The OTHER votes to watch: NJ Gov. Murphy faces GOP challenger, Minneapolis could disband the police

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Voters in multiple states across the country are heading to the polls on Tuesday, and while most contests aren’t seeing the same high-profile coverage as Virginia’s gubernatorial election, the various races could have implications for state and even national politics going into the 2022 midterm cycle.

In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy is defending his seat against a GOP challenger while New York City is voting in a new mayor as Bill De Blasio ends his second term at the end of this year.      

Minneapolis, a city still shaken by George Floyd’s murder, will vote on whether to disband its police department and create a new public safety agency.

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Ohio’s 11th and 15th districts have general elections for open House seats – one in a blue-leaning area and the other won by Donald Trump in 2020 – though Democrats are hoping for a major upset to add to their majority in Congress. 

And national conservative groups are pouring money into an unlikely area – local school board races – hoping to capitalize on frustration over pandemic-related closures, mask mandates and culture wars. 

New Jersey’s governor hopes to break Democrats’ unlucky streak

In the blue stronghold of New Jersey, which has elected a Democrat to the White House in every presidential race since Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory, a Democratic incumbent governor hasn’t won re-election since 1977. 

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It’s the only other state besides Virginia to hold a gubernatorial election the year after a presidential race.

For the last five times Americans elected a new commander-in-chief, New Jersey has elected a governor of the opposite party. 

Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Anthony Kennedy and his wife, Mary Davis, cast their votes during the Virginia governor's race, at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia

Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Anthony Kennedy and his wife, Mary Davis, cast their votes during the Virginia governor’s race, at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia

Mayoral candidate Sheila Nezhad, right, casts her vote on Election Day at the Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 in Minneapolis

Mayoral candidate Sheila Nezhad, right, casts her vote on Election Day at the Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 in Minneapolis

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Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams votes for himself as the next New York City Mayor Tuesday morning, Nov. 2, 2021 in the Bedford Styvesant section of Brooklyn

Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams votes for himself as the next New York City Mayor Tuesday morning, Nov. 2, 2021 in the Bedford Styvesant section of Brooklyn

But Murphy appears poised to break that streak – despite a recent poll having the leader of his party, Joe Biden, at just a 43 percent last week. A Trafalgar Group poll taken from October 29-31 had the governor at a four point lead above Republican Jack Ciattarelli.

Murphy served in the Obama administration as US Ambassador to Germany and successfully beat a deputy of former Governor Chris Christie to lead the Garden State in 2017.

New Jersey is something of a test case for Democrats’ theory of how they can win in 2022 and beyond. Murphy fulfilled his campaign promises and was able to implement vastly expanded government funding for widespread prekindergarten and free community college – policies that Biden is struggling to get through the Democrats’ razor-thin majorities in Congress. 

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Phil Murphy is poised to win re-election as governor of New Jersey despite Joe Biden's unpopularity in the state

Phil Murphy is poised to win re-election as governor of New Jersey despite Joe Biden’s unpopularity in the state

Murphy has embraced the left wing of the party and hosted Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders for a campaign rally last month.

While Ciattarelli has also tried to walk the line between energizing Trump voters and appealing to suburbanites, he faces a more daunting task than Glenn Youngkin in Virginia. New Jersey is a more Democratic state than Virginia – Murphy won his first election by 14 percentage points in 2018. 

He also has the power of incumbency on his side, unlike in Virginia, the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow governors consecutive terms.

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Ohio adds two new members to the US House of Representatives 

The Buckeye State has had visits from national figures in both the Democrat and Republican parties as voters in the 11th and 15th districts decide who they send to the lower chamber of Congress. 

President Joe Biden stepped into the 15th congressional race at the last minute by endorsing two-term Democrat state Representative Allison Russo on Monday, in an election that will test Democrats’ strength in the suburbs.

‘She’s the kind of leader we need as we build back an economy that creates good-paying jobs, delivers more affordable health care, and puts middle-class families first,’ Biden said.

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Meanwhile Republican Mike Carey has the backing of former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement carried him through a crowded 11-candidate primary field.

Former Vice President Mike Pence stumped for Carey, a coal lobbyist, over the weekend.

Russo’s bid for the open seat is considered the party’s most competitive in years, though she remains a long shot in the Republican-leaning district.

The seat was vacated by Rep. Steve Stivers in May when he left to lead Ohio’s Chamber of Commerce.

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Democrat Allison Russo got Biden's backing at the last minute of the race

Republican Mike Carey sailed through a crowded primary with Trump's support

Ohio’s 15th congressional district is seeing a showdown between Biden-backed Democrat Allison Russo and GOP coal lobbyist Mike Carey, who won a crowded primary with Trump’s endorsement

A second special congressional election is taking place in the Cleveland-area 11th Congressional district. 

That contest pits Democratic Cuyahoga County Councilmember Shontel Brown against Republican Laverne Gore, a business owner, consultant, and trainer, for Democrat Marcia Fudge’s old seat. 

Fudge stepped down in March to become Biden’s housing secretary after nearly 13 years in Congress. 

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Brown is expected to win the race in the heavily blue area after beating progressive candidate Nina Turner. 

Minneapolis could abolish its current police department

More than a year after the Minnesota city grappled with protests following the murder of black resident George Floyd at the hands of white police officer Derek Chauvin, people there are voting on whether to get rid of the police department altogether.

Floyd’s death launched a nationwide reckoning over racial justice and equal rights while mobilizing progressives to call for defunding the police.  

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The initiative would replace the police with a public safety department that employs a ‘comprehensive public health approach’ and licensed peace officers ‘if necessary.’

