Category Archives: Maine

USA 2012: Maine caucuses

While Nevada and then Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri voted; Maine held week-long Republican caucuses kicking off on February 4 and ending on February 11. As in most caucuses, these are but straw polls which do not directly affect the allocation of delegates – those are apparently decided in May. Some areas of Maine decided to hold their non-binding straw polls before or after this week-long process, but their results are not counted in the results of this week-long caucus.

Some of these municipal caucuses were held after Rick Santorum’s 3-state sweep on February 6. Santorum’s come-from-behind wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri likely sent a shiver down Mitt Romney’s spine, as it shook the (formerly?) likely nominee from his position as frontrunner. Since his wins on February 6, a new strings of polls have shown that Santorum has surged into first place nationally, while Newt Gingrich is in a state of near-collapse. That Santorum would surge nationally was quite obvious, but Santorum needs to hold his momentum until the next major primaries in Michigan and Arizona on February 28. Santorum seems ready to concede Arizona to Romney for now (it is a fairly favourable state for Romney) but is taking on Romney head-on in Romney’s second home-state of Michigan. In a ominous sign for Gingrich, polls have also shown Santorum gaining or even first in a number of Super Tuesday Southern primaries, which were supposed to be Gingrich’s lifeline.

As for Maine, nobody cared besides Ron Paul, still looking for a win, and Mitt Romney who woke up late realizing that he might lose Maine, which he had won with 52% in 2008, to Paul. Maine’s Republican caucus-goers tend to be much more conservative than other New England GOP voters. In 2000, George W. Bush won Maine (which held primaries then) while losing every other New England state to John McCain. Of course, the Bush family, which vacations in Kennebunkport, has always had a built-in advantage with the Maine GOP. In 2008, Mitt Romney, as the conservative alternative to John McCain, won Maine’s off-the-map caucuses with 52% against 21% for McCain and 18.4% for Ron Paul.

Maine has an independent, against the grain streak which even beats that of Vermont and equals that of Alaska. It elected independent governors, most recently Angus King. It was Ross Perot’s best state in 1992, giving him 30% of the vote and a second place showing. Its congressional delegation includes two more or less standard-fare liberal Democrats in the House, two famous moderate Republican Senators. But in 2010, Maine elected Paul LePage, a Tea Party-backed candidate, to the Governor’s Mansion. Since 2010 (or even before), the Maine Republican Party seems to have been taken over by the right-wing of the GOP.

The results were announced in one batch on February 11, but does not include the bulk of results from Washington County where the votes were delayed due to snow.

Mitt Romney 39.21%
Ron Paul 35.74%
Rick Santorum 17.71%
Newt Gingrich 6.25%
Others 1.09%

Results of the ME caucuses (source: uselectionatlas)

Mitt Romney was able to pull off a rather narrow victory, in spite of early reports (from the Paul camp, fair enough) which indicated results rather favourable to Ron Paul. Not that it matters all that much, given that few people actually cared all that much about Maine and its results are unlikely to give Romney any type of momentum. Mitt Romney performed about 13% worst than in 2008, which indicates Romney’s new problem with caucuses whose participants are overwhelmingly conservative. At the same time, Ron Paul performed about 17% better than in 2008. Maine was Ron Paul’s best chance for win in all the states which have voted thus far, but he was ultimately unable to pull off a win. His other chances for a win are probably Montana, Washington, Alaska and North Dakota; but can he actually win a state, even with a strong GOTV operation on the ground and motivated supporters willing to turn out?

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich did not campaign in Maine, but Santorum still did fairly well without any campaigning. Perhaps if Rick Santorum had put a bit of an effort in Maine, he could have made this a real three-way contest.

The Maine GOP released county and township results, which appear to be incomplete in parts. It only includes ten votes cast in a single town in Washington County, while counties such as Waldo (90 votes) or Aroostook (137 votes) appear to have reported either partial results (I know some parts of Aroostook voted before February 4) or that turnout was really low. The county map looks random, the town map looks both random and empty.

Mitt Romney’s victory was won in Cumberland County, Maine’s most populous county which cast 1,552 votes. While Ron Paul won Portland, Maine’s largest city, Mitt Romney dominated in the affluent coastal suburbs/resorts including Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Freeport and Harpswell. Romney also performed well in other affluent coastal resort communities including York Beach, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Rockport and Bar Harbor. At the same time, in less affluent or perhaps more hippie resort areas such as Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach, Thomaston and Vinalhaven, Ron Paul came out ahead.

Ron Paul also seems to have performed well in the more conservative inland regions, but at the same time he did quite poorly in backwoods Somerset, Franklin and Oxford Counties. Ron Paul’s best showing was in Aroostook County, which he had won in 2008 and which he won this year with 59% this year. But looking at a town map, Aroostook has reported results from only a handful of towns. The heavily Democratic French-Canadian townships of the Madawaska River Valley has basically no results. Aroostook, like Coos County in New Hampshire, seems to be natural Ron Paul territory. It is isolated, conservative but with a fairly independent or libertarian streak. Ron Paul did well in the college towns of Orono and Farmington, but at the same time lost larger college towns such as Gorham or Augusta.

