By Scott Malone
Nov 5 Moderate Republican Chris Christie easily
won re-election as New Jersey governor, while a conservative
Republican popular with the Tea Party movement narrowly lost his
bid for the Virginia governorship, in two races closely watched
for their potential impact on future races for Congress and the
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry
McAuliffe was elected governor of Virginia, largely with the
support of the heavily populated Washington suburbs that were
hard hit by last month's partial shutdown of the federal
McAuliffe's campaign had held up rival Ken Cuccinelli, the
state's attorney general, as a symbol of the Tea Party wing of
the Republican Party, seen by many voters as responsible for the
shutdown, which economists said took a $24 billion bite out of
the U.S. economy.
Christie, whose broad, cross-party appeal makes him a top
contender if he decides to run for the White House in 2016,
addressed Americans' frustration with partisan stalemate in his
"A dispirited America, angry with their dysfunctional
government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say, 'Is what I
think is happening really happening? Are people really coming
together?'" Christie told supporters. "Let me give the answer to
everyone who is watching tonight. Under this government, our
first job is to get the job done and as long as I'm governor,
that job will always, always be finished."
The results came less than three weeks after the 16-day
partial government shutdown, a maneuver pushed by conservative
Republicans seeking to delay or defund Democratic President
Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law, known as
Cuccinelli's loss was a setback for the Tea Party movement,
which swept a wave of right-wing lawmakers into Congress in 2010
and has been seeking to extend its legislative influence in next
year's congressional elections.
The close race reflected the political split in Virginia,
which Obama won in both his presidential races, but that
elected a Republican governor four years ago.
Cuccinelli, a social conservative, carried the state's more
rural southern and western districts.
In liberal New York City, Bill de Blasio, the city's public
advocate, crushed Republican Joseph Lhota, running on a platform
to bring the "two New Yorks" of rich and poor closer together.
The White House said Obama called McAuliffe, de Blasio and
Boston Mayor-elect Martin Walsh, also a Democrat, to
congratulate them on their victories.
The hotly contested Virginia race drew intense national
interest and more out-of-state funding than any gubernatorial
contest in the state's history.
Top stars of the Democratic Party campaigned for McAuliffe
in the final weeks, including Obama, former President Bill
Clinton, and his wife, Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of
state and likely 2016 White House contender. Conservative
Republicans including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Louisiana
Governor Bobby Jindal stumped for Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli surged late in the race, seeking to tie McAuliffe
to Obamacare, which has been plagued with technical difficulties
since its Oct. 1 launch.
Analysts warned that the results in Virginia and the
Northeastern state of New Jersey were unlikely to be indicative
of congressional and governors' races next year in more
conservative sections of the country.
"You have to be careful only in that these are state
elections. It's not surprising that in New Jersey, the
preference of a Republican would be a moderate Republican," said
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University
and the author of 2012's "Governing America: The Revival of
In Alabama, Republican congressional candidate backed by
business interests defeated a Tea Party-supported candidate in a
congressional primary that heightened tensions between the
Republican Party's pragmatic and ideological wings.
SPRINGBOARD FOR CHRISTIE?
Christie's strong showing in New Jersey over Democratic
state Senator Barbara Buono could leave Republicans wondering
whether they would do better in 2016 to support the governor, a
moderate able to win strong majorities in a Democratic-leaning
state, than a more conservative candidate, such as Senator Rand
Paul of Kentucky. Christie was winning about 60 percent of the
"In Christie, you have the emergence of a powerful political
candidate who has consciously separated himself from the Tea
Party wing," Zelizer said.
In New Jersey, Christie is known for his readiness to work
with Democrats, a nod to the state's politically moderate
population, where registered Democrats and independents both
Most famously, Christie stood side by side with Obama as
they toured the Jersey Shore in the wake of 2012's destructive
Superstorm Sandy. Some Republicans criticized the move, saying
it boosted Obama's chances against former Massachusetts Governor
Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.
Christie's moderate politics could pose problems in a
presidential race in such places as South Carolina, an early
primary state that is home to a significant number of
evangelical Christians and more conservative Republicans.
On his home turf of Asbury Park, New Jersey, supporters said
they had no worries about the possibility of him leaving the
governor's mansion early if he won the White House.
"That didn't change my opinion about voting for him a bit,"
said Pepa Sanin, of Totowa, who had volunteered with the
NEW YORK BACK TO ITS ROOTS
De Blasio's victory in the New York mayoral race gives
America's most populous city its most liberal mayor in a
generation, and the first Democrat in two decades, following
law-and-order Republican Rudolph Giuliani and billionaire
Michael Bloomberg, who focused on issues including tackling
smoking and obesity.
De Blasio is expected to take on some Bloomberg-era
policies, notably the controversial "stop-and-frisk" policing
program. The Bloomberg administration saw it as a powerful
crime-fighting tool, but de Blasio and liberal activists contend
it unfairly targets black and Hispanic men.
In other ballot initiatives, voters in Colorado approved a
measure to tax recreational marijuana and apply the first $40
million in revenue generated by the tax to school funding, while
a Seattle suburb passed a measure to raise the local minimum
wage to $15 an hour, supporters said.