Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Election Day, 2013

It was election day yesterday, but for most people it wasn’t a huge event. It’s an off-year, so for most states it’s all about referendums and local city-wide elections and other things that get 10% voter turnout. While important, these small candidates certainly don’t have the electoral sexiness of a national election or at least a BSD governor’s race. Still, there were a few important things to highlight:

Chris Christie: This was no real surprise; New Jersey is fairly blue, but have a modest tradition of electing moderate Republicans to the governor’s seat. Christie is no exception; add his reasonably effective tenure, backed up by solid if practical conservative decisions, an ear to the ground for the future pitfalls for the Republican Party, all soldered together with his handling of Hurricane Sandy, and it’s not exactly a surprise that he won. (A very weak candidate running against him also helped greatly; Christie is not without his flaws.) Still, his victory margin in a Democratic state was impressive, and (rightly) solidified the chances that he will run for President in 2016.

Virginia Governor’s Race: The main thing to note about this race is how alarmingly close it was. For weeks—even months—the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe was wildly ahead of the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli. Virginia, once a deep-red state not even five years ago, has quickly converted to a swing state, so it was rather surprising that the Democratic candidate was so far ahead. Well, on election day, it turns out that the race was a lot closer than people thought, and McAuliffe won by only a few points. There’s good and bad news for both parties in this race: the Democrats can take heart that they’ve more or less successfully plucked Virginia from a sure-fire Republican stronghold to a competitive state. The GOP, however, can clearly show that they still have grassroots power and probably have a lot more power than polls show, and probably could have won this race had the money not bailed early (polls showed it to be a lost cause, so many backers, including the Republican Party, pulled out). 

New York Mayor de Blasio: After 8 years of the Republican Giuliani and 12 more of the kind-of-Republican-but-mostly-independent Bloomberg, New York finally went back to its roots and heartily elected, by a landslide, a populist Democrat. Not a real huge surprise, since NYC is overwhelmingly Democratic; Giuliani could be considered a fluke (a string of really, really, really bad mayors) and Bloomberg has acted as an effective moderate independent. De Blasio ran pretty much as a class warrior, pounding away at the fact the New York had Wall Street and homeless people, and (by implication) something can be gone to eradicate both. I am suspect that de Blasio will be successful, but I realize voters have short memories. It wasn’t too long ago that the city was bankrupt because of reckless fiscal policies, and de Blasio is promising to bring a lot of those policies back. Sure, it might be done smarter and more efficiently now, and it's a different world now, but the history of politicians doing so is pretty bleak.

Pittsburgh Mayor: Certainly not of national interest but personally local for me, Bill Peduto was elected Mayor of Pittsburgh. The incumbent, Luke Ravenstahl, chose not to run after (roughly) two terms, thanks in part no doubt to investigations into his tenureship. While Pittsburgh itself has thrived, it has often been in spite of, not because of, the mayor. (You can look up all of his controversies; I won’t recount them here. Let’s just say if they ever made an 80’s movie about a young kid who got to be mayor of a sizable city, the music montage of all the shit he’d try to pull off would include all the stuff done by Ravenstahl.) He inherited the job after the previous mayor died and wasn’t even 30 years old, and unfortunately it showed. Even though he was handily re-elected, many in Pittsburgh were tired of his nonsense. Peduto seems like a nice enough guy and I hope he does well. But if I were him, I’d take a full-page ad out in the New York Times; if anyone from Wall Street wants to relocate to Pittsburgh, we’re more than happy to accommodate.

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