The five biggest things to watch this Election Day

November 5, 2013

Election Day 2013 is here!

On Tuesday many Americans will head to the polls to vote for governors, mayors and ballot initiatives. Here's a quick look at what to watch.   (The Washington Post)

From New Jersey to Virginia, Colorado to Alabama, and in between, voters are headed to the polls to make some pivotal decisions. Just because it's an off-year election doesn't mean there isn't a lot at stake across the map.

Below we give you the five biggest things to keep an eye on Tuesday. And stay tuned to The Fix, Post Politics and GovBeat and our Election Day live blog throughout the day and night for the latest updates on these and other contests.

1. Will Virginia Democrats make history with a sweep? Not only is Democrat Terry McAuliffe on the verge of making history, his party might also cement a historic feat Tuesday in the Commonwealth. McAuliffe leads in the polls headed into Tuesday's governor's race (If he wins, he'd be the first Virginia gubernatorial candidate from the same political party of the sitting president to be elected in 40 years) and so does State Sen. Ralph Northam (D) in the campaign for lieutenant governor. The third race to watch is the one for attorney general, in which Democrat Mark Herring and Republican Mark Obenshain are neck and neck. If Herring, McAuliffe and Northam win, it will mark the first Democratic statewide sweep in Virginia in 24 years and the first time in 44 years the party has controlled all five statewide offices. (Both current U.S. senators are Democrats.)

2. The business vs. tea party showdown in Alabama. This race is the first big test pitting business vs. the tea party since the two sides found themselves on opposite sides in the government shutdown showdown. The Chamber of Commerce has spent at least $199,000 to try to help Bradley Byrne win the Republican nomination in Alabama's 1st district special election. Companies like Aflac, AT&T and Home Depot have given Byrne thousands more. Still, he's no shoo-in to win the GOP runoff Tuesday. That's because of Dean Young's insurgent campaign. A controversial Christian conservative aligned with the tea party, Young has lacked resources and help from national Republican groups. But he's tapped into a palpable anger with Washington in the Mobile-based district, and he just might spring an upset. If Byrne wins, it will embolden business-minded Republicans in other races on the map. If Young wins, it will be a big victory for tea party grass-roots activists. The GOP nominee is expected to cruise to victory in the Dec. 17 general election.

3. Chris Christie's margin of victory. There's little doubt that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will win a second term on Tuesday. The question is by how much. He's dominated Democrat Barbara Buono from start to finish, with polls late in the race showing him leading by as many as 36 points. In 1985, Republican Tom Kean won the the governor's race by a whopping 71 percent to 24 percent margin. Christie may not eclipse Kean's record, but if he even flirts with it, it will be a remarkable feat for a Republican running in the deep blue state -- and a good jumping off point for a potential 2016 run for president.

4. Detroit is poised to elect its first white mayor in  four decades. Former hospital executive Mike Duggan holds a huge lead in the polls over Wayne County Sheriff and former Detroit police chief Benny Napoleon, and if the numbers hold, it will mark the first time Detroit has elected a white mayor since 1974. Whoever becomes the next mayor will face the pressure of leading a city that has gone through intense economic decline.

5. Ballot measures in Colorado, Washington state and New Jersey. As our friends over at GovBeat noted Monday, voters in six states are weighing in Tuesday on initiatives and referenda. On the line in Colorado is a marijuana tax package and an income tax hike worth about $1 billion together. Two other notable measures: A amendment to the New Jersey state constitution to raise the minimum wage that is likely to pass, and a vote in Washington state over whether genetically modified food must be labeled.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Scott Clement · November 5, 2013