Maine is a fairly working-class state, an element hardly apparent to out-of-state summer vacationers. There seems to be little consistency in results between Maine’s various working-class mill towns. Ron Paul won Lewiston and Auburn, in Androscoggin County, while Rick Santorum performed well in small mill towns in Somerset County. Santorum also performed well in Androscoggin County (26%), which, as Catholic working-class territory, seems to be fairly strong territory for Santorum. In York County, Mitt Romney won Saco and Sanford, but Paul won in Biddeford. Finally, no caucus seems to have been held in Waterville.

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US 2011: Quick Overview

State elections for gubernatorial, legislative, down-ballot and mayoral offices were held in various states in the United States on November 8, 2011. The main elections were gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi, major state initiatives on the ballots in Ohio and Mississippi and state legislative elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Kentucky, Mississippi and I believe runoffs in Louisiana. I won’t cover all races, but here’s a synopsis of the races I found interesting.

Gubernatorial elections were a snooze. Governor Bobby Jindal (R) had already won a landslide reelection in Louisiana’s jungle primary in October, taking nearly 66% of the vote against some 18% for Tara Hollis, a teacher which was the best Democrats could settle on to oppose a very popular governor in a very conservative state where the Democratic Party is a dying breed as the last specimens of conservative Dixiecrats who are still Democrats join the Republicans. Only West Virginia’s special election on October 4 was remotely interesting, with incumbent Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D), a conservative Democrat, winning a surprisingly close race 50-47 against Republican businessman Bill Maloney. Tomblin, a favourite of the WVDP establishment and of businesses, had succeeded Joe Manchin when Manchin won the Senate contest in 2010.

In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear (D) had defeated corruption scared Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) in 2007 by a big landslide (59-41). A conservative Democrat, he fits his state well and has remained popular. The Republican candidate, David Williams was definitely underwhelming and didn’t stand a chance. Gatewood Galbraith, a civil liberties activist and cannabis-legalization supporter, ran as an independent and surprisingly picked up the endorsement of the powerful UMW.

In Mississippi, high-profile Governor Haley Barbour (R) was term-limited. His successor was Lt. Governor Phil Bryant. Democrats picked Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree (an African-American) in a divided primary to be their sacrificial lamb. Here’s a roundup of the gubernatorial results:

State Rep % Dem % Ind %
KY 35.29% 55.72% 8.99%
MS 61.07% 38.93%

Dave’s Election Atlas has the map up for Kentucky and Mississippi should be coming up soon. I won’t comment much on the Kentucky map, as it is the usual pattern for a Democratic landslide in the state, but the surprising aspect to me was Beshear’s pretty underwhelming performance in the Democratic bastions of the coal country where he had performed very strongly (60-70%) in 2007 but did pretty poorly this year. Galbraith, being endorsed by the UMW and being from the broader region (though not directly coal country) is part of it, but in places such as Floyd or Pike, Williams did quite a bit better than Fletcher had done in 2007 despite doing some 5% worse than Fletcher state-wide. I wonder if Obama has a particularly rancid effect on those kind of ancestrally Democratic conservative areas which pulls down even a fairly non-controversial conservative like Beshear. In Mississippi, I was a bit surprised by Bryant’s big win, given that even Barbour hadn’t done that well in 2007, though granted maybe Barbour’s opponent being a white good ol’ boy played a role in retrospect.

Democrats won all downballot offices in Kentucky except GOP-held AgCommish, where the wonderfully name Bob Farmer (D) did very badly. Besides that, only the Treasurer contest was narrow. In Mississippi, Democrats held their AG office but lost all others handily to Republicans.

State legislative elections took place in Mississippi, Virginia and New Jersey. In Mississippi, it appears as if Republicans have narrowly gained control of the House with 62 against 60 Democrats, making Arkansas’ State House the last remaining Democratic-controlled lower house in the Confederacy. The MS GOP also held their narrow hold on the Senate. In New Jersey, Democrats held their 24-16 Senate majority and gained a seat from the Republicans (effect of redistricting) in the General Assembly. This is a bit of a blow for Governor Chris Christie (R) who had campaigned for some GOP candidates. In Virginia, the GOP held the House but it seems as if the Democratic-controlled Senate will be going to a 20-20 tie broken by a GOP Lt. Governor but with committees split equally. In Iowa, Democrats easily held SD-18 in a special election which maintains their narrow 26-24 edge in the chamber. In Arizona and Michigan, two incumbent GOP legislators were yanked out of office by recalls.

Initiatives were the interesting things this year.

