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Voters to decide elections coast to coast Tuesday

November 5, 2013

NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) — The outcome of gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia on Tuesday night could highlight Republican Party divisions between pragmatists and ideologues as voters go to the polls in a slate of political contests around the country.

Republican and Democratic strategists say Tuesday’s elections are more defined by candidate personalities and region-specific issues than political trends that could influence next year’s larger fight for control of the U.S. Congress.

“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.”

New York City will elect a new mayor for the first time since billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office 12 years ago, and voters appeared poised to make a clean shift to a liberal. Boston’s mayoral race pits white collar against blue collar, and Detroit’s spotlights the city’s bankruptcy — just three of the many mayoral contests from coast to coast.

In New Jersey, polls suggest incumbent Gov. Chris Christie — who is seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate — likely will cruise to a second term over his little-known Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono. Christie could become the state’s first Republican to exceed 50 percent of the vote in a statewide election in 25 years.

“We can’t take anything for granted. We are Republicans in New Jersey,” he told supporters Monday.

A Republican victory in a Democratic-leaning state like New Jersey could stoke the notion within part of the Republican Party 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.

Former national Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe is favored against Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who comes from the party’s conservative wing and promotes his role as the first state attorney general to challenge the health care overhaul. Cuccinelli has been hurt both by the government shutdown that Republicans are bearing most of the blame for and by a political scandal involving accusations of lavish gift-giving by a political supporter to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family.

In New York, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is the heavy favorite to succeed outgoing Mayor Michael Boomberg, with polls suggesting that he’s 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 with 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.

In Boston, it’s a race of blue-collar Democrat against white-collar Democrat as state Rep. Martin Walsh and City Councilor John Connolly vie for the chance to succeed longtime Mayor Thomas Menino.

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 U.S. history by a state-appointed emergency manager.

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With reports from AP writers Thomas Beaumont in Iowa, Kristen Wyatt in Colorado, Corey Williams in Detroit, Jonathan Lemire in New York, Chris Grygiel in Washington State, and Mitch Weiss in North Carolina.

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