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Youngkin Wins In Virginia; In Stunner, NJ Remains Too Close to Call
Buffalo Mayor Wins Write-In Over Progressive While Minneapolis Rejects Doing Away With Police Department

November 3, 2021 by Dan McCue
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin speaks at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Republican Glenn Youngkin won the nation’s most watched gubernatorial contest on Tuesday, edging out Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a race widely seen as an early referendum on the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats.

As of Wednesday morning, with 2724 of 2855 Virginia’s precincts reporting, Youngkin had 50.7% of the vote compared to 48.6% for McAuliffe, a margin of 69,761 votes out of 3.28 million ballots cast.

A third candidate, Princess Blanding, running under the Liberation Party banner, garnered the support of .08% of voters.

The GOP also appears to have won the Virginia race for lieutenant governor, with Republican Winsome Sears topping Democrat Hala Ayala, 50.7% to 49.3%, and for attorney general, where Republican Jason Miyares bested Democrat Mark Herring, 50.5% to 49.5%.

But the stunner of the night wasn’t in Virginia. The real nail-biter was in New Jersey where a week ago polls suggested incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy would be reelected by a decent margin.

Instead election watchers and New Jersey residents awoke Wednesday morning with Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli locked in tight battle with Ciattarelli slightly ahead due to a huge voter turnout in Ocean County, the state’s GOP stronghold.

By mid-morning, with 88% of the expected vote in, the lead had flipped to Murphy, with 49.8% of the vote, compared to Ciattarelli’s 49.5%, a margin of 7,195 votes out of 2,368,485 cast.

Supporters of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wait for the final results at the election night party in Asbury Park, N.J. on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Though both contests began months ago looking as if they’d be a referendum on the legacy of former President Donald Trump, in the end the former president was largely a non factor.

Instead, Democrats are left to ponder why the races proved so difficult in states President Biden captured by 10 percentage points, in the case of Virginia, and 15 percentage points, in the case of New Jersey, in 2020.

In the end, it may have been simply that the Republicans were able to align themselves with Trump earlier, but pivot to the center in their final days of the campaign.

“We’re campaigning as Virginians in Virginia with Virginians,” Youngkin said last week as he explained why Trump wouldn’t be coming to VIrginia to campaign for him. 

Instead, Youngkin spent the final weeks of the race hammering away at McAuliffe on local issues including the economy and education.

Indeed, It may have been a gaffe by McAuliffe that gave Youngkin his first real hold on the race.

It came during a Sept. 28 debate, when the topic turned to transgender students and to parental objections to racially charged or sexually explicit materials being included in school curriculums and libraries.

“The parents had the right to veto books … also take them off the shelves,” McAuliffe said. “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions.

“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he added.

Youngkin’s campaign edited a clip of the statement down to McAuliffe’s final line, and used it in a commercial that aired constantly in the closing days of the race.

McAuliffe tried to recover his equilibrium, but by the time he did, it was too late.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press” with moderator Chuck Todd, McAuliffe accused Youngkin of playing to racial animosity and trying to ban the book “Beloved” by Toni Morrison from the classroom.

“Out of thousands of books you could look at, why did you take the one black female author? He’s ending the campaign on a racist dog whistle,” McAuliffe said.

“The question should be, should parents be allowed to take books off of shelves? Should that be left to parents or left to school boards and others who do this every single day?”

Of the line that cast a shadow over his campaign, McAuliffe said, “Everyone clapped when I said it.”

In NYC the Champ is Eric Adams

To no one’s surprise, Eric Adams, a former New York City police captain and avowed centrist, was elected on Tuesday as the 110th mayor of New York City and the second Black mayor in the city’s history, following the late David Dinkins.

New York City Mayor Elect Eric Adams speaks to supporters Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Throughout his campaign, Adams used “The Champ Is Here” by Jadakiss as his theme song and it played loudly Tuesday night as the Associated Press called the contest within minutes of polls closing.