In Ohio, the big thing was Issue 2 which was about a Republican bill which limited collective bargaining for public employees. The issue, opposed by various unions, went down big. 61.3% voted no, repealing the bill. It is a particularly bad defeat for Ohio Governor John Kasich (R), and judging from the map a lot of Republicans in rural old working-class areas in the Ohio Valley voted with Democrats against Issue 2.

In Mississippi, I was particularly interested by Initiative 26, which would have defined the term ‘person’ as including “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof”, or in other words a measure which would render abortion illegal given that the USSC in Roe vs. Wade had ruled against Wade because they found that Wade’s definition of a fetus as a person lacked the constitutional and judicial precedent, failing to establish that personhood applied to the unborn. What Mississippi’s law would have done is unclear, as state law cannot overrule federal law. Civil liberty groups such as the ACLU had already prepared to take the matter to court. I expected the issue to carry the day pretty easily: this is Mississippi, a conservative and religious state, not Vermont or Oregon. Apparently, the No on 26 campaign was far more successful than expected and the implications of a yes vote on 26 cooled some voters away from supporting the bill. The issue was rejected 58-42, a margin far bigger than expected even in the last days (a PPP poll gave it as yes +1 in the final days). Apparently, the No on 26 benefited from some much heavier than expected black opposition to the issue – the No vote was by far highest in black counties but carried the day in more racially mixed central Mississippi and only passed in northeastern Mississippi (Appalachian Foothills), a more heavily white and Evangelical area. If such an issue can’t pass in Mississippi, where can it pass?

In Maine, something restoring same-day voter registration also passed.

Overall, stability prevailed and voters played it very moderate and cautious. Too radical measures like Issue 2 or Initiative 26 were rejected. Popular incumbents were returned, regardless of partisan affiliation. Democrats might have pulled out the strongest of the night, with only VA-Sen as a major black eye but a string of victories in KY-Gov, OH-Issue 2, NJ-Leg and IA-SD18. That being said, Republicans could claim victory as well with their victories in Virginia. Once again, who won depends on who you ask.

United States 2009: Results

Yesterday’s off-year elections were marked, overall, by a strong victory of the Republican Party overall and a defeat of incumbents and/or the Democratic Party. Notably, the two gubernatorial races were won rather easily by the Republicans, both of them had elected Democratic Governors in 2005.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, Republican attorney Chris Christie defeated incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine by a surprisingly wide margin, around 49% to 44.5% or so. Here are the results with almost all precincts reporting (99.6%, data from the New York Times):

Chris Christie (R) 48.7% (+5.7%)
Jon Corzine (D) 44.6% (-8.9%)
Chris Daggett (I) 5.8%
9 other candidates 0.9%

NJ 2009The key to the Republican victory in New Jersey was a landslide win for Christie in traditionally Republican uber-affluent counties in the northwest of New Jersey, as well as the mildly affluent coastal counties of Monmouth and Ocean. Christie broke 60% in all but one of these, Somerset, where only Daggett’s 9% kept him under 60%. In addition, he benefited from Corzine’s underwhelming performance in the Democratic strongholds of Hudson, Essex and Union. What is somewhat surprising is that Christie won this race without Bergen County, the only 40%-Corzine county. While at the same time he won Middlesex County. An odd coalition.

Corzine’s county wins were fairly predictable: easy wins in Hudson and Essex (Jersey City and Newark, both with large minority populations), Passaic (Latino area and Paterson, a rather poor area), Mercer (Trenton), Camden (Camden), and Cumberland (a significant black population, poor). Bergen County was his narrowest win, probably due to Daggett’s extremely poor performance here. Bergen is usually a bellwether.

Also noteworthy is that Daggett underperformed by a lot compared to polls, the lowest of which placed them him at 8%, he won 5.5%. This is mostly the result that his poll support was probably quite soft, and a number of his centre-right supporters voted for Christie to prevent a Corzine win. And also vice-versa. His support was highest in affluent Republican areas, and most of his worst counties were won by Corzine. So go figure.

Before anybody makes a dumb comment that this was a vote on Obama, exit polls give him a 57% approval in the state and 60% didn’t vote based on him.

In the State Assembly, not much Republican gains – indicating that Christie’s victory was based on local factors and personal factors (the unpopularity of the incumbent). The Republicans gained one seat in District 4, which would make the composition of the new legislature as follows: 47 Democrats and 31 Republicans.

Virginia

In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell defeated Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds in a landslide, with a larger margin than predicted by polls (which was already huge). Bob McDonnell replaces term-limited Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. Here are the quasi-final results (99% reporting):

Bob McDonnell (R) 58.7% (+12.7%)
Creigh Deeds (D) 41.3% (-10.4%)

VA 2009

The key to McDonnell’s stunningly wide landslide victory was, in addition to huge margins in traditionally Republican white rural Virginia, a strong performance in exurbs and suburbs which abandoned McCain in 2008. He won Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populated county in NoVA, an affluent-but-liberal county in which Obama broke 60%. This is probably the result of a smart campaign by McDonnell, which abandoned social issues (unsuccessfully brought up by Deeds in the summer) and focused on bread-and-butter issues, which proved successful with suburban voters who swung to Obama in 2008.

