The election year after a presidential election is typically a low profile, unexciting affair that typically has lower than normal voter turnout, and few major campaign races to eye. The grist in these off-year elections normally come in the form of local mayoral races. Most major governor races happen in the mid-term—there will be 36 in 2014—but a couple this year have captured the nation’s attention, most notably Virginia’s gubernatorial race, which is considered a primary indicator of the political parties’ ideological temperaments. But just because it’s an odd voting year of mainly local races doesn’t mean people should not bother with voting, or that there are no interesting races to observe. As the saying goes, all politics are local, and state and municipal office election winners are sometimes a way to glimpse into the political future of the nation. On Monday, Cory Booker was an attention-grabbing mayor; today he’s a U.S. Senator. Some pundits are already mentioning his name for president.
Below are five local and state races worth following when election results are tabulated today:
- New York City; mayoral race: By now you’ve probably seen a million photo spreads of lead Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio cheesing with his African-American family. According to the latest polls, de Blasio is scheduled to destroy his Republican opponent Joe Lhota—the New York Times has de Blasio up by 45 points. Don’t let that keep you from voting, though, if you live in the City. The person who replaces Mayor Bloomberg might just determine if NYPD is allowed to continue stop-and-frisk policies.
- New Jersey; gubernatorial race: Current governor Chris Christie is loved by everyone it seems, except his own party. When Mitt Romney ran for President, he apparently had Christie on his shortlist, but scratched him, maybe because he didn’t approve of the Jersey governor’s weight. All that pallin’ around with Obama after Superstorm Sandy, and glad-handling Cory Booker must be paying off though: Christie is currently enjoying 30 percent of black New Jersey’s support in his race against Democratic candidate state Senator Barbara Buono.
- Pennsylvania; mayoral race for Harrisburg, the capital: You should care about this race not just because I grew up there, but because the next leader of the capital of this presidential battleground state will be in charge of resuscitating the city from bankruptcy. In 2010, Harrisburg elected its first black and first woman mayor, Linda Thompson. But she was handed a city that the previous mayor, Stephen Reed, who presided for almost 30 years, had basically driven into the ground financially. Thompson wasn’t able to turn the sinking Titanic around quick enough, so she didn’t make out of the primary this year. There are now two white men, Democrat Eric Papenfuse and Republican Dan Miller vying for the seat, along with an African-American candidate Aaron Johnson. Whoever wins, if they don’t pull Harrisburg out of the red, there may be some new perspective on the woman they voted out.
- Houston; mayoral and city council races: Annise Parker was elected in 2010 as Houston’s second woman mayor in the city’s history and one of the first openly gay mayors of any major city in America. People will be paying attention to her re-election run as it may show promise for next year’s governor’s race featuring Wendy Davis, the state senator from Fort Worth who stood up for women’s health rights when she famously filibustered an anti-abortion bill this year. A little further down the ticket from Parker, meanwhile, is an exciting city council race featuring two young, African-American women, Christina Sanders and Assata Richards, both running in the crowded race for District D.
- Atlanta; mayoral and city council races: Mayor Kasim Reed, a rising star on the political scene, is up for re-election. But his race seems to be not so much against the three people running against him, but against former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. An apparent power struggle is underway that involves the city council district race between Andre Dickens and H. Lamar Willis. Franklin is backing Dickens while Reed backs Willis, the incumbent. The race is getting dirty, but some are suspicious of Franklin’s involvement given her association with one of the largest school test cheating scandals in the country.