His pitch bipartisan and inclusive, Republican Gov. Chris Christie cruised to re-election Tuesday in Democratic-leaning New Jersey amid talk of a possible 2016 presidential run. Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly won the Virginia governor’s race, leading what Democrats hoped would be their first sweep of statewide offices in decades.
New Yorkers chose Bill de Blasio as mayor, electing the first Democrat since 1989.
In other, widely scattered off-year balloting, Houston rejected a plan to turn the Astrodome into a convention hall, likely dooming it to demolition, while Colorado agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent.
Taken together, the results in individual states and cities yielded no broad judgments on how the American public feels about today’s two biggest national political debates — government spending and health care — which are more likely to shape next fall’s midterm elections.
Tuesday’s voting mattered in ways big and small.
The outcomes of both governors’ races signaled that, in the midst of a division within the Republican Party, pragmatism won out over ideology.
In Virginia, McAuliffe turned back a late-game push by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli, a Republican. Both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton made appearances for McAuliffe recently, as did President Barack Obama. The Democrat outspent his GOP rival in TV ads in the final weeks.
Cuccinelli had sought to prove that a tea-party-backed conservative could win the governorship of a swing-voting state. He brought big-name supporters to the state, too, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Virginia Democrats hoped they were on their way to holding all statewide-elected offices for the first time since 1970 and turning back of the conservatism that’s dominated for the past four years under one-term limited Gov. Bob McDonnell. The state’s two U.S. senators already are Democrats. Aside from McAuliffe, Democrats also won the lieutenant governorship. The race for the attorney general’s office was neck and neck.
The race had turned McAuliffe’s way last month partly because of the partial government shutdown. Preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks found that about a third of Virginia voters said they were personally impacted by the shutdown, and nearly half said Republicans deserved the blame for it.
Although Republicans were expected to hold the Legislature, Democrats could break through Republicans’ veto-proof majority in the state House, and all that could set the stage of in a presidential battleground ahead of the next White House race.
Also with potential presidential overtones, Christie’s resounding victory was intended to send a message to the GOP that a Republican with an inclusive pitch could win in Democratic territory.
“As your governor, it has never mattered where someone is from, whether they voted for me or not, what the color of their skin was, or their political party,” Christie said. “For me, being governor has always been about getting the job done, first.”
Indeed, his triumph showed his ability to draw support from Democrats, independents and minorities. Christie now may have fodder to argue that he is the most electable in what might well be a crowded presidential primary field.
Later this month, Christie assumes the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association.
Christie was opposed by state Sen. Barbara Buono.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, the GOP’s internal squabbles played out in the special congressional runoff primary election in Alabama. It featured veteran politician Bradley Byrne, against tea-party favorite Dean Young.
Big city mayors: In New York, de Blasio won handily over Republican Joe Lhota after Michael Bloomberg’s dozen-year tenure. Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Seattle and other cities also chose mayors.
Washington state: Voters weighed in on a ballot issue over mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, a contest that has drawn hefty financial contributions in opposition from the likes of PepsiCo., Monsanto and General Mills, which last year spent $46 million to defeat a similar measure in California.
Colorado: Voters agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent and apply the proceeds to regulating the newly legalized drug and building schools.