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Down the ballot: Dem victory in VA

Virginia Democrats won control last night of the state Senate. And while the Republicans held onto the state House, Democrats picked up seats there too. The Washington Post: "The Democratic gains offered further evidence of a closely divided electorate as both parties gear up for next year's presidential and U.S. Senate races. Although Democrats made advances in rapidly changing, diversifying Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, the GOP held on to several Senate seats in more rural parts of the state."

Another Washington Post piece notes that the Virginia GOP campaign against illegal immigration didn't quite work. "Voters across Virginia chose candidates in state and local elections yesterday not out of anger over illegal immigration but based on party affiliation, a preference for moderation and strong views on such key issues as residential growth and traffic congestion. With a few notable exceptions, the trend benefited Democrats and not those who campaigned the loudest for tough sanctions against illegal immigrants."

In Kentucky, challenger Steve Beshear (D) defeated incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) in a rout, 59%-41%. The Lexington Herald-Leader writes, "The first Republican governor since 1971, Fletcher struggled to rebound from the political fallout of the state hiring investigation that led to indictments and pardons before being settled in a 2006 agreement with prosecutors. As a result, he saw a reversal of his 10-point election victory in 2003."

In Mississippi, meanwhile, incumbent Gov. Haley Barbour (R) cruised to re-election over challenger John Arthur Eaves Jr. (D). With 98% of precincts reporting, the Jackson Clarion Ledger says, Barbour bested Eaves, 58%-42%. "Some political observers had predicted a wider margin of victory for Barbour, who won praise for his response to Katrina and touted economic development successes such as a Toyota manufacturing plant… Some wonder whether Barbour will serve another full, four-year term. A former lobbyist and chairman of the Republican National Committee, he has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate -- if Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani ends up on the ballot next November."

In New York, state Democrats are declaring "victory" of sorts by proclaiming that Gov. Spitzer's controversial plan for drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants didn't do damage to Democratic state legislative incumbents last night. "In most of those areas where Mr. Spitzer's licensing proposal moved to the forefront of the campaign, Democrats were able to cauterize the issue by publicly breaking with the governor, harshly criticizing the plan and in some cases threatening to join lawsuits challenging it."

New Jersey voters rejected a Gov. Corzine-backed ballot measure that would have permitted the state to borrow $450 million for stem cell research. "Supporters had argued that the borrowing would help pay for research that could help deliver New Jersey from financial distress by bringing additional tax revenue and tens of thousands of jobs to the state. Critics, by contrast, said that New Jersey could not afford to add to the state's surging debt load of $30 billion."

One of the upsets of the night was in Indianapolis, IN, where a two-term Democratic mayor, Bart Peterson, was ousted by a Republican who was outspent by a 10-1 margin! The Republican who won, Greg Ballard, apparently capitalized on public anger over local tax increases as well as a rise in the city's crime rate.

And ever wonder what it would take to get younger folks to the polls? Threaten to take their bar privileges away. Seriously. In Iowa City, IA, there was an ordinance on the ballot that if it passed would have prevented bars from allowing any adults under 21. The ordinance didn't pass and bars can continue to allow adults 19 and older into their watering holes.