Key races for November 2001

By PETER ROFF, UPI National Political Analyst  |  Nov. 6, 2001 at 9:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Voters across the country went to the polls Tuesday to choose state and local officials.

In Virginia, Democrats are trying to oust the GOP from the governor's mansion and beat back the slim Republican majority in the House of Delegates. Former Democratic Party Chairman Mark Warner, a self-made millionaire from vote-rich Northern Virginia, has led former state Attorney General Mark Earley throughout the campaign, which has been overshadowed by the events of Sept 11.

Voters also will pick a lieutenant governor, a new attorney general and elect 100 sate delegates, with Republicans favored to expand their two-vote majority following contentious redistricting.

In New Jersey, the governor's mansion and control of the state legislature are up for grabs. State Sen. Jim McGreevey, making his second run for governor, has led throughout the fall, sometimes by as much as 19 points. The GOP is expected to lose control of the State Assembly, which it has held for close to 10 years while the outcome of the State Senate is up in the air.

Voters in several cities will choose new mayors.

The marquee contest Tuesday is the race to succeed Republican Rudy Giuliani as mayor of New York City, who couldn't run again because of term limits. Following a last-minute endorsement by the mayor -- and former Democratic mayor Ed Koch -- Republican Michael Bloomberg has surged in the polls. Exit polling now shows him close to the Democrat, Public Advocate Mark Green, suggesting that late-deciding voters are breaking from their predicted behavior. If Bloomberg wins, he becomes the first Republican to succeed a Republican as mayor of New York.

In Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, Democrat Lee Brown is attempting to win another term as mayor. Republicans have put a lot of work into the campaign of City Councilman Orlando Sanchez, an Hispanic who appears positioned to force Brown into a Dec. 8 runoff.

In Detroit, the non-partisan contest between Kwame Kilpatrick, the leader of the Democrats in the state House, and Gil Hill, president of the city council, may be close. Surveys have shown Hill closing the gap to within a couple of points in the last days of the campaign. Meanwhile, a move by state elections officials to require that questionable absentee ballots be examined by hand caused the counting of those ballots to stop, potentially delaying the final results by several days.

Voters in Cincinnati, which has been rocked by racial violence in recent months, must choose between incumbent Mayor Charlie Luken, backed by the Democrats, and Courtis Fuller, a popular television anchor running under the Charter Commission banner. The racial divide in the city is mirrored in the relatively non-partisan race as Luken is white and Fuller is black. Turnout was reportedly robust, which could spell trouble for Luken.

The reaction to the Sept. 11 terror attack may play a role in determining the outcome of the non-partisan mayoral race in Dearborn, Mich., where incumbent Mayor Michael Guido, in office for 16 years, is facing a stiff challenge from Wayne County Prosecutor Abed Hammoud, a Lebanese immigrant. Arab-Americans make up more than 20 percent of the total population of Dearborn.

Seattle voters, still in shock over the 1999 riots against the World Trade Organization and the loss of Boeing, one of the city's largest employers, turned out incumbent Mayor Paul Schell on primary day. Now, they must choose between City Attorney Mark Sidran and City Councilman Greg Nickles, both Democrats running in a non-partisan race.

In St. Paul, Minn., State Sen. Randy Kelly and businessman Jay Benavav are running to succeed incumbent Mayor Norm Coleman, a Democrat-turned-Republican who is the likely GOP candidate next November against incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone. Coleman remains immensely popular in the city, casting a long shadow over both Kelly, whom he has endorsed, and Benavav.

In Minneapolis, Minn., longtime Mayor Sharon Sayles-Benton, who benefited from a campaign visit from former Vice President Al Gore in one of his few political forays since the presidential election, is facing a tough challenge from R.T. Ryback, a former local journalist and entrepreneur.

And in Miami, incumbent GOP Mayor Joe Carollo is one of 10 candidates on the non-partisan ballot. The top two vote getters -- and polling indicates that Carollo might not be among them -- face off against each other in a run-off next week.

There are also a number of propositions on the ballot attracting attention including a Washington state effort to limit property tax hikes to 1 percent per year and several anti-special rights for homosexuals efforts in Houston, Miami Beach, Fla., Traverse City, Huntington Woods and Kalamazoo, Mich.

And New York voters are being asked to approve a measure making the state's constitution gender neutral.

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