A special election primary in Oregon was held to select nominees for former Rep. David Wu's seat. State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici held a wide lead over her challengers and likely Republican contender Rob Cornilles, a sports business consultant, faces marginal primary opposition, Politico reported.
In Ohio, early returns indicated the initiative to repeal a law that curtailed collective bargaining rights that has drawn national interest was comfortably ahead and was likely to be a win for unions and a huge blow to Republican Gov. John Kasich, political observers said.
"It's a referendum in the most purple state in America about whether or not the newly empowered right is committing electoral suicide by overreach," the AFL-CIO's Jeff Hauser said.
Separately, Ohioans voted on an initiative that would invalidate part of the Affordable Care Act healthcare reform law.
Mississippi voted on a so-called personhood amendment that would criminalize abortion and limit in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control.
"We're just going to the heart of the matter, which is, 'Is this a person or not?'" asked Les Riley, founder of Personhood Mississippi, who initiated the state's effort. "God says it is, and science has confirmed it."
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, easily won a second term in a culturally conservative state strapped with high unemployment that pundits said should have been ripe for a Republican win. Beshear's campaign positioned him as a fiscally responsible leader while attacking Republican challenger, state Senate President David Williams, as a bristly career politician -- and Beshear beat Williams by 23 points, Politico said.
"We never wanted Williams to get momentum and [we] wanted to define the race before he had a chance to," Beshear campaign manager Bill Hyers said.
Beshear is the second Democrat this year to win a gubernatorial race in a conservative state, following on Earl Ray Tomblin's Oct. 4 victory in West Virginia.
Up for recall in Arizona is state Senate President Russell Pearce, who championed the hard-line immigration bill last year in the Legislature.
Polls indicate a tight race between Pearce and Jerry Lewis, a Republican charter school executive who has tried to paint Pearce as an extremist whose views cramp the state, Politico said.
"We're seen as a very unfriendly business state," Lewis said. "We're seen as something akin to 1964 Alabama. People do not want to move their businesses here."
Pearce has called the immigration law -- portions of which have been stayed while several challenges work their way through the courts -- "good for everybody."
In Virginia, state Republicans hope to pick up a net two state Senate seats to reclaim the majority in that chamber and full control of both chambers and the governorship.
The Republican State Leadership Committee, which has invested $1.8 million in the campaigns, has targeted six seats, but says two in particular as bellwether campaigns for 2012.
"To the extent we are successful in Prince William [County] and Fairfax County, it will mean very good things for Republicans in 2012," RSLC President Chris Jankowski said.