Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican heroine with headaches at home in New Jersey, seeks a second term on Tuesday, while a tax-cut GOP candidate rides a new version of that standard issue in his bid to become governor of Virginia.
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is so towering a favorite to be the first Republican re-elected to that post in 56 years that even the Democrats don't doubt the outcome, only the size of the landslide.And Staten Island voters will elect a new congressman in a toss-up contest between a conservative Democrat and a Republican city councilman defending a seat the GOP has held for 17 years.
Those are feature races in odd-year elections scattered across the nation that range from big-city mayors in Boston, Miami and Seattle to ballot issues like assisted suicide in Oregon and handgun controls on Washington.
Houston voters will decide whether to eliminate affirmative action plans in city contracting, and there is balloting on the use of tax money for pro sports stadiums in the Minneapolis and Pittsburgh areas.
Both houses of the New Jersey legislature are up, and one branch in Virginia. In New Jersey, Republicans control the Assembly 50 seats to 30, and the Senate, 24 to 16. The Virginia House of Delegates is Democratic, 53 to 46, with one independent.
Virginians also will choose a new lieutenant governor, a contest for the tie-breaking vote and effective control of the evenly divided state Senate.
Republicans are defending the top prizes: Virginia and New Jersey are among the 32 governorships they hold nationally; the Staten Island seat was part of their slender, 11-vote House margin; and while Giu-li-an-i is at times a maverick, he put the GOP imprint on a city politically dominated by Democrats.
The Republican National Committee has put its money where its stakes are, spending $750,000 on television ads against the Democrat in Staten Island, investing about as much for the Whitman campaign, and putting more than $1 million into Virginia to boost James Gilmore's effort to hold the governorship for the GOP. Gov. George Allen is barred by law from seeking a second consecutive term.
The Democratic Party is deep in debt and hasn't had the money to spend.
At first, Whitman's campaign for re-election in New Jersey looked like a walkaway. She'd had star billing nationally after upsetting an incumbent Democrat in 1993 on the strength of a Ronald Reagan-style income tax cut pledge. She kept it, a 30 percent cut. She spoke for the GOP in response to President Clinton's State of the Union message in 1995. Newt Gingrich said she ought to be considered for vice president.
James McGreevey, the Democratic challenger, the mayor of Woodbridge and a state senator, is little known even now. But he's made a race of it by promising to cut automobile insurance rates, blaming high property taxes on Whitman, and complaining about borrowing and bonding to cover the tax cuts.
And Whitman has problems with conservative Republicans, for her support of abortion rights and her stand on other social issues.