New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie easily won re-election Tuesday and former national Democratic Party leader Terry McAuliffe captured the governorship of Virginia as off-year election voters chose familiar candidates closer to the middle.
New Yorkers elected Bill de Blasio their first Democratic mayor in two decades.
In a closely watched Republican primary runoff in Alabama, former college chancellor Bradley Byrne defeated outspoken Tea Party candidate Dean Young for the Republican nomination for a vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Democrat Martin Walsh was elected mayor of Boston over another Democrat, John Connolly. In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed won a second term.
In financially strapped Detroit, Mike Duggan, a health care executive once thought to have little chance of surviving the primary, defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and became the first white mayor of the majority-black city in 40 years.
President Obama telephoned congratulations to McAuliffe, de Blasio and Walsh, all Democrats, the White House said.
In Virginia, the loss by Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was a rejection of the strongly conservative GOP leadership the state has experienced for four years, though in a closer outcome than polls had forecast.
Cuccinelli was a favorite of Tea Party Republicans, had battled for tight restrictions on abortion and led an ideological campaign aimed at blocking President Obama's health care law even after it was enacted. McAuliffe surged ahead only when the final returns from Democratic-leaning Northern Virginia, including suburbs of Washington, D.C., were counted.
Christie's easy win in New Jersey secures a second and final term in that office and propels him toward a possible 2016 presidential campaign, where he could be among the least conservative contenders, positioned to attract independent voters.
"Thank you, New Jersey, for making me the luckiest guy in the world,'' Christie said.
Elsewhere, Colorado voters approved a measure to tax newly legalized recreational marijuana, raising money for school construction and regulation funds. Colorado voters rejected a $1 billion tax increase for schools.
In Houston, voters rejected a proposal to convert the aging Astrodome into a convention center, an outcome that apparently dooms the once futuristic domed stadium to the wrecking ball.
Cuccinelli had support from Virginians angry with the Obama administration, last month's federal government shutdown and the flailing debut of the president's health care insurance website. McAuliffe's get-out-the-vote strategy was from Obama's playbook, focusing on minorities and young voters as well as women. No one in a sitting president's party has won a Virginia governor's race since 1977.
Christie voted at a firehouse in Mendham Township and said it was his last race for state office.
In a New York City's mayoral race noted for the early implosion of sexting Democratic contender and former congressman Anthony Weiner, front-runner de Blasio defeated Republican Joe Lhota, former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The winner replaces 12-year incumbent Michael Bloomberg.
De Blasio's election makes him the first Democratic mayor in the city since David Dinkins, who was elected in 1989. As the city's elected public advocate, he ran on a sweeping liberal agenda that includes a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten and improved police-community relations. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1 in New York City.
In Boston, Walsh, a former union official before his election to the House in 1997, leaned on support from labor organizations. Connolly tried to make education his core issue.
A key ballot issue approved in Colorado establishes a 15% excise tax to pay for school construction, plus an extra 10% sales tax to fund marijuana enforcement. The taxes could bring in $70 million annually.
Voters in 10 of 11 northern Colorado counties voted down a proposal to try to secede from the state. A largely symbolic gesture, even if approved, the plan would have required state and federal approval.
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