Democrats are projected to score a pair of major gubernatorial victories Tuesday, based on ABC News’ analysis of the exit poll and analysis of the vote, landing new governors in New Jersey and Virginia as they attempted to showcase party resilience one year after President Donald Trump’s surprise election victory.
In Virginia, which was expected to be the closer of the two races, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is projected to prevail over former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, based on ABC News’ analysis of the vote, while in New Jersey, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy is projected to beat Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, based on ABC News’ analysis of the exit poll.
The Virginia race, in particular, took on the air of a referendum on Trump throughout the campaign. The state’s status as a swing state in presidential years and the stark divide between its suburban northern region and rural Appalachian southwest turned it into a representative test case on the country’s response to the two major political parties a year after electing the former real-estate mogul.
In New Jersey, sweeping backlash to the deeply unpopular Gov. Chris Christie became the driving force behind Murphy’s election campaign. The former ambassador’s first run for elected office found him tying Christie to his lieutenant governor, Guadagno.
Other races to watch:
In addition to the marquee races in Virginia and New Jersey, elections at the state and local levels are being held across the country. Here are a few to keep an eye on:
Virginia House of Delegates
All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election. Republicans hold 66 out of 100 seats in the chamber and Democrats are not expected to be able to take back the legislature, but there are a number of higher-profile races that garnered national attention. The exact number of seats that Democrats are able to pick up could be a good indicator of the strength of the party’s brand in different parts of a swing state like Virginia. Forty-three of the 88 Democratic candidates running for the House of Delegates are women.
Virginia races of note:
13th district – Roem (D) v. Marshall (R): Danica Roem would be the state’s first openly transgender elected official if she wins, and Democrats have been gunning hard to unseat 13-term incumbent Bob Marshall. Marshall is a hardline conservative that entered politics as an anti-abortion activist.
12th district – Hurst (D) v. Yost (R): Chris Hurst’s life was flipped upside down after his girlfriend Allison Parker, a journalist at WDBJ, was murdered on live television in 2015 by a former co-worker. Now Hurst is running for political office and hoping to unseat Joseph Yost, who has held this district since 2011.
31st District – Guzman (D) v. Lingamfelter (R): If elected, Elizabeth Guzman would be the first Latina elected to the Virginia statehouse, and this district in suburban Prince William County outside of Washington D.C. is another competitive race that Democrats are hoping to pull out.
Washington state senate district 45
If Democrat Manka Dhingra is able to defeat Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund, it would give the Democrats control of the Washington State Senate, which would mean complete Democratic control of the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington) in every state legislative body and governor’s seat.
The suburban and wealthy district east of Seattle was won handily by Hillary Clinton during the general election, and a win there has Democrats in the state eager to begin enacting an even more progressive agenda in the state, spearheaded by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Kentucky Rowan County clerk election
Kim Davis, who was sent to prison in 2015 when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is running for re-election for the first time since she was jailed.
Utah’s 3rd congressional district
The race for Utah’s 3rd congressional district is not expected to be competitive with the Republican nominee, Provo Mayor John Curtis, primed to take over the seat after Jason Chaffetz resigned from Congress back in May. The district is reliably red, and even with some pushback in the state, Donald Trump won it in 2016 by 18 points. Chaffetz cruised to re-election by almost 50 points in 2016.
Curtis is taking on Democrat and physician Kathie Allen, who has not attracted much support from national Democrats, as well as Jim Bennett, a third party candidate and son of former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, and grandson of former U.S. Sen. Wallace Bennett.
New York City mayoral election
Incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio is poised to sail towards re-election as the mayor of New York City, despite the fact that his approval ratings dipped to as low at 50 percent in a July 2017 poll from Quinnipiac.
De Blasio did not face any major resistance in the Democratic primary over the summer, and none of his challengers in the general election appear to have made much headway in challenging him. The Republican candidate is state assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
Trump robocall on behalf of Gillespie
“I need you to vote for Ed Gillespie to be your new Governor of Virginia. If you let Ralph Northam be governor, he will be a total disaster for your state. Northam is weak on crime and weak on immigration, and as your Lieutenant Governor Northam has driven your economy right into a ditch.” – robocall recorded by President Donald Trump for Ed Gillespie
Trump’s presence hangs over the race in Virginia where he has been actively tweeting on Gillespie’s behalf in recent days. He weighed in on the election early this morning amid his 13-day trip to Asia.
“[Gillespie] will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA,” Trump tweeted. “MS-13 and crime will be gone. Vote today, ASAP!”
Though Trump has not personally campaigned for the Republican, Northam’s campaign has attempted to tie the president to Gillespie, banking on Trump’s unpopularity in the state to help secure what would be the fourth gubernatorial victory for Democrats in the past five Virginia races.
The New Jersey election has been dominated by talk of Christie, who is among the least popular governors in U.S. history, based on polls of his job approval. Murphy has argued that a Guadagno’s governorship would represent a continuation of Christie’s tenure, while Guadagno has pointed to moments of disagreement with her boss to attempt to distance herself from the two-term governor and former Republican presidential primary candidate.
Trump has been notably quiet on the race in the traditionally blue state where Murphy has led Guadagno by consistent double-digit margins in polls ranging back to the spring. Recent polls show the Democrat with a lead of between 10-15 points.
Surveys of Virginia voters show a markedly closer race, with Northam outpolling Gillespie by as much as 9 percentage points in one poll, while falling within the margin of error of another.
Polls close in Virginia at 7 p.m. EST and in New Jersey at 8 p.m. EST.