- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Sen. Jon Corzine convincingly defeated Doug Forrester in the race for governor of New Jersey last night, giving Republicans two stinging losses in the only statewide races in a year of declining job approval polls for President Bush and his party.

With 91 percent of precincts in the Democrat-leaning state reporting vote returns, Mr. Corzine won 1,071,905 votes, or 53.5 percent, to Mr. Forrester’s 865,485 votes, or 43.2 percent.

In a jubilant victory speech last night, Mr. Corzine said “we can change the way the public business is done in New Jersey.”

“We will restore the simple truth that public service is about serving the public,” he said.

Several cities held mayoral contests yesterday, led by New York, where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg easily won in the heavily Democratic city against former Bronx borough President Fernando Ferrer.

The New Jersey race and the nation’s only other gubernatorial election yesterday — Democrat Timothy M. Kaine’s victory in Virginia over Republican Jerry W. Kilgore — were being closely watched by campaign strategists to see whether they signaled a change in the nation’s political mood ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when control of Congress and 36 gubernatorial seats will be at stake.

The Republican loss in Virginia — which Mr. Bush carried last year with nearly 54 percent of the vote — meant that Democrats have won back-to-back governor’s races in a state once considered reliably Republican.

“New Jersey has no national implications. That’s all about the state Democratic bench and local concerns,” said veteran elections analyst Stuart Rothenberg.

“But Virginia — you have to wonder whether or not there was a drag on the Republicans coming from the White House and the GOP’s national problems. Virginia is a state you’d expect Republicans to win,” he said.

Mr. Rothenberg said there were two explanations — either “Kilgore was a mediocre candidate, and the other is that there’s a lack of enthusiasm and energy among Republicans in part because of the national environment.”

Despite a nearly 2-to-1 Democratic voter advantage over the Republicans, the New Jersey governor’s race turned somewhat competitive in the homestretch.

Mr. Forrester pounded Mr. Corzine, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal lawmaker, for his opposition to tax cuts, for the state’s high property taxes and over his ethical troubles in a state where Democratic statehouse corruption has been a major issue.

The two collectively spent more than $70 million on the race, with Mr. Corzine mobilizing his party’s biggest political allies in organized labor and among black churches to whom he made significant cash contributions in the closing weeks of the campaign.

President Bush, whose public-approval ratings have declined this fall, did not campaign with Mr. Forrester, as he did Monday in Virginia with Mr. Kilgore.

Republicans, however, were able to cheer Mr. Bloomberg’s landslide election to a second term in New York, a longtime bastion of Democratic liberalism.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Bloomberg had 659,272 votes to Mr. Ferrer’s 444,941 — a margin of 58 percent to 39 percent.

Mr. Bloomberg thanked New York’s voters for “letting me realize my greatest dreams in the greatest of all cities.”

Elsewhere, among more than a dozen other mayoral races, Detroit’s Kwame Kilpatrick was losing to former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix, who attacked him for excessive spending on personal luxuries, mismanagement and a persistently high crime rate.

Mr. Hendrix led in exit polls from several Detroit TV stations, and he also held a lead of 54 percent to 46 percent in returns from 52 percent of the city’s precincts. Mr. Kilpatrick would be the first Detroit mayor in more than 40 years to lose a re-election bid.

Statewide ballot referendums were also being decided from Maine to California on everything from an amendment against same-sex “marriage” in Texas to clamping down on large attorney fees in liability lawsuits in Washington state.

The Texas measure passed easily, with more than 70 percent of the votes. In Maine, however, voters rejected a proposal that would repeal a new law that expanded the state’s human rights act to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In Ohio, voters decisively rejected a series of campaign reforms being pushed by liberal billionaire George Soros and a coalition of Democrat-leaning groups. The measures would have taken election oversight and redistricting authority away from elected officials, limited campaign contributions and expanded mail-in voting.

Political strategists were closely watching the outcome of four reform referendums in California being pushed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The proposals have angered all of their respective targets — schoolteachers, labor unions and Democratic legislative leaders, who mounted a furious campaign against them that has hurt Mr. Schwarzenegger politically.

Polls in recent days have all the California measures going down to defeat.

In a local Texas election, voters in White Settlement, named 160 years ago after whites moved into a mostly Indian area, rejected with a 90 percent majority a proposal to change the town’s name to West Settlement.

And in a widely watched school-board election, voters in Dover, Pa., ousted eight Republicans who backed a policy to introduce high school students to “intelligent design,” replacing the officials with a slate of Democratic candidates opposed to the requirement. The policy has prompted a lawsuit and national coverage of a trial on the “origins of life” debate.

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