one of the nation’s most liberal cities.”
As in many other cities, police accountability, crime and public safety are among the top issues in Seattle’s mayoral race. On the more moderate end, Harrell has committed to hiring more police officers, while the more progressive González supported the City Council cutting 20 percent of the Seattle Police Department’s budget last year and has promised further cuts if elected mayor.
Minneapolis has found itself at the center of the movement for police reform following the killings of George Floyd, Philando Castile and Daunte Wright, and on Tuesday voters there will have the option of deciding if they want to overhaul the city’s criminal justice system. Question 2 would alter the city’s charter to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety that would take a “comprehensive public health approach” to dealing with nonviolent crime. Those urging a “no” vote and maintaining the current police department have said that the move during a rise in violent crime in the city would further endanger residents, while supporters of reform retort that the rise in crime is happening under the status quo policing system.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, is also running for reelection against more than a dozen challengers, including former state Rep. Kate Knuth and community organizer Sheila Nezhad. Polls show Frey with a sizable lead, but because the city uses a ranked-choice voting system, the race could wind up being much closer than many political observers would have anticipated.
There are 11 Democrats competing in a special primary election in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, where they are vying for the seat previously held by Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April of pancreatic cancer at age 84. The crowded field includes state Sen. Perry Thurston, state Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy, former Broward County Mayors Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who according to Politico has poured $3.8 million of her own money into the race. The 20th district is reliably Democratic, so the winner of Tuesday’s primary is likely to cruise to victory in January’s general election runoff.
A Democrat will also fill the seat of former Rep. Marcia Fudge, the Cleveland-area congresswoman who was appointed to serve as the Biden administration’s secretary of housing and urban development. Fudge will be replaced by Cuyahoga County Council Member Shontel Brown, who won a competitive primary in August.
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