Deeds was hurt by the fact that he himself was a poor candidate who ran a lousy campaign, but also hurt by low black and traditional Democratic turnout. New Democratic voters (mostly black, but also young liberals) who enthusiastically voted for Obama last year were far from enthusiastic about pushing the lever for Deeds in 2009. I think the low black turnout is seen in Sussex County, 62% black but won narrowly by McDonnell (who didn’t do extremely well with black voters, atleast for the typical Republican). Deeds’ only wins were in liberal NoVA (Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church), college towns (Charlottesville and so on), black areas (Richmond, Petersburg and so on) and finally the dark red counties out there in the Shenandoah Valley (Bath and Alleghany Counties), which is where Deeds is from and is part of his Senate district. Amusingly, he outperformed Obama and Kaine by far here. However, he only narrowly won his own Senate district.

Unlike in New Jersey, the Republican landslide affected downballot races as well: the Republicans easily held the Lt. Governor and Attorney General seat which they held, and had a net gain of 4 in the House of Delegates, which gives them about 57 seats by my count (out of 100, plus 2 Independents caucusing with Republicans). Most Republican gains (6 in total) came in affluent suburban areas, but also in southwestern Virginia-Appalachia, an old coal mining area with an old Democratic vote (Obama did poorly here). The Democrats gained two seats in the House of Delegates.

New York City

For a race which was not supposed to provide much suspense, it did provide a lot. While incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Ind-R), who had removed term limits to give him the right to a third term, still won against Bill Thompson (D), it was a narrow win. Here are the results:

Michael Bloomberg (R) 50.6% (-7.8%)
Bill Thompson (D) 46% (+7.0%)
Stephen Christopher (C) 1.7% (+0.6%)
5 others 1.7%

A map of results by Assembly District or even by voting district is provided by the New York Times. It’s a great mine of information.

Bloomberg won narrowly, despite facing a little-known incumbent who received little support from the Democratic Party and the fact that Bloomberg spent a fortune in this election. Voters were clearly peeved at him removing term limits, finding him arrogant. In addition, he was hurt by the resurgence of the Latino-Black Democratic coalition in a majority-minority city. He had won a landslide in 2005 due to a lot of black support, black voters not liking the then-Democratic nominee, Ferrer (a Latino). Now, with Thompson, black himself, as candidate, they massively swung to the Democrats while Latino kept voting Democratic though most areas which swung to Bloomberg are predominantly Latino areas. Bloomberg won white Catholics (Italians and the like), other white ethnicities (Russian), affluent whites, Jews and generally dominated Asian voters.

The Borough Presidents of all 5 boroughs were re-elected. All are Democrats except for Staten Island. The Democrats also won Public Advocate and Comptroller with 76-77% of the vote against Republican and third party opponents. In the City Council, which was composed of 47 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 1 Working Families (a third party aligned with Democrats) in 2005, the Republicans gained two seats in Queens (Flushing Bay, College Point, Bayside area) from retiring Democrats. The Working Families incumbent in a safe Democratic district was re-elected after also winning the Democratic ballot line.

New York’s 23rd CD

In a surprise, it was the Democrat Bill Owens who won the special election in New York’s 23rd CD, defeating Conservative Doug Hoffman who was supposed to be the runaway favourite after the withdrawal on October 31 of the Republican nominee, the liberal Dede Scozzafava. However, Owens defeated Hoffman by a narrow margin. Here are the results, with a few precincts in various counties outstanding. I am not using the AP’s count, which apparently has issues.

Bill Owens (D) 48.76%
Doug Hoffman (C) 46.11%
Dede Scozzafava (R) 5.13%

NY 23

There remains a few technical issues in the count which will probably reduce the margin a bit but they don’t really put Owens’ election in danger unless there’s something major going on (which there probably isn’t).

This is a significant consolation for Democrats after losing NJ and VA, especially since this win highlights divisions in the Republican Party between hard-line conservatives and moderates-to-liberals like Dede. In addition, this reduces the NY Republican Party’s caucus in Congress from a grand three seats (out of 29) to a staggering two seats. Also, parts of this district (the northernmost parts along the Canadian border) haven’t been represented in the House by a Democrat since the Reconstruction (or, in some cases, the Civil War) so it’s a little symbolism the Democrats will undoubtedly enjoy.

