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3 Reasons You Should Care About Election Day 2017

November 7, 2017, 12:56 PM UTC

While Election Day this year may not turn heads and drum up as much excitement as it did last year, there are plenty of reasons to pay attention to the state, local, and special elections happening Tuesday.

With the exception of a few special elections earlier this year, this is the first Election Day since Trump won the presidency last November. As such, the results of Tuesday’s votes will—in some instances—be seen as a litmus test of Trump’s influence and popularity.

Here are the major contests to keep an eye on today:

Gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey

The current governors in Virginia and New Jersey, Terry McAuliffe and Chris Christie, respectively, are term-limited, meaning their seats are open in both states.

The Republican candidates, Ed Gillespie in Virginia and Kim Guadagno in New Jersey, have run increasingly Trump-style campaigns, echoing the president’s message on immigration and social issues. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates—Ralph Northam in Virginia and Phil Murphy in New Jersey—have sought to make this election a Trump referendum, emphasizing ties between the Trump White House and the Republican candidates.

In Virginia, candidate Gillespie, a former lobbyist and White House adviser to President George W. Bush, has promised to protect Confederate statues, attacked incumbent McAuliffe for restoring felons’ rights, and criticized opponent Northam, currently Virginia’s lieutenant governor, for voting against a bill that would make sanctuary cities illegal. Even though Virginia does not have sanctuary cities, Gillespie ran TV ads that sought to tie Northam to violence by the MS-13 gang whose members are primarily of Salvadoran descent. Northam’s campaign, on the other hand, has sent out anti-Republican mailers and accused Gillespie of running a “divisive, fear-mongering campaign.” While it is expected that Northam will win by a small margin, a Gillespie victory could be seen more broadly as a triumph for Trump and his policies.

In New Jersey, Murphy’s statement that he would support the state becoming a sanctuary state “if need be” spurred an accusation by Guadagno, the state’s current lieutenant governor, that her opponent was seeking to protect criminals. Nevertheless, both Trump and current Republican Governor Chris Christie are unpopular in the state, and it is expected that Democrat Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive, will win the governor’s seat. Democrats are also forecast to secure a majority in the state legislature.

Mayoral elections

A number of cities are voting for mayor on Tuesday, including in New York, where incumbent Bill de Blasio is seeking reelection. Other big cities holding votes include Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.

One of the most-watched votes will be in Flint, Michigan, where sitting mayor, Karen Weaver, is facing a recall vote after only two years in office.

Weaver, a Democrat, was elected mayor on promises to clean Flint’s lead-tainted water and restore trust in local government. While those who have called for the recall point to alleged corruption, Weaver—who is the first female and African-American to serve in this post—blames racism and sexism.

The winner-take-all election will see the victor serve out the remaining two years of Weaver’s campaign. There are 17 names on the ballot.

Medicaid in Maine

In Maine, Republican governor and Trump ally Paul LePage has vetoed a Medicaid expansion five times. It is one of 19 states that have not expanded the benefits under the Affordable Care Act. But on Tuesday, voters have the opportunity to bypass his veto and vote on whether to expand Medicaid health benefits for the poor. If the measure succeeds, it is estimated that 80,000 residents would be eligible.

Should the measure pass, it would be the first time a state has expanded these benefits via referendum and could encourage similar campaigns in other states next year, notes NPR.

Bonus: New York Con-Con

New York voters will consider a question they face every 20 years: whether the state should hold a constitutional convention to rewrite or amend its constitution.