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Election Day 2013 - What We Learned

If one single verdict emerged from Election Day 2013, it's that no one verdict or line of commonality exists when it comes to priorities and interests from state to state, from city to city. New Jersey validated its centrist governor, electing Republican Chris Christie to a second term despite (because of?) his stands against teachers' unions and public-sector employees. Virginia ushered in Terry McAuliffe, former DNC chief and consummate Clinton insider, as its next governor in a very close race. Colorado, having legalized marijuana for recreational use last year, voted to slam a 25% tax on it -- while rejecting higher income taxes aimed at bolstering education. New York City installed mayor-elect and self-described progressive Bill de Blasio to succeed three-term Independent Michael Bloomberg.

Together these races seem to say precious little. New Jersey voters made a statement about the job Christie has done as governor, all the while rejecting a hypothetical 2016 presidential bid in exit polling (NBC News). Based on exit polling data, New Jersey voters thought Christie would make a good president (51-44%) but, if given the choice between him and Hillary Clinton, would throw their support to Clinton (48-44%). This fact alone suggests little national relevance, at least in the minds of New Jersey voters, to Christie's candidacy.

McAuliffe in Virginia was perhaps the winner of an unpopularity contest, as voters disapproved of him generally but also saw his main opponent, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, in an unfavorable light (Reuters). Whether the race turned or not on the candidacy of Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who drew nearly 7% of the vote, is unknown, but with a polarized electorate in Virginia and a new governor receiving less than half of the popular vote, little was resolved in terms of electoral mandate or the long-term direction of the state.

Colorado's ballot initiatives drew mixed support -- and the results show little as well about the direction of the state. Income tax hikes to boost public education funding were slaughtered, rejected by nearly two-thirds of the electorate. New marijuana taxes, however -- a 15% excise tax and a 10% sales tax -- were approved (Wall Street Journal). The meaning behind these votes is unclear -- as is the overall mood with regard to taxes and spending in Colorado moving into 2014.

And New York politics -- rarely a representation of the rest of America -- did not disappoint, as voters there selected Bill de Blasio as their next mayor based on promises to address income inequality and to bolster pre-K services for all children in the city. One of his policy highlights was a tax increase on all incomes above $500K -- something that proved popular among lower-income voters. These types of policies aren't new in New York, though the success of these specific changes will play out in the coming years.

And so the most-watched elections in 2013 yielded very different results. Through the sweet stench of marijuana smoke, the foul oily stench along the New Jersey Turnpike, and the suburban sprawl of the stench of corruption across northern-most Virginia, a myriad of mixed messages fancy observers that add up less to one unified American message and more instead to a depiction of very mixed ideas and priorities. The overall direction of America remains up for grabs, so get ready - and bring on 2014.

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