Races For Governors, Mayors Highlight Election Day

On 'Morning Edition': NPR's Ron Elving previews Tuesday's elections

It's Election Day for many communities across the country. Renee Montagne talks to NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving, who rounds up the election prospects. Two states will choose governors, several cities will elect mayors, and in many regions, ballot initiatives will determine how communities function.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Today is Election Day in parts of the country. Two states are choosing governors. A number of cities are electing mayors. And there are ballot measures in several locations, as well. With no single national office at stake, the turnout is unlikely to be large but millions will vote, and many conclusions will be drawn.

Joining us to talk about what's at stake when the returns roll in is our senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Good morning.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: What is likely to be the big headline in today's contests?

ELVING: Got to be New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie, of course, is the tough talking Republican, very popular in his blue state. And he's also a moderate who's clearly interested in running for president in a few years and, in fact, he's running even now. And Democrat Barbara Buono has barely been able to get noticed in that race. Expecting big win; 60 percent of the vote and more for Chris Christie, obviously giving him a big boost as a national figure, and maybe making him the great moderate hope in the GOP.

MONTAGNE: Alright, so there are, as you've described it, we have a leading personality; obvious national implications. What else is out there?

ELVING: The other statewide race of national interest is the governorship in Virginia where Democrat Terry McAuliffe has led in all the polls. But where the margin is narrow enough and possibly getting a little narrower, and that could create some suspense tonight. Now the big story in this race has been less the frontrunner than his opponent. That's Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who has been a hero to the Tea Party Republicans since he got elected attorney general four years ago, and even before that, really. He was a champion for a lot of conservative social issues. And on recent days, he's been able to make the race a little bit of a referendum on the president and on Obamacare - what people call Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. But polls indicate it's probably still more like to be a referendum on Cuccinelli.

MONTAGNE: Ron, New York and - sorry, New Jersey and Virginia, those two states have long held their elections for governors one year after the presidential election, usually with the result that the president's party takes a licking. How about this year?

ELVING: It's going to be a mixed bag, I think, especially because Christ Christie is not seen as a major critic of the White House, whereas Cuccinelli is. And Cuccinelli has been saddled with the unpopularity of last month's federal government shutdown, which was especially unpopular in a state that's home to a lot of federal workers. So it looks like Virginia is going to break a long string back to the 1970s, of going against the White House in its gubernatorial elections.

MONTAGNE: Now, I can think of another race that is very interesting today. And that's the New York City mayor's race. Tell us about that and other races.

ELVING: That's right. There's a Democrat running there, Bill de Blasio, who's been a public advocate there and who is seen as a champion of the progressive agenda. And he would be the first Democrat to win that mayoral race since 1989 - that's nearly a quarter of a century - in a heavily democratic city.

Maybe the bigger story than de Blasio is that he is already repudiated, in no uncertain terms, the mayoral agenda of his predecessor, three-term mayor, Mike Bloomberg.

And, you know, we're also seeing mayors getting elected in Detroit and Atlanta, Seattle and Boston - all very Democratic cities. But on the other hand, down in Alabama in a deep-dyed Republican congressional district, we've got two candidates each claiming to be the true conservative there; one more conventional office holder and also a Tea Party activist challenging him.

MONTAGNE: And I mentioned a moment ago that there are ballot measures here and there. Tell us about those.

ELVING: Some of the states, you know, are inclined to this kind of lawmaking and some of them are at it again this time. In Maine, they're voting on a possession of marijuana law. In New York, there's an initiative to allow casinos. And Colorado has an initiative that would ban the fracking process that's used to get at oil and gas reserves. Colorado is also going to vote on a tax on marijuana; that's moving the issue along a little bit. And in Washington state, we are looking at an initiative that would require labels for genetically modified foods in stores.

MONTAGNE: So a lot of interesting contests. Thanks for the round-up, Ron.

ELVING: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving.

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