Virginia GOP Seizes Legislature, Dem Re-elected Kentucky Gov
By Bair S Walker , Senior Writer
Going into Tuesday's statewide election in Virginia, Republican Gov. James Gilmore made it clear that wresting control of the state legislature from the Democrats was a burning personal objective. Old Dominion voters made Gilmore's dream a reality, giving the GOP a majority in the House of Delegates as well as the state Senate for the first time in history.
When the votes were tallied, Republicans had won a 52 to 47 edge over Democrats in the House of Delegates. Prior to Tuesday they already enjoyed a 21 to 19 edge in the Senate, which remained unchanged.
Addressing supporters in Richmond, an ecstatic Gilmore yelled, "Free at last, free at last, free at long last! Democracy has finally come to the Commonwealth!"
Republican control of the legislature means the GOP will control the redrawing of congressional district boundary lines after the 2000 census. Virginia could lose as many as three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to reapportionment.
Democrats fared better in Kentucky, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Paul Patton was easily re-elected over Republican candidate Peppy Martin. Patton was the first governor of the Bluegrass State eligible for a second term.
But in Mississippi, the scene of the only other governor's race on Tuesday, the outcome of a contest between Democratic Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Republican U.S. Rep Mike Parker to succeed incumbent Republican Kirk Fordice was still too close to call Wednesday. CNN reported that with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Musgrove had 373,376 votes, or 49.5 percent, Parker, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party, had 366,708 or 48.6 percent. A Reform Party candidate and an independent split the rest of the votes.
It said an unknown number of absentee ballots remained to be counted, however, and that the process could take 10 days.
In the race for Mississippi lieutenant governor, Democrat Amy Tuck had a 52 percent to 48 percent lead over Republican candidate Bill Hawks with 89 percent of the vote in. If she prevails, Tuck would become just the second woman voted to statewide office in the Magnolia State this century.
Mississippi became the first state to refuse to impose term limits on its legislators, blunting a movement that had gone unopposed in 18 other states, including Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana.
In the state of Washington, voters abolished a car tax and gave the electorate more say over future tax policy. They also rejected a ban on net fishing that commercial fishermen said would have put them out of business.
In another closely watched referendum, voters in Maine approved the use of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes but defeated a ban on partial birth abortion.
Several important mayoral races were decided on Tuesday. Democrat John Street defeated Republican Sam Katz in a race to succeed Philadelphia's Democratic Mayor Edward Rendell. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, running for re-election in a non-partisan election with 14 other candidates, was forced into a Dec. 14 runoff when he failed to get the 50 percent plus one vote he needed to win the contest outright.
In addition to prolonging the mayoral race, San Francisco voters also delivered a rebuke to banks with ATM fees, by backing a measure banning ATM surcharges. The legality of Proposition F, which prohibits banks and credit unions from imposing surcharges on non-customers, will likely be challenged in court.
California voters in three East Bay cities -- San Ramon, Livermore and Pleasanton -- rejected the nation's most stringent growth control measures, apparently viewing them as too extreme.
In Baltimore, a city where most of the voters are African American, white Democratic mayoral candidate Martin O'Malley crushed Republican challenger David Tufaro.
Democrats enjoyed rare victories in Indianapolis, where Bart Peterson became the city's first Democratic mayor since 1963, and in Columbus, Ohio where Michael Coleman became the first Democrat elected mayor since 1971. Coleman is the first African-American ever elected mayor of Ohio's capital city.
In Houston, incumbent Mayor Lee Brown was voted into office again and San Antonio-area voters overwhelmingly approved tax increases to build a $175 million arena for the San Antonio Spurs.
A statewide vote in Texas saw 13 of 17 proposed constitutional amendments gain the approval of state residents. One that passed authorizes $400 million in bonds for college students, while another allows the garnishment of wages to enforce court-ordered spousal maintenance.
The Texas scholarship money will be funded with a $400 million general-obligation bond. Voters in Ohio and Maine also approved bonds that would be used for higher education.
- New Jersey Democrats picked up three seats in the state legislature. The GOP currently controls the state house 48-32. New Jersey voters also approved the largest state bond issue in three years, allowing state to borrow $500 million for transportation projects around the state. Half the funds will go toward repairing aging bridges, with the rest of the money going into the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund, which exhausted its $4 billion budget.
- Ohio voters approved a plan letting the state borrow less expensively for school construction.
- Coloradans okayed a $1.7 billion proposal to speed up work on 24 major road projects, including expanding Interstate 25 south of Denver, earning a "thank you" from Gov. Bill Owens.
- Voters in St. Paul, Minn., dashed mayor Norm Coleman's dreams of stealing the Twins baseball club from Minneapolis by downing a half-percent sales tax to help fund a proposed $325 million ballpark. With most precincts reporting, St Paul, Minnesota voters also appeared to have rejected a ban on billboards. Opponents of the billboard ban had argued that it was an unconstitutional ban on free speech.
- A proposal to use tax money to build a $160 million basketball arena in Houston received a thumbs-down from voters. But voters in Scottsdale, Arizona approved an arena for the National Hockey League's new Phoenix Coyotes and San Antonio voters agreed to spend tax money to help build a new home for pro basketball's San Antonio Spurs.
- The nation's longest-serving mayor, John Coyne, of Brooklyn, Ohio, was dumped by his city's voters after 52 years in office.
In Iowa, an Internet voting system was an option in some local elections. California, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington are also taking a look at cyberspace balloting, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Brookings Institution senior fellow Steven Hess said it was difficult to read any political trends into the election results.
"These really should be described as off, off-year elections. You really can't make an awful lot out of an election like this," Hess told stateline.org.
Joseph Giordono, Chrisanne Loll, Maureen Cosgrove and Joanne Bowlby contributed to this report.