African-Americans fared well on Election Day in races for high-level local offices.
Four cities elected their first black mayor:
Buffalo, N.Y. - DemocratByron Brown(pictured left) will lead the state's second-largest city after winning a four-way contest with 64 percent of the vote.
Cincinnati, Ohio (corretion below in comments)- State Senator Mark Mallory(pictured right) defeated Councilman David Pepper 52 to 48 percent in a nonpartisan runoff.
Youngstown, Ohio - Jay Williams, an independent, took 52 percent of the vote in beating out Democratic State Senator Robert Hagan and four other candidates.
Asheville, N.C. - Terry Bellamy was victorious over her fellow council member Joe Dunn with 57 percent of the vote.
Atlanta, Ga. - Mayor Shirley Franklin(pictured left) was reelected in a landslide against token opposition with 91 percent of the vote.
Detroit, Mich. - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick came from behind against challenger Freeman Hendrix, winding up with a 53 to 47 percent margin of victory.
King County, Wash. - Democratic County Executive Ron Sims(pictured right) won a tighter-than-expected race for a third term--55 to 41 percent--versus County Councilman David Irons, a Republican.
The first black mayors of two cities lost re-election bids:
Fayetteville, N.C. - Mayor Marshall Pitts Jr. was denied a second term by Tony Chavonne, who earned 57 percent of the vote.
Toledo, Ohio - Mayor Jack Ford lost to Carty Finkbeiner, his predecessor who led the city from 1993-2001 but couldn't run again four years ago because of term limits. Finkbeiner polled 61 percent to Ford's 38 percent.
Texas has become the 18th state to amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage. As our hard-working election night blogger Josh Goodman points out, the amendment's 3-to-1 passage certainly represents a huge win for social conservatives and others opposed to gay marriages.
That sentiment will find continued expression in 2006, when voters in at least four more states (maybe more like 10) will decide whether to ban gay marriage.
But, as I pointed out in Governing a couple months back, aside from the high-profile issue of marriage, gays and lesbians are racking up a lot of political victories. That was certainly the case in Maine, where voters upheld an anti-discrimination law after twice repealing it. (Perhaps predictably, opponents on the law are now setting their sights on a marriage ban.)
In Virginia, four state House candidates who openly appealed to anti-gay sentiments all lost. Several openly gay or lesbian candidates running for local office also won--including at least one in Texas. (Here's a rundown.)
"I think we still see Americans struggling with the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples," Carrie Evans, state legislative director for Human Rights Campaign, said in an interview today. "But Americans are on board with basic things like job discrimination and housing protection. We know this from public opinion polls, and we know this from Maine."
This hasn’t been a good month for anti-tax crusaders. Voters in several elections sent a clear signal that they are willing to dig deeper to pay for government services.
A week ago, Colorado citizens suspended the nation’s showcase tax and spending limitation law, enriching state coffers by $4 billion over the next five years.
Yesterday, California voters rejected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spending limit initiative.
Three years after repealing the Washington State legislature’s attempt to raise gas taxes for road projects, voters there gave the thumbs up to a new 9.5-cent tax.
Perhaps most tellingly, architects of record-breaking tax increases paid no price at the polls. Mike Bloomberg took a second mayoral term in a landslide after engineering the largest property tax increase New York City has ever seen.
In Virginia, the threats made by the Club for Growth and other groups to unseat legislators who supported the commonwealth’s big tax package proved hollow. Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine eked out a come-from-behind win in the governor’s race, running explicitly as the keeper of Governor Mark Warner’s policy flames--higher taxes and all.
"The Kaine victory is the exclamation point," says Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. "Who would have believed that Virginia would ratify the largest tax increase in its history by electing the chosen successor of the governor who secured the tax hike?"
These elections turned on local concerns, but most had the same underlying political dynamics. Public employee unions were predictably in favor of greater revenues, but the generally anti-tax Republican Party found itself split in places, with prominent business groups supporting the tax hikes in question.
This particular group of tax increases were touted for specific purposes, such as roads or education. Supporters were careful to suggest that they weren’t increasing the size of government, just trying to pay the bills that were already there.
The theme of relative modesty was in keeping with the tax increases that have been reluctantly proposed in recent years by Republican governors such as Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho and Kenny Guinn of Nevada.
The Colorado measure, which will let the state hold onto more money, instead of offering refunds to taxpayers, "was definitely not cast as a tax increase--in fact, the first three words were 'without raising taxes,'" says Chris Kinnan, of Citizens for a Sound Economy. "It was a failure on our side to communicate that this was a tax increase."
If the puff seems to have gone out of anti-tax activists’ sails just now, they are confident that prevailing winds are still favorable.
Both candidates in the New Jersey governor’s race stressed their desire to lower chart-topping property taxes. Several governors standing for re-election next year, including some Democrats, plan to tout their success in filling billion-dollar deficits without having raised broad-based taxes. Despite the setbacks in Colorado and California, tax and spending limitation measures will be moving in several states, including Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin.
But anti-tax fever appears to have cooled, for now. Voters never complain that their taxes are too low. But they can be convinced, by the right messengers operating in the right set of circumstances, that they will need to pay a little more.
Here's the LA Times' take on why all four of Arnold's ballot measures failed:
He wasn't asking voters so much to "join Arnold" — his inclusive recall message — as to choose sides. And in California, his side — the Republican side — is greatly outnumbered by Democrats and political independents.
A Republican speechwriter adds:
Schwarzenegger's approach "worked well in the recall....The problem is that it didn't wear very well over a period of time. After a while he was a governor, not an actor, and it's quite a different role."
2:35 A.M.: We're still waiting on the last results from California, but I'm headed to bed. Prop. 75 is especially close and you can get all the results here.
Overall, I would say that Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial results make it a good day for Democrats. Still, Republicans fared well enough in NYC mayor, the Ohio ballot measures and down-ballot Virginia races that today's results do not portend certain doom for the GOP in 2006. Temperate political observers will sound much like Chicago Cubs fans tomorrow (or today actually), stating, "Wait 'til next year."