Looking at state and local races around the nation, it appears that the nation’s electorate has begun to officially reject the Tea Party’s extreme, conservative platform. Top conservative candidates have not been able to hold up against more moderate Republican challengers, and in Virginia, the Tea Party candidate Ken Cuccinelli was soundly defeated by a true-blue Democrat, Terry McAuliffe. This tells us that voters are responding positively to issues like climate change and marriage equality, while rejecting the austerity and anti-choice measures of conservatives. Turnout is typically low during these election off-years, but yesterday we saw surprisingly higher-than-average results in some races, which means get-out-the-vote organizing is growing more effective. We’ll see if elections in 2014 and 2016 continue these trends.
1. Virginia Governor’s Race
Winner: Terry McAuliffe Significance: McAuliffe’s victory signals that this might be the beginning of the end of Tea Party season. His task now is to keep moderates happy, keep Sen. Mark Warner’s seat safe and deliver the state for the Democratic Party in 2016, which might have been why the Clintons were all up in this race. Turnout: Above 37 percent, the first upswing since 1989. A good sign.
2. New Jersey Governor’s Race
Winner: Chris Christie Significance: Right now Christie is probably the only challenger who stands a chance against Dems if he runs for President in 2016. He picked up 20 percent of African-American votes in the state. Turnout: Numbers still pending
3. New York City Mayor’s Race
Winner: Bill de Blasio Significance: Colorlines’ Imara Jones said it best— “Throughout his campaign, de Blasio encapsulated his point with the theme of a “Tale of Two Cities,” and constantly hammered away at the fact that half of all New Yorkers—six out of 10 of whom are people of color—are either poor or near poverty. The economic orientation of Bill de Blasio when compared to that of Michael Bloomberg is as different as chalk from cheese.” Turnout: About 25 percent.
4. Houston Mayor’s Race
Winner: Annise D. Parker Significance: You knew it was a big deal when The POTUS, who rarely gets involved in local races, stepped in to endorse Parker. All eyes are on Texas now, with that big race for governor coming next year featuring Wendy Davis against Attorney General Greg Abbott, the chief enforcer behind the state’s controversial voter ID law. Turnout: About 13 percent
5. Atlanta Mayor’s Race
Winner: Kasim Reed Significance: Reed has survived his freshman round as one of the nation’s few remaining black mayors of a major city. His next huge project: Finish the new NFL Atlanta Falcons stadium. His new tenure won’t be all peaches and cream, though. His pick for city council at-large member, H. Lamar Willis, the incumbent, was upset by Andre Dickens, who was heavily supported by former mayor Shirley Franklin. A power struggle may ensue. Turnout for Mayor’s Race: Roughly 46,000 voted. That’s about 15 percent of the active voting population.
6. Harrisburg Mayor’s Race
Winner: Eric Papenfuse Significance: After a rocky ride with the Pennsylvania capital’s first black female mayor, Linda Thompson, the city returns to white, male rule. Eric Papenfuse won the race by picking up 3,618 out of 7,285 ballots cast. He said the results send a “clear message” that Harrisburg is “ready for change.” His task is to bring the city back from the brink of bankruptcy though the state will have most control over the city. Turnout: With less than 20 percent turnout, perhaps the real “clear message” was that no candidate was inspiring enough to vote for.
7. Detroit Mayor’s Race
Winner: Mike Duggan Significance: Another city in bankruptcy has elected a white mayor to replace black leadership. Duggan will take over for Dave Bing, who decided not to run for re-election. Like Harrisburg’s mayor, Duggan will have little to no power over the city, which is run by the state due to its financial insolvency. He is the city’s first white mayor in over four decades. Turnout: Less than 20 percent.
8. Boston Mayor’s Race
Winner: Martin Walsh Significance: From the city of Whitey Bulger, the Boston Marathon bombings and the Boston Red Sox comes Walsh, and Irish-American labor leader who cruised to victory on a progressive platform and coalition of supporters across race, ideology and background. Does this mean labor is making a comeback? Turnout: More than 40 percent, estimated.
9. Pittsburgh Mayor’s Race
Winner: Bill Peduto Significance: This race was really decided earlier this year during the primary. No Republican challenger ever fares well in Steel City, try as they might. Peduto, a stalwart progressive had been gunning for the mayor’s seat for years and now finally gets his shot. The question now is if the city can build upon the momentum and coalition that elected him to help replace Gov. Tom Corbett, a.k.a. the most vulnerable governor in the nation, next year. Turnout: 20.54 percent.
10. Seattle Mayor’s Race
Winner: Ed Murray Significance: The city elects its first openly gay mayor in former state Sen. Murray who helped lead the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage last year. He defeated the incumbent mayor, Mike McGinn, who had developed a reputation for political brawls with city council members. Turnout: 57 percent. Seattle cares.