California’s 10th CD

The Democratic Lt. Governor of California, John Garamendi won a seat in the House representing the Bay area seat of CA-10. He defeated Republican opponent David Harmer and third party opponents in a general election after having won an open primary (as did Harmer) in September. Although affluent, it’s a liberal area and Obama won 65% of the vote here as did its former incumbent, Ellen Tauscher in 2008. Here are the results:

John Garamendi (D) 52.98%
David Harmer (R) 42.69%
Jeremy Cloward (G) 1.85%
Mary McIlroy (PFP) 1.34%
Jerome Denham (AIP) 1.15%

Republicans will like the gains they made here in the general election. With a campaign focused on fiscal issues in an affluent economically right-wing district, as well as an unpopular Democratic candidate, the Republicans were able to reduce the Democratic margin here from 34% in 2008 to just 10%.

Maine’s Question 1

Supporters of gay marriage were handed another major setback when Maine voters overturned a law allowing gay couples to marry. Here are the results:

Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?
Yes 52.81%
No 47.19%

Maine 1Despite having much more money on hand and having a larger army of volunteers, opponents of the repeal were unsuccessful since the demographics played against them, or they relied on too small of a voter base. The opponents of gay marriage won in rural Maine, most of which is usually Republican, but it’s best county was Aroostook County, a ‘populist’ Catholic-French Canadian county which is traditionally Democratic, but certainly not due to its liberalism. The Yes vote broke 65% in almost all communities of Aroostook. It also won easily in Somerset and Piscataquis Counties, which are empty rural areas. Anyway, all of the aforementioned places voted in favour of repealing an anti-discrimination gay rights measure in 2005 (which narrowly failed state-wide). It is notable, however, that the measure passed easily in the old industrial (textile mills) town of Lewiston (Androscoggin County) and even broke 60% there. This is an old Democratic area, but one which voted against the anti-discrimination repeal in 2005. The No side needed to appeal to the Democratic working-class to win. It only won in yuppie or affluent areas along the coast of Maine, areas like Portland (over 70% against), Cape Elizabeth, Brunswick, Oguinquit and Bar Harbor. These are all areas which you’d expect to vote like they did. The No side probably relied too much on these places to  put them over the top in the end.

Also on the ballot, Maine voters voted 58.7% in favour of expanding medical marijuana laws.

Other Elections

In Washington state, a referendum asking voters to approve or reject an extended gay domestic partnership measure appears to be narrowly passing, though not all the results are in yet. ‘Approve’ seems to have received 51%.

In mayoral elections across the US, there were a few interesting result. In Houston, a lesbian city controller, Annise Parker (D) came out on top of a divided field and will face black Democrat Gene Locke. If Parker wins, she’d be the first lesbian mayor of Houston and Locke would be the first black mayor. In Atlanta, there will be a runoff between Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed. In Pittsburgh, the young Democratic incumbent Luke Ravenstahl easily won against two Independents. In most major New York cities (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester), the Democrat easily won. In Charlotte, NC, the Democrats picked up the city from a retiring Republican incumbent but the Republicans picked up Greensboro, NC from the Democrats. Finally, in Seattle, the environmentalist Mike McGinn seems to be ahead of former businessman Joe Mallahan by a narrow margin. In Boston, Democrat Tom Menino has won another term in an office he’s held since 1993.

Overall, it was a good night for Republicans, but I would be careful before getting any major trends out of a low-turnout off-year election which was often fought on local and personal issues rather than on national issues, such as approving or not of Barack Obama.

United States 2009: Projections

Polls have closed in Virginia, New Jersey and New York in important off-year elections covered in the post just below this one in more detail. So far, the result and World Elections’ projections.

Virginia: The networks have projected a Bob McDonnell (R) victory. It’s a landslide of epic proportions, McDonnell is currently standing at 60.1% with around 86%. However, he’ll probably drop to 59% or so with remaining votes being concentrated in areas which the Democrats should still win (black areas in the southeast, Fairfax County in NoVA, and Roanoke City). Still, a massive win for McDonnell. The Republicans also sweep the Lt. Governor and Attorney General race, but no major gains in the House of Delegates yet.

New Jersey: Around 30% of the votes are in, and nobody is calling it yet. Chris Christie (R) stands at 51.5% against 42.2% for Governor Corzine (D). Daggett (I) is at 5.5%. From the results in yet and the swings compared to 2005 and 2008, I’ll be brave (or foolish) and go out on a limb to project a Chris Christie (R) victory before anybody else. And with more results, more obvious that Corzine is done.

Maine: The main race is the vote on Question 1 (gay marriage). With only 11% in, No (favouring gay marriage) stands at 53%. It’s too early, and I don’t know where these votes are from, so I won’t make an official projection but I lean towards a ‘No’ win.

New York City and NY-23: Few results in yet, but I will still project the re-election of Michael Bloomberg (I-R) in NYC and the victory of Doug Hoffman (Con) in New York’s 23. Not too hard to do, it’s what most people predict. But it will still be fun to watch.

