Nov. 7 (UPI) — Gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia and a congressional vote in Utah highlight ballots being cast Tuesday in the first nationwide elections since Donald Trump won the presidency a year ago.
Incumbent governors in Virginia and New Jersey — Terry McAuliffe and Chris Christie — are ineligible to run again due to terms limits, and some see the gubernatorial contests as referendums on the performance of the Trump administration.
In Virginia, Republican Ed Gillespie was endorsed by Trump, who campaigned for the former strategist for 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The GOP message during the campaign has been a law and order stance emphasizing violence allegedly committed by immigrants. Gillespie has also promised to retain Confederate monuments in the state.
Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate in Virginia who has former President Barack Obama‘s endorsement, held a double-digit lead in polls until recently. All 100 seats in Virginia’s Legislature, the House of Delegates, are being contested. Whether the Democratic Party can make inroads in the Republican-dominated assembly could be a bellwether for the 2018 midterm elections.
Similarly, New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno’s media messages concentrate on immigration issues. They accuse Democratic candidate Phil Murphy of sympathizing with violent illegal immigrants, suggesting that Murphy “doesn’t have our backs. He has theirs.”
Guadagno is the state’s lieutenant governor, under Christie. Murphy is expected to win in New Jersey.
In Utah, Republican John Curtis is favored to win the race in the 3rd congressional district, where GOP Rep. Jason Cheffetz resigned during the summer. Curtis, the mayor of Provo, Utah, faces Democrat Kathie Allen and moderate conservative United Utah candidate Jim Bennett. It is the first time the new party appears on an election ballot.
The legislature in Washington state, the last GOP-held state chamber on the West Coast, could swing Democratic on Tuesday after a special election in the Seattle suburbs that has attracted outsize attention and funding.
Mayoral elections in New York City, Boston, Charlotte, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Pittsburgh are also set for Tuesday.
Ballot initiatives and referendums on Tuesday include a call for a new constitutional convention in New York state, a proposed expansion of Medicaid in Maine despite GOP Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of similar legislation and a vote on whether the Ohio government should pay for prescription drugs at the same rate as the Veterans Administration. The pharmaceutical industry has spent nearly $60 million to defeat the Ohio referendum.