In the races for New York City mayor, New Jersey governor and New York's 23rd House district seat, the message from the electorate was clear: Talk to the hand. For different reasons, voters just didn't like being told what to do.
Mayor, New York City
When voters go to the polls, they're always thinking, "What have you done for me lately?" Mike Bloomberg (I) actually had good answers for the city he's run since 2002. (I was a policy adviser on his first campaign in 2001). But he squeaked to victory by a 5 percent margin over a candidate who ran a disorganized and error-prone campaign with what amounted to pocket change. Quite a fall from the 20-point blowout four years ago. That's because he really ticked off New Yorkers last year when he pushed through the repeal of the law that limited mayors to two consecutive terms in office. Neither Bloomberg nor his team was ignorant of this. Every quick trip to the Big Apple over the last two months featured at least one hushed conversation with someone nervous about Election Night. The $90 million he personally spent on the race, the most ever for any office anywhere, was meant to mitigate the damage from his term-limits move. This only fueled the anger. And New Yorkers weren't afraid to show just how angry they were.
Governor, New Jersey
First-term Gov. Jon Corzine (D) was sent packing by a state that didn't like him much from the moment he walked through the doors of Drumthwacket in 2006. His complicated personal life was an issue in his election in 2005. And his response to the state's dismissal finances, plus the tarnish on his Goldman Sachs background after the Wall Street implosion, only added to the negative impression. Given all this, New Jerseyites, usually reliable Democratic voters, ignored President Obama's pleas during three campaign visits to return his "partner" to office. Chris Christie (R) beat Corzine 48 percent to 44 percent.
Representative, New York 23
Dede Scozzafava was hand-picked by county Republican bosses to run for the seat vacated by now-Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh. Conservatives didn't like that. The state assemblymember had liberal views on abortion and gay rights. Enter former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who threw her support behind the Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Scozzafava's support and money dried up, which forced her from the race and into the arms of Democratic challenger Bill Owens. This emboldened conservatives to go after other targets, such as Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fl.) who is running for the Senate. I can't blame them for thinking Hoffman would win the seat. A Democrat hadn't been sent from N.Y.-23 to Washington in a century. By giving Owen a 4 point win, the electorate defied conventional wisdom and told Palin and her conservative crew to "back off!"
| November 4, 2009; 3:06 PM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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