Polls far from closing in the Pacific states, but it’s not foolish to project the victory of John Garamendi (D) in California’s 10th special election. As well as the victory of ‘approve’ in Washington’s R-71, which would approve a law extending gay domestic partnership rights.

Update at 22:00EST: With new NY results, I am retracting BOTH projections. NYC and NY-23 are too close to call. More tomorrow.

Election Preview: United States 2009

Odd-numbered years are generally not very big election years in the United States, with only a few races and the like, but this year’s been a bit more interesting. The major races to watch in the November 3 off-year elections in the US are two gubernatorial races: New Jersey and Virginia, a mayoral race in New York City (practically a gubernatorial election), various referendums and initiatives including on gay issues-related votes in Maine and Washington State, and finally two special elections in two congressional districts: NY’s 23rd and California’s 10th. Here’s a preview of the races to watch on Tuesday.

New Jersey (Governor)

New Jersey, despite the negative stereotypes, is an affluent state (second most affluent after Maryland) including some very affluent New York suburbs. However, certain areas of New Jersey are poorer, are the stereotypes stems from poorer areas such as Newark, Trenton and Camden. Despite its wealth, New Jersey is not a right-wing stronghold and has a strong Democratic lean since the ’90s, due to the moderate nature of upper-middle-class suburbanites (out of touch with a Republican Party which is more and more of a Christian right Southern party), student towns (Princeton) and an ethnically diverse population, around 14% Latino and 15% black; with large minority enclaves in Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, Trenton and Camden. Obama won New Jersey by a 15.5% margin in 2008, and the last Republican candidate to carry the state was George HW Bush in 1988.

New Jersey last elected a Republican Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, who held office from 1994 till 2002. Jim McGreevey, a Democrat, won the 2001 election but resigned in 2004 following a scandal, but he resigned later than planned to prevent a special election in 2004. Jon Corzine, a former US Senator and businessman, won the 2005 election defeating Republican incumbent Doug Forrester.

Jon Corzine (D) 53.47%
Doug Forrester (R) 43.02%
8 Others 3.51%

Faced with rising unemployment and the endemic corruption of New Jersey (in particular the NJ Democrats), Jon Corzine faces a tough race for re-election. He faces Republican Chris Christie, a former US Attorney and Independent centrist candidate Chris Daggett, former head of the EPA in New Jersey. Christie, although socially conservative, has made ‘change’ and economic reform the hallmark of his campaign. He was also the more moderate candidate in the Republican primary, in which he defeated conservative-libertarian (especially on economic stuff) candidate Steve Lonegan. Chris Daggett, a former liberal Republican and former regional head of the EPA, has achieved significant success in polls as a centrist-environmentalist Independent. It is thought that most of Daggett’s support in polls is ‘soft’ and is a protest vote for people dissatisfied with Corzine but uneasy with Christie, who has also had his share of controversy (some of it silly, like his obesity).

Christie had a commanding lead throughout the summer, but questions over the substance of his plans and also a massive campaign by Corzine including an event with Obama (still popular in the state) have allowed Corzine to close the gap, but have allowed Daggett to poll double-digits, up to 14% or so. Daggett has fallen off a bit, down to 6-10% recently, and the race between the top two contenders remains very close. Pollster’s rolling average of all polls shows a narrow Corzine lead, which I have adjusted to be 41.3% vs. 40.4% for Christie (Daggett: 12.6%) after exclusion of partisan polls. CQPolitics rates this as too close to call.

New Jersey’s first ever Lt. Governor will be elected, as a running mate for the Governor-elect. Christie’s running mate is Kim Guadagno, Corzine’s running mate is Loretta Weinberg while Frank J. Esposito is Daggett’s running mate.

All 80 seats in the NJ General Assembly, the lower house, are up for re-election. The Democrats hold 48, the Republicans 31 and there is one vacancy. There are 40 districts, each electing 2 Representatives. Amusingly, none of these districts have split their Representatives 1-1 this session. The Republicans will pick-up atleast 1 or 2 seats. Two State Senate by-elections are being held in safe Democratic districts.

Virginia (Governor)

Virginia has seen some important political movements since the 1960s. Like most of the South, it used to be dominated by the conservative (and racist) Dixiecrat organization (the Byrd Organization in Virginia, named for Dixiecrat Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr.). However, it was never the Democratic stronghold like the Deep South states were, though the only post-Reconstruction presidential elections in Virginia won by the Republicans were 1928 (anti-Catholic vote against the Catholic Democratic nominee), 1952 and 1956 (Eisenhower’s victories). The Republicans first broke through in the rural areas of the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia and rural non-mining area in southwestern Virginia. The most Dixiecratic/Deep Southern areas were in south-eastern Virginia (which also have significant black populations), though these areas switched to the Republicans in response to the Republican’s southern strategy. The state has been won in presidential races by Republican candidates in all elections since 1964, helped by a Republican base in rural, white Virginia and affluent exurban areas in Northern Virginia (NoVA). However, Obama won the state by a 6.3% margin, due mostly to the growth of NoVA and NoVA’s movement towards the Democrats in response to the Republican’s rightwards drift.

