For those of you scoring at home, I thought I’d lay out exactly what the major races are next Tuesday, November 3. From Maine to California, New Jersey to Washington state, there are several significant races on the ballot, all of which will be spun by Democrats and Republicans as indicative of the national mood. But each have their own peculiarities about them.
NJ-Gov: In New Jersey, a three-way race may be enough to save embattled incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine, as he fends off Republican Chris Christie and independent (right-leaning) Chris Daggett. The polling shows this race close, but Corzine will have more money and probably a better GOTV operation in the final week. Health care has emerged as an issue late in the campaign, with Corzine vowing to opt in to a public option if New Jersey had the opportunity, and Christie vowing to opt out. That’s a clear distinction that you rarely see, and it could provide a tipping point.
VA-Gov: Democrat Creigh Deeds has been playing more like Republican lite in his campaign against Republican Bob McDonnell, and not even a late visit from the President is likely to be enough to pull this one out, as McDonnell is showing double-digit leads in the polls. Expect every Republican to state that this race and this alone means that Obama is deeply unpopular and the nation has turned on him.
NY-23: A mundane race between conservative Dem Bill Owens and Republican Dede Scozzafava got very interesting when Conservative Party candidate and teabagger dream Doug Hoffman entered the race. Hoffman has received the support of Republicans who have defied the party – Fred Thompson even cut an ad for him – and though he apparently knows nothing about the district, he has become a symbol of the war inside the GOP between the merely crazy and the truly crazy. This split has set up an opportunity for Owens to pick up a formerly GOP seat for the Democrats for the first time in this region since the 1850s, though some partisan polls show Hoffman in front. It remains to be seen if Hoffman has any institutional network to help him get out the vote. The race has generated national attention, with the LA Times and the New York Times publishing profiles yesterday.
CA-10: California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi is expected to prevail in this race over Republican David Harmer. Harmer keeps touting polls that show he wins among people who know who he is, which means exceedingly little, and conservatives have talked themselves into this surprise, but Garamendi has a lot more money and is a proven vote-getter. And, health care fans, he strongly supports a public option.
Maine – Question 1: This would repeal the gay marriage law passed by the Legislature back in the spring. The same forces that passed Prop. 8 in California have re-teamed for a reunion, but this time the No side is better equipped and better run. Still, polls have shown a tough fight, as both sides pour resources into the relatively cheap state. A win here for marriage equality supporters would mark the first time that gay marriage survived a repeal or won any ballot measure. While history is on the side of equality, this vote will show whether or not that time has arrived. The New York Times has a good update today.
Washington – Referendum 71: Washington’s Governor, Christine Gregoire, passed a law this year allowing domestic partnerships with practically all the rights of marriage. The law then goes to the voters for approval. Anti-gay groups have assailed the proposed law, even while in Maine groups with the same ideology are touting domestic partnerships as something they can live with. Polls have shown the measure winning broadly, and it would be difficult for the double-talk of “we just don’t like the word ‘marriage,’ but we don’t like domestic partnerships either!” to work.
There are also numerous big-city mayoral races across the country, including in New York City (where Michael Bloomberg and his $85 million dollar war chest looks good for re-election), Seattle, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Detroit and several others. Here’s a pretty good roundup.