The new department would no longer be under the sole command of the mayor’s office, which is significant given that incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey opposes abolishing the police department while a majority of City Council members support the idea.

Residents of Minneapolis will decide whether to replace their existing police department with a public safety department (pictured: People march for the one year anniversary of George Floyd's death on Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Minneapolis)

Residents of Minneapolis will decide whether to replace their existing police department with a public safety department (pictured: People march for the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death on Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Minneapolis)

Opponents have attacked the ballot question as vague, with no concrete plan for what comes after passage. Supporters say opponents are overblowing fears about a falloff in police presence.

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It’s possible the city’s popular black police chief, Medaria Arradondo, will quit if the initiative passes.

The local initiative has divided Minnesota Democrats. Senator Amy Klobuchar is opposed to the measure like Frey, according to the Star Tribune.

But progressive members of the party, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Minneapolis-area Rep. Ilhan Omar, are working to get it passed.

At the same time as Minneapolis voters are heading to the polls, Cleveland residents are also going to weigh in on the future of their police department.

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The Ohio city is voting on whether to establish a Community Police Commission, which would oversee police conduct and discipline along with the existing Civilian Police Review Board.

The new commission would be the final authority on examinations and policies within the Cleveland Police Department and will also be allowed to screen existing officers for potential bias.

Boston votes in a new mayor, New York City chooses Bill De Blasio’s successor, and a Democratic socialist is on the ballot in Buffalo

Residents of two major East Coast cities are voting in new leaders today.

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New York City is saying goodbye to Mayor Bill De Blasio after eight years that saw him implement universal Pre-K for city residents and also launch a short-lived 2020 presidential bid. 

It’s now choosing between Democrat Eric Adams, a retired police officer who’s been Brooklyn Borough president since 2014, and Republican Curtis Silwa, who founded nonprofit crime prevention group Guardian Angels.

Republican NYC mayoral candidate Curtis Silwa founded a crime prevention nonprofit Guardian Angels

Eric Adams is a retired police officer who currently serves as Brooklyn Borough President

New York City’s next mayor will either be retired police officer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democrat, (right) or Republican Curtis Silwa, founder of the Guardian Angels. Adams is widely seen as the favorite to win in the heavily-Democratic city

Adams is widely considered the favorite to win in the blue city. A moderate, he beat a crowded primary field that included former 2020 candidate Andrew Yang.

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If Adams wins he’ll be the second African American to lead New York City after former Mayor David Dinkins.

In Boston, Michelle Wu, the 36-year-old daughter of Taiwanese immigrants and a protégé of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is running against the more moderate Annissa Essaibi George, the daughter of Tunisian and Polish immigrants who has received support from the city’s traditional powerbrokers. 

George grew up in Boston and has the backing of former Police Commissioner William Goss. Wu moved to Boston to attend Harvard University and then Harvard Law School, where she studied under Warren.

The race is widely seen as a test of whether voters in a city long dominated by neighborhood and ethnic politics are ready to tap someone like Wu, who grew up in Chicago.

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Outside interest groups have poured millions of dollars into the Massachusetts race, according to the Boston Globe.

It’s the first time Beantown residents are choosing between two women of color for mayor.  

And upstate New York is also seeing a showdown between a self-described Democratic socialist and a more moderate incumbent. 

In Buffalo, India Walton won an upset victory in June’s Democratic primary. She’ll again have to defeat the city’s mayor, Byron Brown, who is staging a write-in campaign after losing the primary to Walton. 

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Annissa Essaibi George is the daughter of immigrants and grew up in Boston

Michelle Wu moved to Boston to study at Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where she was taught by Massachusetts progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren

Boston’s mayoral race is widely seen as a test of whether voters in a city long dominated by parochial neighborhood and ethnic politics are ready to tap someone like Michelle Wu (right), who grew up in Chicago, over Annissa Essaibi George, who grew up in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood

School board races get help from Mike Pence and other top Republicans

Big players have gotten involved in the normally tepid local races to decide who governs public schools.

Some big GOP donors have stepped in, along with prominent Republican officeholders and Mike Pence, who urged attendees of an Ohio rally last weekend to vote for conservative school board candidates.

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Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is backing an anti-masking candidate running for the board in suburban Des Moines. Dozens of other races, from suburban Denver to suburban Philadelphia, have also become heated.

School board races are small and often not representative of larger trends, but conservatives are hoping to change that Tuesday.

Educational settings have become ideological battlegrounds as parents who oppose critical race theory and mask mandates participate in increasingly heated school board meetings. 

Biden’s Justice Department further inflamed the situation when Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo directing the FBI to work with local law enforcement to crack down on a ‘disturbing trend’ of violent incidents involving school officials.

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One Florida district holds a crowded Democratic primary 

In Florida, 11 Democrats are on the ballot in Tuesday’s primary special election for the seat of Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April after suffering from pancreatic cancer. 

Hastings was the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation – one of the candidates is state Rep. Omari Hardy, who was 3 years old when Hastings was elected in 1992. 

While two Republican candidates are also seeking the nomination to run for the 20th Congressional District seat, the district is heavily Democratic. The winner of the Democratic primary is considered a lock for January’s general election.

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Turnout is expected to be low Tuesday, and it’s conceivable the next US House member to represent the South Florida district can win the primary with 10 percent of the vote. 

The district is 61 percent Democratic and about 13 percent Republican.

State Sen. Perry Thurston and former state Rep. Priscilla Ann Taylor are also among those seeking the seat for Democrats, along with Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, both of whom previously served as county mayor.

The district is a majority black and covers parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Heading into Election Day, out of the more than 345,000 eligible primary voters, nearly 33,000 Democrats and more than 4,000 Republicans had already cast votes.

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