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ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) — The 2016 overtones were clear in this year's two most high-profile elections.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie's resounding re-election victory in Democratic-leaning New Jersey sets the opening argument for a possible White House run while Terry McAuliffe's gubernatorial victory gives fellow Democrats — if not his confidante Hillary Rodham Clinton, herself — a road map for success in the pivotal presidential swing-voting state.
Christie became the first Republican to earn more than 50 percent of the New Jersey vote in a quarter-century. McAuliffe is the first member of the party occupying the White House to become Virginia governor since 1977.
Among a slate of off-year balloting from coast to coast, New York City voters also elected Bill De Blasio, making him the first Democrat to lead the nation's largest city since 1989. Colorado agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent, and Houston rejected turning the Astrodome into a convention hall, likely dooming it to demolition. Alabama Republicans chose the establishment-backed Bradley Byrne over a tea party-supported rival in a special congressional runoff election in the conservative state.
Turnout was relatively light — even in the most hard-fought races. Without presidential or congressional elections on the books, voters were primarily hard-core partisans. But to win, both gubernatorial victors sounded a tone of pragmatic bipartisanship — at a time of dysfunctional divided government in Washington — and, because of that pitch, they managed to cobble together a diverse cross-section of voters from across the political spectrum.
In Virginia, McAuliffe eked out a smaller-than-expected victory over conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Exit polls found Cuccinelli fared well among core right-flank constituents — tea partyers, gun owners and rural voters. But the victor, McAuliffe, held advantages among unmarried women, voters who called abortion a top issue and the vote-rich Washington suburbs.
"Over the next four years most Democrats and Republicans want to make Virginia a model of pragmatic leadership," said McAuliffe, a Democrat taking the helm in a state where Republicans control the Legislature. "This is only possible if Virginia is the model for bipartisan cooperation."
Democrats won the top two offices in Virginia, while the attorney general's race was too close to call. Democrats, who already control both Senate seats, hoped this election would give them control of all major statewide offices for the first time since 1970, a rejection of the conservatism that has dominated for the past four years.
"Virginia's on its way becoming reliably blue," Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said.
In New Jersey, Christie coasted to a second term, defeating little-known Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.
He assembled a winning coalition with broad support among constituencies that don't reliably vote Republican. Exit polls show that Christie carried a majority of women and split Hispanics with Buono. He improved on his share of the vote among blacks in 2009 by more than 10 percentage points.
Christie's advisers saw his ability to draw support from Democrats, independents and minorities as a winning argument ahead of 2016, pitching him as the most electable candidate in what could be a crowded presidential primary field.
"As your governor, it has never mattered where someone is from, whether they voted for me or not, what the color of their skin was, or their political party. For me, being governor has always about getting the job done, first," Christie told supporters inside a rowdy convention hall in Asbury Park, N.J., just steps away from the same Jersey Shore that was devastated by Superstorm Sandy a year ago.
Taken together, the results in individual states and cities yielded no broad judgments on how the American public feels about today's two biggest national political debates — government spending and health care — which are more likely to shape next fall's midterm elections.
Even so, Tuesday's voting had local impact.
Other races of note:
—In Alabama, the GOP's internal squabbles played out in the special congressional runoff primary election. Bradley Byrne, a veteran politician and the choice of the GOP establishment, won against tea party favorite Dean Young. The race was the first test of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's promise to try to influence primaries. The group had pumped at least $200,000 into supporting Byrne.
—Big city mayors: In New York, de Blasio cruised to victory over Republican Joe Lhota after Michael Bloomberg's 12-year tenure. Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Seattle and other cities also chose mayors.
—Colorado: Voters agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent and apply the proceeds to regulating the newly legalized drug and building schools. And 10 rural counties refused to approve secession from the state. One county narrowly voted to secede, but it was a symbolic gesture.
Elliott reported from Virginia. Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, and writers Bill Barrow and Christina Almeida Cassidy in Georgia, Kristen Wyatt in Colorado, Chris Grygiel in Washington state, Corey Williams in Michigan, Thomas Beaumont in Iowa and Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.
Pattonville officials won't have to cut $10 million from the school district's budget after taxpayers overwhelmingly approved their first tax increase in 22 years. Preliminary figures from the St. Louis County Board of Elections indicate that more than 6,100 votes were cast Tuesday and more than 70 percent of the voters approved Proposition P.
Several other communities held elections as well Tuesday. '
Voters in Edmundson and Woodson Terrace both approved hotel sales taxes.
And it looks like the latest effort to dissolve the Village of Uplands Park has failed. That needed 60 percent approval and received just over 50 percent.
Property taxes will remain the same for homeowners in the Ferguson-Florissant School District after voters rejected the district's first tax hike request in 21 years.
Only 42 percent of voters in Tuesday's election approved the measure that would have raised taxes by 75 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation. The tax hike would have raised about $6 million for district schools.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the district is facing a projected $4.6 million shortfall for the coming school year, despite cutting before- and after-school programs and freezing teacher pay.
The City of Alton will soon have a new mayor after an improbable election result was certified Tuesday.
Businessman Brant Walker had been removed from the ballot two months before the election because of a technicality. He ran as a write-in candidate against incumbent Mayor Tom Hoechst, and won.
Election results certified yesterday by Madison County Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza show that Walker beat Hoechst by just over two-percent, or 74 votes.
Hoechst released a statement saying that he planned to challenge the results, but won't wait for the process to be complete before he begins working with Walker to ensure a smooth transition should the results hold.
Votes are still being counted in some metro-east elections.
Some of the race results are in: Edwardsville has chosen a new mayor. Hal Patton defeated Barb Stamer in that race. Patton will replace Mayor Gary Niebur, who's led the city since 1992. Mark Eckert will remain Mayor of Belleville, having beaten Jospeph Hayden and Phillip Elmore.
Other contests are still up in the air: In Alton, Mayor Tom Hoechst could possibly lose his seat to write-in candidate Brant Walker but county Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza said final numbers probably won't be available until Wednesday.
A property tax increase aimed at preventing the sort of cuts made in other districts has failed in O'Fallon. Supporters had asked residents to approve a temporary tax to cover the gap until the state of Illinois paid its share of funding. The tax would have generated about $3 million dollars a year, but it was soundly defeated with 65-percent of voters saying no.
Voter turn out was low, as expected, in most polling places in Tuesday's Consolidated Elections. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that turnout ranged from 13 percent in East St. Louis, to 21 percent in Belleville.
She won over Democratic front runners former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale, who both called her to concede.
Kelly emerged early on as an anti-guns voice and her campaign got a boost when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC poured $2 million in ads supporting her and blasting Halvorson, who doesn't favor an assault weapons ban.
Halvorson says big money won the race.
But Kelly says no one complains when the National Rifle Association pours money into races. She says she had a good team that worked hard on the ground.
Meanwhile, the race among Republicans to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is too close to call.
Chicago resident Paul McKinley was leading fellow Republican Eric Wallace by about two dozen votes as of late Tuesday night. But with a handful of precincts outstanding, no winner was declared.
But regardless of the outcome, the winner will enter the April 9 general election with a huge disadvantage.
The 2nd Congressional District is heavily Democratic, and no Republican has won the Chicago-area seat in more than 50 years.
McKinley is a political newcomer. Wallace founded a Christian publishing company and ran an unsuccessful campaign for Illinois Senate in 2006.
Jackson resigned in November. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to spending about $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.