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Clinton Campaigns For Democrats in Virginia, N

November 4, 1997

Clinton Campaigns For Democrats in Virginia, N.J. Governors’ Races; Mayoral Elections Tomorrow in NYC, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle and MiamiBy DAN MURPHY

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Republican Gov. Christie Whitman, seeking to avoid the kind of upset that got her elected four years ago, reminded voters on the last day of the campaign that she kept her promise to cut taxes.

Democratic challenger Jim McGreevey, looking for history to repeat itself, spent Monday urging voters to blame Whitman for rising property taxes and the highest auto insurance rates in the country.

In Virginia, the only other state electing a governor this year, President Clinton campaigned with Democrat Don Beyer, saying Republican Jim Gilmore’s proposal to cut the state car tax would hurt children.

Tuesday’s balloting offers just one congressional race, which has drawn national attention because both parties hoped to claim it as an indication of things to come in 1998. Democrat Eric Vitaliano is locked in a razor-close contest with Republican Vito Fossella to represent the New York borough of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.

Leading the parade of mayoral elections is New York City, where Republican Rudolph Giuliani seems assured of a second term. Other cities electing leaders include Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, Miami and Minneapolis.

And several states have major propositions on the ballot. Oregonians are being asked whether a law permitting assisted suicide should be repealed. Voters in Washington state will decide whether to legalize the medical use of marijuana, require trigger locks on handguns, and bar employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Houston will decide whether to become the first city in the country to wipe out affirmative action.

Democrats looked to the Staten Island race as an early test of their chances of wresting control of the House from the GOP next year. While Clinton stumped for Vitaliano, the GOP brought in George Bush, Bob Dole and several congressman, including Sonny Bono, to campaign for Fossella.

``This is a very important bellwether,″ said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif. ``When we win this on Tuesday, it’s a clear signal we’re going to hold on to the majority.″

The winner succeeds Susan Molinari, a Republican who resigned to become a television anchorwoman.

In Virginia, Gilmore broke open what was a close race by proposing to slash the hated property tax that local governments assess on personal cars and trucks. In the most recent polls, Beyer trailed by as much as 12 percentage points. The winner succeeds Republican George Allen, barred by law from seeking a second term.

McGreevey, meanwhile, cut what had once been Whitman’s double-digit lead in the polls to anywhere from two to nine percentage points by hammering away on two perennial Jersey gripes: The nation’s highest average auto insurance rates _ $1,013 per car _ and rising property taxes.

``I entered the race against the odds because I believe New Jersey needed a governor who advocated for the middle class,″ McGreevey, 40, the mayor of Woodbridge and a state senator, said in Red Bank on Monday, contrasting himself with Whitman’s affluent upbringing.

Whitman spent Monday wrapping up a 10-day statewide bus tour in Republican-leaning and swing counties in the GOP stronghold of Freehold.

``Four years ago I asked a lot of you to trust me,″ said Whitman, 51, reminding about 300 supporters that she cut the state income tax 30 percent. ``The last three and a half years, we have turned this state around.″

While both candidates looked to persuade the 54 percent of the state’s registered voters who are unaffiliated with either party, Democrats were determined to avoid a repeat of 1993, when a weak party turnout in key urban areas led to Democrat Jim Florio losing his re-election bid to Whitman.

``The difference between Jim Florio’s effort and this effort is we are not taking one single vote for granted,″ said Gloria Soto, director of Latino Base Vote, a Hispanic group mobilizing for McGreevey.

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