CNN projects: McAuliffe wins governor’s race in Virginia

Updated 11:50 PM EST, Tue November 5, 2013
Terry McAuliffe and his son Peter leave a polling station Tuesday after he cast his vote.
Terry McAuliffe and his son Peter leave a polling station Tuesday after he cast his vote.
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Story highlights

NEW: The establishment candidate beat the tea party candidate in Alabama primary runoff

Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeats Ken Cuccinelli in race for Virginia governor, CNN projects

Bill de Blasio heads toward becoming first Democrat to lead NYC in 20 years

Chris Christie easily takes another term as New Jersey governor

(CNN) —  

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton confidant, trailed Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli through the evening until votes from Democratic strongholds started rolling in and propelled him to victory.

The race was nasty from the get-go and devolved into incessant mudslinging and personal attacks. Voters throughout the commonwealth of Virginia were bombarded by negative ads and polling showed that neither candidate was particularly well-liked by the people who would be voting for them.

Libertarian Robert Sarvis, a third-party candidate, has pulled in 7% of the vote with more than 90% of the vote counted. That’s a significant chunk when the Republican and Democratic candidates are so close.

McAuliffe will succeed Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who’s not running for re-election because Virginia governors cannot serve consecutive terms.

In New York City, the race for mayor was never in question, either, as Democrat Bill de Blasio defeated Republican Joe Lhota, by a 73%-24% margin with 91% of the vote in, making the city’s public advocate the first Democrat to lead the nation’s largest city in a generation.

5 things to know about this year’s most important race

Democrat Bill de Blasio has defeated Republican nominee Joe Lhota in the race for mayor of New York City, CNN projects, making the public advocate the first Democrat to lead the nation’s largest city in 20 years.

After de Blasio won the Democratic nomination in a crowded and circus-like field earlier this year, the liberal Democrat’s victory in the general election was never in question. All polls going into the election had de Blasio defeating Lhota in a landslide, with one released Monday indicating de Blasio was ahead of Lhota with likely voters by more than 40%.

Earlier Tuesday night, in another long-predicted result, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won four more years leading the Garden State by defeating Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono in the state’s gubernatorial race.

Christie’s victory became a forgone conclusion long before polls closed in New Jersey, as public opinion polls for months have indicated the tough-talking Republican headliner was far ahead of his Democratic challenger.

There are national implications to the race, too. With Christie considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, his re-election campaign is seen as a tuneup or stepping stone for that likely White House bid.

According to CNN exit polls of New Jersey voters, Christie performed well with groups that normally cast ballots for Democrats. Early exit polls indicate the GOP governor grabbing 56% of the female vote, and winning all age groups other than those 18-29. Christie also took a fifth of the African-American vote and 45% of Latinos, a much better performance than most Republicans in recent elections.

Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states that hold elections for governor in the year after a presidential contest.

In Alabama, an establishment candidate defeated a tea party-backed candidate in a Republican primary runoff for the congressional seat from Alabama’s 1st district, which had been seen as precursor of intra-Republican party contests in next year’s midterm elections.

Bradley Byrne, a former state senator, defeated businessman Dean Young in the race by a 52%-48% margin with all of the vote in. The contest was the first time Republican voters could weigh in on which direction they want to take their party after the partial federal government shutdown in October was laid largely at the feet of tea party instigators in Congress.

Here’s a closer look at some of the night’s most interesting races and ballot measures:

A nasty race in purple Virginia

The McAuliffe and Cuccinelli campaigns engaged in nasty political warfare with McAuliffe making sure that women were aware of Cuccinelli’s support of “personhood” legislation that critics say restricts abortion and some forms of birth control, while Cuccinelli frequently highlighted federal investigations of an electric car company that McAuliffe co-founded.

Both sides also attempted to frame the race as a referendum on larger national issues. Cuccinelli’s supporters argued a vote against McAuliffe was a vote against Obamacare.

McAuliffe and Democrats pinned Cuccinelli as a tea party activist, linking him to conservative lawmakers in Washington who initiated a strategy that eventually led to the government shutdown.

Take a closer look at the Virginia race

What does Christie’s win say about 2016?

Christie performed well with groups that normally cast ballots for Democrats.

While much of his address was directed at his New Jersey audience, Christie also had a message for the nation.

More on Christie’s big win

NYC picks first Democratic mayor in a generation

At the center of the New York mayor’s race were disagreements over taxes and the city’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” program backed by incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

De Blasio campaigned on a promise to raise taxes on those earning more than $500,000 a year to pay for universal prekindergarten, an idea Lhota vehemently opposed.

While Lhota painted himself as a fiscal conservative, he sought distance from national Republicans on social issues by reiterating his support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

Go deeper on the NYC race

Deep-pocketed Republicans pick winner in Alabama

Byrne, the establishment candidate, far outraised Young, the tea party candidate, thanks to major help from the business wing of the party, including the Chamber of Commerce. He also garnered endorsements from establishment figures, including several Republican House leaders.

In total, Byrne has raised nearly $700,000, with substantial donations from business community political action groups and individual business donors. Young, on the other hand, has raised $260,000 and has received donations from a political action committee run by former Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, a darling of the tea party movement, as well as endorsements from conservative talk show hosts Mark Levin and Erick Erickson.

However, despite support for smaller tea party personalities, Young was largely ignored by the national tea party groups. Tea Party Express, Club For Growth and FreedomWorks – three of the largest national tea party groups – sat on the sidelines of the intra-party fight.

Establishment beats tea party in Alabama runoff

Also on the ballot

New York is not the only major city that held a mayoral contest on Tuesday. Voters in Boston, Seattle, Detroit and Cleveland also elected mayors.

And voters in six states weighed in on 31 ballot measures.

The fact that Chris Christie rolled to a second term in New Jersey and Terry McAuliffe won in Virginia wasn’t a surprise. Public opinion polls have consistently shown both men in the lead.

CNN’s Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.