What You Should Be Watching For This Election
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While most of the country remains blithely unaware that Election Day occurs once a year, rather than just on leap years, voters in a few states know that even the odd-numbered years can bring hot political action to the voting booths. This year, that action's all along the eastern seaboard, but even a cold autumn wind won't chill anyone out.
Maine's Same Sex Marriage Referendum
In the northern-most state on the east coast, Governor John Baldacci made more than a few progressive hearts warmer when he signed into law a bill legalizing same sex marriage in the state. Almost immediately, anti-equality activists (many from outside the state) tried to throw cold water on Maine's recognition that the state has no business dictating who its citizens choose to spend their lives with -- what happened to "small government," anyway? -- and got a repeal on the ballot for tomorrow. Polls show that the race remains neck-and-(red)neck, and, like California's Prop 8, voters in favor of marriage equality will have to vote against the same sex marriage ballot question in order to vote for equal rights for their neighbors.
New York's 23rd Congressional District
While New York's a true-blue state, few people of the liberal persuasion ( other than Hillary Clinton) have done particularly well in the state's most nothern voting booths. When President Obama nominated Congressman John McHugh to be the Secretary of the Army, few thought the 23rd would be a Democratic pick-up, even with Rahm Emanuel likely whispering that in the president's ear.
Fast forward to October and conservative teabaggers could yet hand Rahm Emanuel his sweetest fantasy. Local Republicans chose moderate Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava as the heir-apparent to McHugh's seat, but New York's Conservative Party wasn't down with Scozzafava's moderate positions on everything from reproductive rights to marriage equality, Emanuel's big-tent strategy be damned. They nominated the out-of-district Dan Hoffman and let the teabaggers (and the intellectual duo of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin) try to plaster up some of Hillary Clinton's 18 million cracks about which Palin once spoke so adoringly.
After all the ensuing nastiness, tanking poll numbers and the slow realization that the Palin-wing of the Republican party only likes women Republicans when they toe the line on everything from abortion to religion to LGBT rights, Scozzafava dropped out this weekend. In a final finger to the out-of-district conservatives who spent months bashing her as too liberal for a district she'd spent her entire career serving, she backed the one candidate who actually lives in the congressonal district he's vying to represent: Democrat Bill Owens.
New Jersey Governor's Race
When you think about a former Goldman Sachs executive potentially being driven from office in an off-year election by voters upset by his financial management of the state, one would be forgiven for thinking it was 2006 and the candidate was a Republican. Unfortunately for Democratic Governor Jon Corzine -- and the Democrats in New Jersey -- that's not the case. Corzine and his money bags were initially expected to remain firmly ensconsed in Trenton, but for months now polls have been showing the race is tighter than Goldman's hold on the Fed. Worse yet, the most recent polls have Republican challenger and former U.S. attorney Chris Christie in the lead.
Republicans will likely crow if New Jersey turns purple, but these are the same Republicans who hate former Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and her liberal environmental policies, with such a passion. And if Corzine wanted more respect from his constituents, he probably wouldn't have recycled a Republican talking point from Sonia Sotomayor's and Dr. Regina Benjamin's confirmation processes -- that they weren't svelte enough to serve in office -- and thrown it at Christie so close to the election. It was enough to make one wonder if Corzine spent enough time with his hard-working and often less-than-svelte constituents to know what one can do with a couple extra pounds around one's middle.