Races to watch on Election Day

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A year before the midterm elections, Democratic and Republican strategists across the country are carefully eyeing a handful of local and statewide elections on Tuesday, mining results for clues about the nation’s mood.
Most of the attention has gone to the high-profile — and increasingly nasty — battle for Virginia’s governorship, where polls show Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) leading former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) by a small margin.
Here are thirteen other contests worth keeping an eye on as the polls close Tuesday:
NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Gov. Chris Christie (R) is term-limited, which is probably for the best. The two-term Republican’s approval rating is plumbing new depths in the low teens, according to recent surveys.
Those same polls show Phil Murphy (D), a Wall Street executive and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, easily leading Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R). Murphy is likely to be declared the victor as polls close.
WASHINGTON STATE SENATE: Voters head to the polls in a suburban Seattle district to chose a new state senator after the incumbent Republican passed away earlier this year. The battle between Democrat Manka Dhingra, a county prosecutor, and Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund, a former Capitol Hill staffer, is pricey: It is the most expensive race ever run in Washington state for a position other than governor or U.S. senator.
And the stakes are high. The winner’s party will claim control of the state Senate, which is currently controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a conservative Democrat. If Democrats win the seat, Washington will become just the seventh state in the union in which Democrats hold all levers of government.
Dhingra finished well ahead of Englund in the August round of balloting. Hillary Clinton won the district, a formerly reliably Republican area that has evolved as Microsoft employees came to dominate the district, by a 65 percent to 28 percent margin over President Trump last year.
VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: Under cover of the nasty gubernatorial contest, Republicans are fighting to defend their hold on Virginia’s House of Delegates. They control 66 of 100 seats, but most — even GOP operatives — expect Democrats to pick up seats, though almost certainly not enough to wrest the gavel away from the GOP.
Democrats are targeting three open seats Clinton won last year and seven Republican incumbents whose districts Clinton carried. The party also hopes voter enthusiasm carries them to victory in the 28th District, currently held by retiring House Speaker Bill Howell (R). 
Most Republicans say they expect to lose as many as six seats on Election Day. Anything more would be a blow to the party’s hopes of turning back Democratic gains in the commonwealth.
OHIO’S DRUG WAR: Undoubtedly the costliest contest of the year, Ohio voters will decide a ballot measure that would require state agencies to pay no more than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays for prescription drugs. 
The measure is similar to one that failed in California last year, and it’s drawing similarly huge spending. Drug companies have raised more than $58 million to spend against the initiative through last week. Supporters have hauled in almost $17 million over the same period.
Even if Ohio’s measure, known as Issue 2, fails, it’s likely to pop up again in states that allow citizen initiatives. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rallied on behalf of the California measure last year, before it lost by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin.
MAINE’S MEDICAID EXPANSION: Maine voters face four ballot measures on Tuesday, including Question 2, which would expand Medicaid to those who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Maine is the only New England state that has not adopted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Question 2 was sent to the state legislature after supporters collected more than 70,000 signatures last year. But the legislature did not act, and Gov. Paul LePage (R) has blocked efforts to expand Medicaid. That inaction will let voters decide on expansion at the ballot box this year.
NEW YORK’S CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: Voters in New York will decide whether to convene the eighth constitutional convention since the state adopted its first constitution in 1777. State law has allowed New Yorkers to decide whether to revisit the constitution every 20 years since 1957.
Most groups don’t want to reopen New York’s chief governing document. A coalition that includes normal enemies, like Right to Life and Planned Parenthood’s New York chapter and the New York Republican Party and the New York Progressive Action Network, opposes a new convention.
A Siena College survey released Wednesday showed most voters agree: 57 percent of likely voters told Siena pollsters they will vote against a constitutional convention, while just 25 percent said they support one.
ATTENTION 2020 DEMS: Manchester, N.H., Mayor Ted Gatsas (R) finished just behind former Alderman Joyce Craig (D) in the September primary, setting up a rematch of their razor-close 2015 matchup.
Gatsas won that 2015 contest by just 64 votes. Craig is seeking to become just the second Democrat to win the mayor’s office in New Hampshire’s largest city since 1989.
SEATTLE’S LIBERAL LEADERS: Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Democratic activist Cary Moon are facing off in the race to become mayor of one of the nation’s most liberal cities. Durkan is the favorite of the city’s business establishment and the Seattle Times, while Moon has backing from more liberal groups and The Stranger, Seattle’s unusually powerful alternative weekly.
The seat is open after first-term Mayor Ed Murray (D) resigned in disgrace after allegations he sexually abused boys over the course of several decades. The winner will replace Tim Burgess (D), a former city councilman who took the mayoralty after Murray resigned.
GOP LOSING ABQ: Republicans hold only a tiny handful of mayor’s offices in the nation’s largest cities, and they’re about to lose another one. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry (R) isn’t running for reelection this year. 
Berry is likely to be replaced by Tim Keller, New Mexico’s Democratic state auditor. Keller finished with 39 percent of the vote in the all-party primary ahead of city Councilman Dan Lewis, who took 23 percent. Combined, the three Democrats who ran took 62 percent of the vote in the primary.
HOT RACE IN HOT-LANTA: Eight candidates are running to replace term-limited Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D). The most recent survey, for a local television station, shows city Councilwoman Mary Norwood leading the field in the nonpartisan election, ahead of city Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Both front-runners are well below the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a Dec. 5 runoff. Norwood finished first in the field in 2009, though she lost to Reed in a runoff.
BATTLE OF THE BEACH: Two mayors named Rick want to run one of the few swing cities in the swingiest state in the nation. Incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will face off against his predecessor, Rick Baker, after the two finished within 100 votes of each other in the August primary.
The race is ostensibly nonpartisan, but Kriseman is a Democrat who’s been endorsed by former President Obama and other top Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). Baker is a Republican, though he’s sought to distance himself from national Republicans like President Trump.
DETROIT ROCK CITY: Mike Duggan is one of the few white mayors running a majority-minority city, and the Democrat is likely to keep his job for four more years. Duggan took 68 percent of the vote in the August nonpartisan primary, ahead of state Sen. Coleman Young (D), the namesake of his father, the city’s former mayor, who finished with 27 percent.
The race is the first mayoral election in Detroit since the city came out of a fiscal emergency in 2014.
BdB 2020?: First-term Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) isn’t the most popular mayor in New York City history, but he’s cruising toward reelection. Polls show de Blasio easily outpacing Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R); former Councilman Sal Albanese, running on the Reform Party line; and independent Bo Dietl, the former Fox News contributor.
No one has ever made the leap from a mayor’s office to the White House, but de Blasio is likely to generate at least some buzz about a possible presidential bid in 2020. He’s got a model to follow: New York Mayor John Lindsay tried to capture the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.
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