Even before the dust could settle on a day of voting, it was clear Adams had trounced his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, a group of civilian public safety volunteers who made their name protecting city subway riders from thugs in the 1970s.

Addressing supporters Tuesday night, Sliwa pledged to support the new mayor, quipping, “You will have Curtis Sliwa to kick around.”

As for Adams, he told his supporters that divisiveness has caused the average New York City resident to miss “the beauty of our diversity.”

“Today we take off the intramural jersey and we put on one jersey: Team New York,” he said.

Boston Elects First Woman Mayor

In Boston, Michelle Wu, a protege of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has become the first woman and first woman of color to be elected mayor, breaking a string of Irish- and Italian-American men who have held the office for more than a century.

Boston Mayor-elect Michelle Wu greets supporters at her election night party, Tuesday Nov. 2, 2021, in Boston. Wu defeated fellow City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George in the race. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

Born shortly after her parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan, Wu spent her childhood interpreting for them as they tried to set down roots in the United States. 

But her life took a significant turn in her early 20s when her mother suffered a breakdown of her mental health, and Wu had to put her college career on hold to care for the family.

She has since said that seering experience was her inspiration for pursuing a career in public service. She also promised voters that she would make Boston a living laboratory for progressive policy.

As of Wednesday morning, Wu had 64.2% of the vote, compared to centrist challenger Annissa Essaibi George’s 35.8%, a margin of 40,360 of 142,118 votes cast.

In Buffalo, A Write-In Defeats Progressive Candidate

Incumbent Mayor Byron Brown’s campaign for a fifth term as a write-in candidate after losing the city’s Democratic primary, appeared to bounce back big Tuesday night, soundly defeating progressive Democrat India Walton.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown speaks to supporters at his election night party as wife Michelle looks on, late Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

With 100% of the city’s election precincts reporting, “Write-In” garnered 58.8% of the vote, compared to Walton’s 41.2%, a margin of 10,287 votes out of 58,259.

However, the city’s board of elections has indicated it could be quite some time before the results are considered official.

Absentee votes can arrive through Nov. 9 as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and the Board of Elections won’t begin to examine the write-in votes until Nov. 17. 

The absolute deadline to certify the election is Nov. 27.

Still Brown seemed confident Tuesday night, telling supporters “The people chose four more years.”

Walton has refused to concede, assuring her supporters that “we might not know the winner for weeks.”

“What I can guarantee you is that I will continue to fight for everyday Buffalonians who are struggling to make ends meet and live a quality life,” Walton said. “I am going to continue working to build a safe and healthy Buffalo.”

Minneapolis Voters Reject Ballot Measure Eliminating Police Dept.

A year and a half after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, residents of the city rejected a ballot initiative that would have replaced the city’s long-troubled police department with a new Department of Public Safety.

Mayor Jacob Frey gives a speech at the Jefe Urban Cocina restaurant on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)

In the end, despite the galvanizing effect of Floyd’s murder, 56% of Minneapolis voters said they did not want to do away with the department compared to 44% who believed it’s time to go another way. The margin was 17,319 votes out of 143,319 cast.

Voters also seem inclined to keep incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey, a moderate Democrat who took considerable heat for questioning the wisdom of “defunding the police” in the wake of Floyd’s death and called for improving the existing police department instead.

He currently leads the field of seventeen candidates in a race that will be decided by ranked-choice voting.

In the first round of voting, Frey received 42.8% of the vote, Sheila Nezhad, 21.1%, Kate Knuth, 18.4%, and AJ Awed, 4/7%. A total of 143,645 votes were cast in the mayoral contest.

In Minneapolis, voters are encouraged to rank their top three choices for mayor and city council.

If one candidate gets a majority of first choice votes – that’s 50% plus one vote – the election is over and the frontrunner wins. 

Since that didn’t happen last night, the contest moves on to the next phase of tabulations and eliminations begin.

When candidates are eliminated, their votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on their supporters’ second choices. This process of elimination and addition will continue until one candidate passes the 50% plus one threshold or there are only two left in the race.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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