Ten Races To Watch

In less than 20 hours, several parts of the country will be neck-deep in important Election Day activities.  Here are the 10 races that Law Dork will be watching:

  1. noon1maineMaine: Question 1 — Residents are being asked to vote No to preserve the marriage bill passed by the legislature and signed and supported by the governor earlier this year.  Activists have been raising money aplenty on both sides, but Mainers are an independent bunch.  The polls have tightened significantly, and the direction of the polling continues to show the effectiveness of “recruiting the kids” campaigning that many of us thought went out with Anita Bryant.  A victory here would both be a very real victory for the people of Maine, but also a signal to supporters of marriage equality that the tales told be our opponents are losing steam and that we can win this struggle.  A loss will, as usual, lead to second-guessing and re-calibrating for the next time.
  2. New Jersey: GovernorChris Christie sounds like someone who has few friends.  He just seems like a bit of a jerk.  Jon Corzine is a slick, political guy who, fortunately for me, takes positions on issues — including marriage equality — that gel with mine.  This is the race that will be blown up to mean Everything for 2010.  It doesn’t, but it will be spun that way by the winner, so I’ll be watching this very close race to see who gets to have that message.
  3. New York: The 23rd Congressional District Special Election — Wow.  The local Republican Party’s nominee to replace President Obama’s Army Secretary John McHugh, a Republican, endorsed the Democrat in the race on Sunday after suspending her race on Saturday because the far Right had backed her Conservative Party opponent.  This race puts soap operas to shame. It seems likely that Doug Hoffman, the Conservative, will defeat Bill Owens, the Democrat, but Dede Scozzafava’s endorsement of Owens could make this race a tighter one than we think. Regardless of the victor, this is a race to keep in mind as teabaggers and others talk about the ascendancy of the far Right. The long-term implications, though, of Hoffman’s win could be an even further narrowing of the GOP’s messaging, which isn’t going to win races across the country.
  4. Virginia: Governor — As Creigh Deeds (D) heads to what seems to be an all but inevitable defeat in Virginia, the question will be: Why?  How, after trending more blue in recent elections, did Bob McDonnell (R) slide to an easy victory?  Many people already have started to give their more-informed-than-mine opinion on that question, but the real question for tomorrow will be what effect Deeds’ flagging campaign will have on the rest of the ticket.
  5. Virginia: Attorney General — Particularly Democrat Steve Shannon’s campaign against Kenneth Cuccinelli (R) to serve as the Attorney General of Virginia.  Cuccinelli is a scary man.  And I’m not alone in having — or expressing — that opinion.  The Washington Post called him “worrying” in its endorsement of Shannon and expressed concern over his “sometimes bizarre and incendiary ideas.”  If Cuccinelli finds his way to the A.G.’s Office, many will look to Deeds and wonder whether Terry McAuliffe would have been any better — at least at stopping the bleeding.
  6. Washington: Referendum 71 — The referendum asks voters to Approve the measure to keep the domestic partnerships approved by the legislature.  It is likely to succeed, and domestic partnerships will be in Washington state to stay, but we’ve been surprised before so the troops out there are going to keep going ’til the very end.  Recall that Washington is a vote-by-mail-only state, and ballots just need to be postmarked by Election Day, so it’s possible that the result could be a while coming.
  7. Georgia: Atlanta MayorMary Norwood, currently a member of Atlanta’s City Council, could become the city’s first white mayor since 1973.  City Council President Lisa Borders and former state lawmaker Kasim Reed, who already were trailing Norwood, have picked up little support from undecided voters in the past month.  A candidate, though, needs to receive a majority of the vote to avoid a December run-off, which Norwood might not reach on Tuesday.  The recent entry of the state Democratic party into the race in support of Borders and Reed because of questions about Norwood’s political affiliations has sparked a flurry of last-minute interest and should make hitting the 50+1 mark difficult for Norwood on Tuesday.
  8. Michigan: Kalamazoo Ordinance 1856 — Residents are being asked to vote Yes to keep Kalamazoo’s twice approved ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for LGBT residents.  This is the third of three LGBT issues on the ballot across the country this fall, so equality advocates are keeping an eye on this race as well.
  9. New York: New York City Mayor — As Nate Silver has noted, Mayor Michael Bloomberg almost certainly will win re-election.  But, in an odd year and being New York City, where the winner is a de facto national figure, it’s worth seeing if Bill Thompson, Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger, upsets him.
  10. Ohio: Issue 2 — Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland endorsed this constitutional amendment put on the ballot by the General Assembly, but many of the measure’s biggest opponents are the liberal base of the Democratic Party.  Issue 2 places in the Ohio Constitution, an Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, whose sole purpose is to supersede and prevent a planned attempt to bring a statutory issue to voters in 2010 similar to the humane cages measure approved by California voters in 2008.  I have written in support of a No vote on this issue previously and, though likely to pass, I’d like to see the issue gain less support than the Governor and agri-business supporting the measure are expecting.  (Ohio’s Issue 3 — relating to casinos — likely will be closer and is more controversial within the state, but I find the issue less interesting than everyone else does, so I’ll leave it to others to comment on that.)

What races are you watching?

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About the Author

Chris Geidner is the award-winning senior political & legal reporter at BuzzFeed and has written for Metro Weekly, The Atlantic Online, The American Prospect, Advocate.com, Salon and other publications, as well as at his blog, Law Dork. He has appeared regularly on television commenting on current affairs, including MSNBC, PBS, HLN & Current. Prior to moving to D.C. in 2009, he served as an attorney on the senior staff at the Ohio Attorney General's Office and had earlier worked for a leading Columbus law firm. An extended biography can be found here, and you can follow him on Twitter.