Despite the state’s Republican lean nationally, Virginia has elected two Democratic Governors in a row. Mark Warner, now a US Senator, won in 2001 and he was succeeded in 2005 by Tim Kaine, now DNC chairman. Virginia also elected the first African-American Governor in the nation, Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, in 1989. Virginian Governors are term-limited, so Tim Kaine isn’t eligible to run for re-election (and neither was Warner, despite his massive popularity). The 2005 results are below:

Tim Kaine (D) 51.72%
Jerry Kilgore (R) 45.99%
Russell Potts (I) 2.22%Write-ins 0.08%

The Democrats face a tough fight to retain Virginia. State Senator Creigh Deeds, the most conservative candidate in the Democratic primary, defeated former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe and former State Delegate Brian Moran, the most liberal candidate, by a large margin in the primary. Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who defeated Deeds in a very close race for Attorney General in 2005, won the Republican nomination without opposition. There are no third party candidates.

Deeds has led a pretty poor campaign, a far cry from Corzine’s campaign in NJ and has been massively outspent. He has trailed McDonnell by an ever-increasing margin since early June. While Deeds had a brief upswing when he leaked a controversial thesis written by McDonnell when he was attending university, this has pretty much backfired on Deeds with McDonnell successfully killing the issue and spinning it to blame Deeds of negative campaigning. Deeds trails around 54-42 and is likely to lose by a large margin. CQPolitics rates this race as Republican favoured. I could even say Safe Republican myself.

Incumbent Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (VA’s Lt. Governor is elected separately) and Republican Attorney General candidate Ken Cuccinelli are favoured to win their respective races. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for grabs: as of dissolution, the Republicans held 53, the Democrats 43 and there were two Independents (caucusing with Republicans) and two Democratic-held vacancies. The Republicans are favoured to increase their majority by a few seats.

New York City (Mayoral)

New York City, with its population of 8,363,710 is larger than a lot of states, so it’s Mayor is obviously a major political player and the office holds prestige. New York City, with its large multi-cultural population, its liberal-artsy population and its affluent liberals in Manhattan, is a Democratic stronghold with the only Republican holdouts being Orthodox Jewish, Italian or Russian areas in Queens, and more conservative white-Italian Staten Island. Obama won NYC by a large margin, breaking 70% in Queens and Brooklyn and 80% in the Bronx and Manhattan. John McCain won Staten Island.

However, New York has elected a Republican Mayor since 1993, when it elected liberal Republican Rudy Giuliani. Democrat-turned-liberal Republican Michael Bloomberg, the very wealthy incumbent Mayor narrowly won the 2001 election against Democrat Mark Green and was re-elected in a landslide over Democrat Fernando Ferrer. Bloomberg’s winning coalition in 2005, by view of a map, appears to be the traditional Republican base, in addition to traditionally Democratic-voting whites and a good showing with blacks (who didn’t like Ferrer). Bloomberg has since registered as an Independent, leaving the Republican Party.

Bloomberg was successful in removing the two-term limit in favour of a three-term limit, allowing him to run for a third term, which he is favoured to win. Since New York’s election law allows fusion, aka a candidate appearing on the ballot under two party etiquettes, Bloomberg won the nomination of the Republican Party and the centrist Independence Party. In 2005, he had won the Republican, Independence and Liberal (the Liberal Party is now dead)  ballot lines. He faces African-American City Comptroller Bill Thompson, the Democratic candidate as well as a flurry of minor candidates including Conservative candidate Stephen Christopher and Green candidate Billy Tallen.

Bloomberg leads Thompson by a large margin: Bloomberg has around 53% against 38-42% for Thompson. While Bloomberg’s margin will probably be slightly smaller than his 2005 margin, there’s no doubt that he’ll probably win a comfortable victory.

New York’s 23rd CD special election

New York's 23rd CD

A special election is being held in New York’s 23rd congressional district following the nomination of incumbent Republican Representative John M. McHugh as Secretary of the Army by President Barack Obama. NY-23 covers most of northern upstate New York, touching the Canadian border and Lake Ontario and including the cities of Watertown, Plattsburgh, Oswego, Oneida, Massena and Ogdensburg. The district is largely rural with a few outposts of small industry, mostly struggling paper mills along the St. Lawrence waterway. Tourism is also an important source of income for Watertown, close to Ontario, as well as the tourist spots in the Adirondack Mountains. The district is largely Republican, though the brand of Republicanism in upstate New York is largely old moderate Yankee Republicanism. The Democrats tend to be strong at the federal level in the district’s northernmost counties, bordering Canada. It gave George W. Bush 51% of the vote in 2004 against John Kerry, and Obama carried the district  with 52% against 47% for John McCain. Representative John M. McHugh won 65% of the vote against token Democratic opposition in 2008, and this area hasn’t elected a Democrat since the 1870s. Normally, one would expect the Republicans to hold this district easily and making this special election a typical boring done-deal. But no. It’s now one of the most interesting races.

