USA TODAY - Voters go to the polls Tuesday to elect governors in Virginia and New Jersey, pick new mayors in New York City, Boston, Detroit and other municipalities, and decide on a host of ballot issues across the country.
Here are five things to watch on Election Day:
National stakes playing out in Virginia
Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli in public opinion polls, particularly among female voters who were key in President Obama's victories in 2008 and 2012. McAuliffe's get-out-the-vote strategy is out of Obama's playbook, focusing on minorities and young voters as well as women. Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, predicts the model would be used nationally in 2014 if McAuliffe succeeds. No one in a sitting president's party has won a Virginia governor's race since 1977.
Could a 2016 presidential campaign be born in New Jersey?
Republican incumbent Chris Christie is favored over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono in New Jersey's election for governor. Christie has played up his ability to work with Democrats as a way to demonstrate he is not like partisan Republicans in Congress. That story line could repeat itself in 2016, if Christie runs for the GOP presidential nomination. Christie has said he can "walk and chew gum at the same time," while not directly answering the question about what's in his political future. His personal goal tonight is to be the first New Jersey Republican since his mentor Tom Kean in 1985 to top 50% in a statewide race.
New York City seeks fresh start after Bloomberg's tenure
Voters in the nation's largest city will pick a successor to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who registered as an independent for his third and last term. Democrat Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate, is vying to become the first member of his political party to become mayor since David Dinkins was elected in 1989. Public opinion polls show de Blasio with a comfortable lead over Republican Joe Lhota, a former deputy mayor and chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. DeBlasio leads Lhota by an average of 41 points. If de Blasio can win by that big of a margin, he would break the record set by Abraham Beame in 1973 for a non-incumbent mayor. One guarantee for New Yorkers: The next mayor will be the first from Brooklyn since Beame.
Detroit picks a mayor amid bankruptcy woes
Businessman Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon are vying to succeed Dave Bing as mayor of economically troubled Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy in July. Duggan, former chief of the Detroit Medical Center, had a 2-1 lead over Napoleon in a recent Detroit Free Press/WKYZ poll. If elected, Duggan will become the first white mayor of majority-black Detroit since Roman Gribbs, who served from 1970 to 1974. The city's finances are being run by Kevyn Orr, who was appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in March to be Detroit's emergency manager.
Boston voters choose first new mayor in 20 years
The retirement of Tom Menino, Boston's longest-serving mayor, sparked a free for all among 12 candidates to be his successor. Tuesday's election comes down to state Rep. Martin Walsh and City Councilor John Connolly, both Democrats. Walsh, who has close ties to labor unions, and Connolly, a former teacher, were neck-and-neck in a recent WBUR poll. Menino made history when he was first elected in 1993, becoming the city's first Italian-American mayor and first non-Irish mayor since 1930. Minorities make up 53% of Boston's population, and Menino set the standard for building multiethnic coalitions to win re-election.
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