by Tom Kutsch
Many Americans will take to the polls on Tuesday to vote in a number of high-profile elections and consequential ballot initiatives that have garnered national attention, although the issues are largely city- or state-specific. Al Jazeera takes a look at four of the election battlegrounds and two important issues being decided on in the nation-sweeping votes.
New York City mayoral race
Residents of New York City will elect a new mayor for the first time in 12 years, as heavily favored public advocate Bill de Blasio squares off against Joe Lhota, former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and once a deputy to former Mayor Rudolph Guiliani. De Blasio has styled himself as a progressive alternative to current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seeking to change course on the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy and pledging to tackle the city’s economic inequality, while Lhota’s Republican policies would likely be closer to Bloomberg’s.
Boston mayoral race
In Boston, two candidates are battling to replace longtime Mayor Thomas Menino. State Rep. Martin Walsh squares off against City Councilor John Connolly, in a battle of two Democrats that has been defined on the surface more by divergent economic backgrounds and career paths than public policy. Walsh is from blue-collar roots and worked in union politics, emphasizing public spending for working class people, while Connolly is from a political family and has worked as a lawyer with an avowed interest in education and urban policy. The race has been very tight, and is expected to be a toss-up come Tuesday.
Virginia governor race
In Virginia, former National Democratic chairman and stalwart Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe is battling Republican and current state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a stridently conservative candidate who has found himself trailing his Democratic opponent after finding difficulty gaining inroads to independents, women and minority voters. The campaign has been a largely negative race, highlighted by attack ads, with voters in many cases more likely to vote against the other candidate than passionately supporting their own. The state is an important test for national politics, given its swing state status for presidential elections, something that Cuccinelli has seized upon in touting his role as attorney general in opposing President Barack Obama’s health care law early on in Virginia.
New Jersey governor race
Republican Gov. Chris Christie seeks re-election in New Jersey, and, despite running in one of the most solidly Democratic states in the U.S., he is widely expected to beat Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono. Christie is one of the more popular governors in the country, and many have pegged him as a leading 2016 presidential candidate. His political star within the Republican establishment has been treated with some skepticism, given the perception of him as relatively moderate politician in a party that has increasingly shifted to its more conservative base.
Washington food labeling
Washington residents will vote on an initiative that would force food manufacturers to label products containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), a move that would make it the first state to do so. A similar ballot initiative in California in 2012 narrowly failed. The Washington campaign leading up to Tuesday’s ballot measure has been one of the most expensive in Washington’s history, with at least $27 million, mostly in outside money, streaming into the state. A heated battled has pitted consumer-choice and food sustainability advocates against agricultural and industrial food giants.
Colorado marijuana tax
In Colorado, people will take up another vote on marijuana policy a year after becoming one of the first two states to legalize the drug. Tuesday’s initiative centers around taxes over the sale and purchase of the drug, which could prove a bellwether for the country as other states contemplate overturning prohibitions on marijuana, a move backed by a slim majority of Americans. The ballot measure could establish a 25 percent tax, made up of separate excise and sales taxes, the revenue from which would go toward funding school construction and costs associated with state and municipal efforts to regulate legal marijuana.