The Republicans nominated State Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava (Dede), who represents AD-122 (parts of Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties). Scozzafava is a far cry from the Republican Party of 2009: not only is she pro-choice but she also supports gay marriage. She received, due to fusion voting, the endorsement of the Independence Party. The Democrats, originally tapped to nominate State Senator Darrel Aubertine nominated Plattsburgh attorney Bill Owens, who is pretty much a Blue Dog conservative Democrat, and probably to the right of Scozzafava, atleast on social issues. The Conservative Party, a semi-relevant third party which operates in New York thanks to fusion voting and it’s usual endorsement of Republicans (given that they’re right-wing enough for them, the CPNY is quite right-wing), obviously were not pleased at Dede’s nomination and businessman Doug Hoffman, defeated by Dede in the Republican primary, won the Conservative nomination.

Hoffman’s candidacy got off the ground with the endorsement of the staunchly neoliberal Club for Growth and he received the endorsements of a number of Republican big-wigs, including the crazy contingent (Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Jim DeMint, Rick Santorum and all the talk radio guys) and saner conservatives including Rick Perry and George Pataki. He went from 19% in polls in September to 35% in late October. At the same time, Dede fell to third in polls while Owens gained from the division of the right to win a plurality first place in most independent polls.

Then today. Scozzafava announced that she was suspending her campaign without making an endorsement. While she’ll remain on the ballot and still pull a respectable share, like 5-10% or so, this race is effectively a Democratic vs. Conservative race. It is suspected most of Dede’s support will flow to Hoffman, making him the new favourite to win. He will caucus with the Republicans if elected.

A Twitter status update from PPP (a pollster)  just now has said that they’re finding that Hoffman is now polling 45-46%.

California’s 10th CD special election

California's 10th CD

A general election will be held in California’s 10th congressional district after the nomination of Democratic Representative Ellen Tauscher to the office of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security by President Barack Obama. CA-1o is located in San Francisco Bay area, including the cities of Fairfield, Antioch, Livermore and a part of Concord. It is a largely old affluent suburban district, with a population split between older suburbanites and young professionals. Although slightly economically conservative, its social liberalism and environmentalism makes it a Democratic-leaning district, and Obama won 65% of the vote in the district. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did win the district with 56% in his 2006 re-election bid. As per California law, a free-for-all open primary was held in September in which Lt. Governor John Garamendi won the Democratic nomination. He faces Republican attorney David Harmer, Green candidate Jeremy Cloward, American Independent (yes, George Wallace’s party) candidate Jerome Denham and Peace and Freedom candidate Mary McIlroy. The Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist party operating only in California, and the AIP, George Wallace’s party in 1968, maintains ballot status only in California as a right-wing conservative outfit.

While Tauscher won 65% of the vote here in 2008 and the Democratic candidates won a combined 65% in the open primary; Garamendi is having a tougher time due to a controversy over his residence, which has been judged to be outside of CA-10. In addition, while this district is socially liberal, favouring the Democrats, it is closer to the Republicans on fiscal issues and Harmer’s campaign, focused on fiscal issues is a smart bet. A SurveyUSA poll, the only independent poll here, shows a 10-point lead for Garamendi: 50-40, with 6% for other candidates (Green, AIP, PF) and 4% undecided. Still, Garamendi should have an easy win though with a smaller margin than Tauscher had in 2008.

Maine’s Question 1 and Washington’s Referendum 71

Two homosexual-related issues are up for a vote on November 3. In Maine, voters will be asked whether or not the new law recognizing same-sex marriage should be rejected (A Yes vote would reject gay marriage, a No vote would keep it). The race seems rather close, but No has been leading very narrowly in most polls, probably due to their better campaign. The Yes campaign has been mostly scaremongering, and dominated by the idea that a No vote would mean that ‘they’ would ‘teach’ gay marriage in Maine schools, whatever that means.

Washington holds a referendum on Referendum 71, which asks voters to approve or reject the new law expanding domestic partnerships, which is pretty much gay marriage without the word marriage. A vote in favour would approve the law, and a vote against would reject the law. So, the opposite of Maine. The Approve R-71 has had a pretty safe lead, and Washington will probably approve the law. Maybe a large part of the reason the vote in Washington is having a easier time is because it doesn’t include the hot-button words ‘gay marriage’, which makes a large number of people flip out.

Other local elections and initiatives are on the ballots in a number of states on November 3 in the US, but there are the main issues.