Democrats swept both governors’ races Tuesday, with Sen. Jon Corzine easily winning New Jersey and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine taking Virginia despite a last-minute campaign push for his opponent from President Bush.

Elsewhere, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage, GOP Mayor Michael Bloomberg easily clinched a second term in heavily Democratic New York, and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was trailing in his re-election bid.

In California, several government-overhaul measures on the ballot were seen as a referendum on GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who campaigned hard for them.

Kaine had 995,290 votes, or 51.5 percent, to Kilgore’s 894,609 votes, or 46.3 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. In New Jersey, Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine trounced Doug Forrester, with 1,071,905 votes, or 53.5 percent, to 865,485 votes, or 43.2 percent, for the Republican, with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

“There’s no way to spin this than anything other than a major defeat for Republicans and for President Bush,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

Bush appeared at a Monday night rally with Kilgore – the first public campaign appearance with the president in a state that twice voted for Bush.

“This is a red state, he came in on Election Eve and he had no discernible effect,” Sabato said. “If anything, he may have cost Kilgore some votes.”

Both governors’ races were marked by record-breaking spending and nasty personal attacks.

In Virginia, at least $42 million was spent in the contest between Kaine and Kilgore, the former state attorney general. Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, who cannot seek a second term, campaigned hard for his lieutenant governor, and Kaine’s victory was likely to boost Warner’s profile as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

Corzine and Forrester, both multimillionaires, spent upward of $70 million to succeed acting Gov. Richard Codey, who assumed the office last year when Gov. Jim McGreevey, a Democrat, resigned over a homosexual affair.

Corzine, as governor, will have the power to choose a successor to fill his unexpired Senate term. The seat will be up for election in a year, but whoever Corzine appoints will likely have a big advantage in that election.

A voter survey in New Jersey found women favored Corzine by more than 20 points while men narrowly preferred Forrester. Two-thirds of Hispanics and nearly all blacks favored the U.S. senator, while whites and wealthier people split their votes between the candidates. Self-described independents favored Corzine narrowly over Forrester.

Most voters said President Bush was not a factor in their choices Tuesday, according to the survey conducted Tuesday by the AP and its polling partner, Ipsos. Of the 20 percent who said they voted in part to show opposition to the president, the most disaffected were young voters, women, blacks and low-income voters. The president’s job approval among New Jersey voters was 35 percent, slightly lower than an AP-Ipsos national poll last week.

Both gubernational races were exceptionally nasty.

A Forrester ad quoted Corzine’s ex-wife as saying, “Jon did let his family down, and he’ll probably let New Jersey down, too.” A Corzine ad featured a paralyzed teenager complaining about Forrester’s stance against stem cell research.

A Kilgore ad alleged that Kaine’s opposition to the death penalty meant he would not have executed Adolf Hitler. Kaine cites his Roman Catholic beliefs for his opposition to capital punishment, but insisted he would carry out death sentences because they are the law.

Voters said they’d had enough. “We all think the politics that we’ve been seeing on television is pretty disgusting. So, I’m glad it’s voting day so we don’t have to see it anymore,” said Marianne Nelson, 58, a registered nurse who voted for Corzine.

Both races were sure to be closely scrutinized for clues about the mood of the electorate a year before the 2006 elections that will decide control of Congress and the governorships of 36 states.

In New Jersey, Bush did not appear with Forrester, and Corzine – who campaigned with former President Clinton – repeatedly tried to link his opponent to the Bush administration.

The travails of the Bush administration can’t be discounted, said Norm Ornstein at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, with opposition to the Iraq war, the mishandled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the indictment of a top White House aide. “It’s been an awful time for Republicans.”

In mayor’s races:

– New York GOP Mayor Michael Bloomberg trounced former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and was on track to beat his 2001 spending record of $74 million.

– Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was trailing challenger Freman Hendrix, a deputy mayor under Kilpatrick’s predecessor. Kilpatrick stood to become the first Detroit mayor since 1961 to be defeated in a re-election bid.

– In San Diego, surf-shop owner Donna Frye, a maverick Democratic councilwoman who nearly won the mayor’s race in a write-in bid last year, faced Republican Jerry Sanders, a former police chief backed by the city’s business establishment.


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