Billionaire financial-news magnate Michael Bloomberg pulled off a Big Apple upset Tuesday, narrowly beating out a career politician to become New York City's next mayor. In New Jersey and Virginia, Democrats won governor's races, ending eight years of GOP leadership in each state.
Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat who joined the Republican party last year, sent rival Mark Green down to defeat as Green's double-digit lead of a few weeks ago evaporated amid inter-Democratic primary-related infighting, a Bloomberg media blitz and outgoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani's endorsement of his fellow Republican. Political novice Bloomberg spent an estimated $50 million of his $4 billion fortune during his campaign.
"This has been a very tough, close race," Bloomberg said early Wednesday, "but the good news is we have won."
The self-made man's shoe was on the other foot in Virginia, where Democrat Mark Warner, another wealthy businessman with no previous political experience, beat former state attorney general Mark Earley. Despite the Democratic retaking of the governor's mansion, the GOP gained 12 seats in the House of Delegates in Richmond for a solid majority of 64 out of 100.
In New Jersey, Democrat Jim McGreevey, a suburban mayor, handily defeated Republican Bret Schundler, the strongly conservative former Jersey City mayor. McGreevey, who four years ago narrowly lost the gubernatorial race to current EPA director Christie Whitman, pledged "a government for all the people."
Among the many mayor's races across the country, Minneapolis overwhelmingly chose R.T. Rybak, a former newspaper reporter with no political experience, over two-term incumbent Sharon Sayles Belton, the first black and first woman to hold the office.
Cleveland elected its first female mayor: county commissioner and former lawmaker Jane Campbell. Incumbent mayors Thomas Menino of Boston and Thomas Murphy of Pittsburgh won easily.
Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken held his seat against Courtis Fuller, surviving criticism of his handling of riots last spring sparked when a white police officer shot an unarmed black man.
Luken, who is white, and Fuller, who is black, are both former TV news anchors.
"I'm grateful to the voters for the vindication," Luken said of his victory. "Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do in this city."
It was no contest in Vedic City, Iowa, which elected its first mayor, Bob Wynne. He ran unopposed to lead the newly incorporated city founded by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought Transcendental Meditation to Iowa.
In York, Pa., City Controller John Brenner will succeed Mayor Charlie Robertson, who quit the race after being charged in a race-riot murder that dates back more than three decades.
Philadelphia's District Attorney Lynne Abraham, a zealous supporter of the death penalty, easily won a third term. Pennsylvanians also elected to their supreme court Republican J. Michael Eakin, known as the "rhyming judge" for writing opinions in verse. His win gives the GOP its first high court majority in three decades. "It would be a sin if we didn't win," Eakin quipped as he savored victory.
Hartford, Conn., elected its first Hispanic mayor, Eddie Perez, as did Austin, Texas, where voters put former city councilman Gus Garcia in the capital's top job.
In Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, Mayor Lee Brown, a former drug czar in the Clinton administration, will face City Councilman Orlando Sanchez in a runoff, after none of the six candidates got 50 percent of the vote.
Other races were also left undecided.
Miami voters turned out incumbent Mayor Joe Carollo, but will be back at the polls next Tuesday for a runoff between former Mayor Maurice Ferre and Manny Diaz, a lawyer who represented the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez.
And the mayor's race in Detroit awaited final counts of all absentee ballots. House Democratic leader Kwame Kilpatrick led City Council president Gil Hill with nearly all precincts reporting not including some absentees.
Voters in Michigan's Traverse City and Kalamazoo agreed their cities should be allowed to enact policies protecting gays from bias. In Huntington Woods, a Detroit suburb, voters upheld an ordinance the city commission passed earlier this year banning anti-gay discrimination.
In Miami Beach, Fla., voters approved health benefits for any domestic partners of city employees.
But Houston voters approved a ban on the city ever giving health benefits to domestic partners of gay municipal employees.
Washington state voters, meanwhile, boosted the state tobacco tax 60 cents to $1.42 a pack, the highest in the nation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report