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  Democrats Win Gov. Races in Va., NJ

By David Crary
AP National Writer
Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2001; 9:32 p.m. EST

Democrats captured the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday, breaking eight years of Republican control. In New York City, still reeling from the Sept. 11 terror attack, the mayoral race was a cliffhanger.

In Virginia, Democrat Mark Warner, a wealthy entrepreneur who has never held elected office, led Republican Mark Earley, a former state attorney general, 52 percent to 47 percent with more than 75 percent of the precincts counted.

In New Jersey, Democrat Jim McGreevey, a suburban mayor who narrowly lost a race for governor four years ago, rolled to a decisive victory over former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler.

Exit polling in New York indicated that Democrat Mark Green and Republican Michael Bloomberg were neck-and-neck in the race to succeed Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican barred from seeking a third term.

Green, the city's elected public advocate, spent about $12 million on his campaign, while Bloomberg, the billionaire owner of the Bloomberg financial information company, was expected to spend more than $50 million of his own money. That makes it the most expensive mayoral campaign in U.S. history, according to Common Cause, a citizen lobbying group.

Green's once-large lead in the polls faded after the popular Giuliani endorsed Bloomberg as the man to guide New York through the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.

In Virginia, with 1,877 of 2,314 precincts reporting, Warner had 799,650 votes to 714,767 for Earley,

Earley was handicapped by Republican infighting over taxes and the state budget. Warner put $4.7 million of his own fortune into a campaign that has raised $18.2 million, a state record.

In New Jersey, with 34 percent of the precincts reporting, McGreevey had 429,029 votes, or 58 percent, to 293,645 votes, or 40 percent, for Schundler.

McGreevey had tried to portray Schundler as an extremist for his opposition to abortion and support of school vouchers. Schundler charged that McGreevey would raise taxes.

With the victories, there will be 21 Democratic governors, 27 Republicans and two independents.

National Republican leaders depicted the two gubernatorial races as local contests rather than as referendums on President Bush. Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said voters could support the president's anti-terrorism policies and still vote to reject the GOP's "stale ideas" on domestic issues.

Voters in mayoral elections said they were looking for strong leadership.

"This is not the time for on-the-job training," said Gabriel Render, a 61-year-old man in Cincinnati who voted for Mayor Charlie Luken over challenger Courtis Fuller.

In Seattle, where Mayor Paul Schell lost in a primary partly because of the city's struggles to cope with recent riots, Shawn Telford, 28, said: "Schell was kind of a doughboy. Maybe we need a mayor who will be a little more militant about things."

Incumbent mayors were expected to win easily in Boston and Pittsburgh, but faced tough challenges in Houston, Miami, Minneapolis and Cincinnati. Mayors were leaving office in Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland and Seattle.

Voters in five cities – Houston; Miami Beach, Fla; and Kalamazoo, Traverse City and Huntington Woods, Mich. – decided gay-rights measures, some of them proposed by conservatives hoping to thwart or roll back gains by homosexuals.

In Washington state, one ballot initiative would limit property tax increases to 1 percent a year, unless voters approved a larger levy. Another measure would raise tobacco taxes to the highest level in the country, boosting the price of a pack of cigarettes to $5.

Washington's secretary of state, Sam Reed, said he was unsure how the shadow of terrorism would affect turnout.

"Many people are distracted and may even feel that voting isn't as important as other things this fall," he said. "And yet others passionately believe that voting is the most patriotic thing an American can do."

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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