At 9:30 p.m. the Associated Press called overwhelming gubernatorial victories for both Mark Warner, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, and New Jersey Democrat Jim McGreevey. Each campaign showcased candidates trying in their own way to reckon with the terrible after-effects of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The Big Race in the Big Apple
In New York City, a vitriolic race for mayor came to a nail-biter of a finish as Green battled Bloomberg for the unenviable right to succeed current Mayor and secular saint Rudy Giuliani. Billionaire tycoon Bloomberg spent a record $50 million of his own money on the campaign, while Green, the city's Public Advocate, spent a relatively paltry $12 million in public financing.
The ethnic vote proved critical for both candidates; Green, who squeaked by popular Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in a bitter primary contest, was depending heavily on the city's black Democrats to keep his bid alive. Latinos, on the other hand, seemed more inclined to vote for Bloomberg, if only to signal their disgust for Ferrer's erstwhile competition.
As recently as last week, Green seemed primed to walk away with the election. But then Rudy Giuliani stepped in. The mayor's enthusiastic endorsement of Mike Bloomberg was like magic; within 24 hours Bloomberg's numbers were even with Green's. For the final 10 days before the election, New Yorkers couldn't turn on a television without seeing a grinning Rudy explaining why Bloomberg was the man to succeed him.
Wednesday morning, mayor-elect Bloomberg took to the streets to thank his supporters and joined Fernando Ferrer for breakfast in the Bronx. Obviously exhausted by Tuesday's late-night dramatics, Bloomberg was nonetheless in a voluble mood. On his way to another post-election meeting, the businessman stopped to remind reporters of a campaign promise he intends to keep: He will accept only $1 of the mayor's annual $195,000 salary.
Democrats win governorships
The Virginia race, which pitted Warner against Republican Mark Earley, was the most expensive gubernatorial campaign in the state's history. Warner, a moderate businessman, raised more than $18 million for his campaign, while Earley, a longtime politico, put roughly $10 million into his attempt at the statehouse. Virginia, generally considered a solidly Republican state, has not elected a Democrat since Douglas Wilder won the vote in 1989. Observers say Warner won this year by staking out centrist positions on popular issues like gun ownership. Earley was also hurt by party infighting over budget and tax issues.
In New Jersey, McGreevey won easily over his rival, conservative Republican Bret Schundler. The GOP candidate was recently endorsed by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the man with the Midas touch, but even that wasn't enough to beat back McGreevey's aggressive campaign to paint Schundler as a reactionary whose views on abortion and gun control were utterly out of sync with those of the general public. McGreevey was absent from the campaign trail for the last couple of days before the election; his wife is in the hospital with pregnancy complications.
McGreevey's and Warner's victories bring the national total of Democratic governors to 21, with 29 Republicans and two independents. Both men broke 12-year losing streaks for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in their respective states.