CNN Projects Terry McAuliffe Wins Virginia Governorship

By: From CNN.com
By: From CNN.com

RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- Democrat Terry McAuliffe, buoyed by strong results from voters in Northern Virginia, has defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the race for Virginia's governor, CNN projects.

While both campaigns took on national issues, like the partial government shutdown earlier this year and the health care law's flawed rollout, the race was nasty from the outset and devolved into incessant mud-slinging and personal attacks. Voters throughout the commonwealth of Virginia were bombarded by negative ads from the campaigns.

Libertarian Robert Sarvis, a third-party candidate, has pulled in 7 percent of the vote with more than 90 percent of the vote in, a significant chunk when the Republican and Democratic candidates are so close.

McAuliffe will succeed Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who's not running for re-election because Virginia governors cannot serve consecutive terms.

What may make results from Virginia -- along with races including a gubernatorial contest in New Jersey, a race for mayor in New York City and a primary battle for a U.S. House seat in Alabama -- most interesting is what they may tell us about 2014 midterms and the 2016 race for the White House.

Democrat Bill de Blasio has defeated Republican nominee Joe Lhota in the race for mayor of New York City, Edison Research projects, making the public advocate the first Democrat to lead the nation's largest city in 20 years.

After de Blasio won the Democratic nomination in a crowded and circus-like field earlier this year, the liberal Democrat's victory in the general election was never in question. All polls going into the election had de Blasio defeating Lhota in a landslide, with one released Monday indicating de Blasio was ahead of Lhota with likely voters by over 40 percent.

Earlier Tuesday night, in another long-predicted result, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won four more years leading the Garden State by defeating Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono in the state's gubernatorial race.

Christie's victory became a forgone conclusion long before polls closed in New Jersey, as public opinion polls for months have indicated the tough-talking Republican headliner was far ahead of his Democratic challenger.

There are national implications to the race, too. With Christie considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, his re-election campaign is seen as a tuneup or stepping stone for that likely White House bid.

According to CNN exit polls of New Jersey voters, Christie performed well with groups that normally cast ballots for Democrats. Early exit polls indicate the GOP governor grabbing 56% of the female vote, and winning all age groups other than those 18-29. Christie also took a fifth of the African-American vote and 45% of Latinos, a much better performance than most Republicans in recent elections.

Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states to hold elections for governor in the year after a presidential contest, putting them directly in the national political spotlight.

After voting Tuesday morning, Christie told CNN's Jake Tapper that he is not just a moderate Republican in a traditionally more liberal state. "I'm a conservative, and I've governed as a conservative in this state and I think that's led to some people disagreeing with me in our state, because it's generally a left-of-center, blue state," he said. "But I think that the difference has been is I haven't tried to hide it, or mask it as something different. I just tell people, 'This is who I am.'"

Polls have also closed in the primary runoff for Alabama's 1st district and the race between former State Senator Bradley Byrne, seen as a more establishment candidate, and businessman Dean Young, a tea party candidate, is still too close to call.

The McAuliffe and Cuccinelli campaigns engaged in nasty political warfare that took over the airwaves in Virginia. McAuliffe made sure women were aware of Cuccinelli's support of "personhood" legislation that critics say restricts abortion and some forms of birth control, while Cuccinelli frequently highlighted federal investigations of an electric car company that McAuliffe co-founded.

Both sides also attempted to frame the race as a referendum on larger national issues. Cuccinelli's supporters argued a vote against McAuliffe was a vote against Obamacare.

McAuliffe and Democrats pinned Cuccinelli as a tea party activist, linking him to conservative lawmakers in Washington who initiated a strategy that eventually led to last month's government shutdown.


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