VIRGINIA – 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, such as 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 mudslinging and personal attacks. Voters throughout the commonwealth of Virginia were bombarded by negative ads.
Libertarian Robert Sarvis, a third-party candidate, has pulled in 7% of the vote with more than 90% of the vote counted. That's 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 might 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, CNN 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 more than 40%.
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 that hold elections for governor in the year after a presidential contest.
And as a more moderate Republican won in New Jersey and a conservative Republican lost in Virginia, the establishment candidate defeated the tea party candidate in a Republican primary runoff for a congressional seat from Alabama's 1st district.
Bradley Byrne, a former state senator, defeated businessman Dean Young in the race, according to CNN projections. The contest was seen as a precursor to more intraparty fights ahead in primary elections for the 2014 midterms and was the first time Republican voters could weigh in on which direction they want to take their party after the partial federal government shutdown in October.