While no federal races are being contested Tuesday, this November's elections in several states are being closely watched to see if they can serve as predictors for next year's midterm contests.
In New Jersey, voters are choosing a new governor after acting Gov. Richard J. Codey said he would not run for a full term following his promotion to the top spot when a scandalized James McGreevey stepped down last November.
U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine and Republican businessman Doug Forrester, both millionaires, have run up the most expensive campaigns in state history, spending a combined $70 million. Personal attacks have overshadowed major state issues, though tax rates have been a primary point of contention.
Several New Jersey voters said Tuesday they were turned off by the candidates' negative campaigning.
"There's just too much mudslinging," said Mike Myers, 52, of Bridgewater. "Why can't they talk about what's important instead of battering each other and their families?"
As he voted early Tuesday, Corzine acknowledged that he was a little nervous about the contest.
"A little nervous, a little worried but confident," was how he described his mood coming out of a polling station in a fire house in Hoboken
Forrester, who has been trailing close behind Corzine in most polls, expressed only optimism when he emerged from voting at a senior center brandishing a thumbs up gesture. The latest Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed Corzine at 52 percent to Forrester's 45 percent. The sampling error margin was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Virginia is the only other state in the union voting for a governor. The fight between Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Tim Kaine and former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a Republican, also broke state spending records at $42 million. It too has been marked by a nasty and personal back and forth between the candidates.
Tuesday's race in Virginia is going to hinge on the candidates' ability to get out the vote. The contest has been too close to call, with last Friday's Mason-Dixon poll showing Kaine with 45 percent Kilgore with 44 percent and an error margin of 4 percentage points.
The candidates brought in some big names in the final run-up to Tuesday. Kilgore hosted a rally Monday night with President Bush.
"The thing I like about this fellow is he grew up on a farm," Bush said in a brief stop on his return from a South American trade mission. "He doesn't have a lot of fancy airs."
Kaine, who voted with his wife Anne Holton near his home in Richmond Tuesday, has appeared with former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and term-limited Gov. Mark Warner. At one campaign event, Warner said he welcomed Kilgore's appearance with Bush, whose job approval ratings hover around 40 percent in red-state Virginia.
"If they want to compare how things are going in Washington versus how things are going in Virginia, I'll take that comparison every day of the week," said Warner, whose success in propping up candidates could portend his national appeal in 2008 and beyond.
Big City Mayors to Be Decided
In other contests, the cities of New York, Detroit, Houston, Boston, San Diego, St. Paul and Atlanta all had mayoral races. And in a twist, 10-year Mayor Thomas LaMont of Montrose, Pa., begged voters not to re-elect him.
In New York City, Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a clear lead against Democratic underdog Fernando Ferrer, who campaigned with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, spent about an eighth of the $66 million estimated to have been spent by Bloomberg on his re-election. Bloomberg is a billionaire who does not take a salary as mayor.
But money was not the issue for the mostly Democratic voters in New York, who say despite Bloomberg's campaigning with President Bush, he is not a typical GOP'er.
"He's not really a Republican," said Ben Faulkner, 31, a lawyer who had voted Democrat all his life, but crossed party lines for the first time Tuesday.
A win for Mayor Thomas M. Menino in Boston would enable him set a record as the longest serving mayor in city history. Challenger Maura Hennigan wants to become Boston's first elected female mayor.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was seeking another term while fending off allegations of misspending. Kilpatrick blames the fiscal problems on his predecessor, Dennis Archer, for whom challenger Freman Hendrix worked.
In San Diego, Donna Frye, a surf-shop owner and Democratic city councilwoman, won widespread write-in support last year in the race against Republican mayor Dick Murphy, who was re-elected but then forced to resign amid a wave of scandal. Frye is facing an uphill battle this time as she runs against Republican Jerry Sanders, who enjoys strong backing from the city's business establishment, and who split the vote in July with Republican Steve Francis. That forced Tuesday's run-off.
In an effort to make sure the elections are fair, the Justice Department announced Monday that it was sending personnel to 16 jurisdictions in seven states to monitor elections to make sure they comply with the Voting Rights Act and the Help America Vote Act, among other statutes.
Among the towns where civil rights monitors are going are San Diego, San Francisco and Ventura counties in California, Boston, Lawrence and Lowell, Mass.; Hamtramck, Mich.; Kings, New York, Suffolk, Queens, Westchester and Richmond counties in New York; Edison, N.J.; Reading, Pa. and Ector County, Texas.
A judge also ordered Detroit election officials to oversee absentee voting after finding problems with the way the city clerk organized the effort.
Issues Are People Too
Seven states are considering ballot issues, but in California four proposals up for consideration are being counted as a referendum on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Those issues were trailing in most polls.
Schwarzenegger calls the initiatives a sequel to the 2003 recall campaign that catapulted him into the governor's office. Calling it a reform agenda, Schwarzenegger was out bright and early for the 7 a.m. PST poll opening.
The series of propositions aim to change what he calls "politics as usual" in the Golden State.
The latest Field poll indicates the four propositions are not terribly popular. Proposition 74 would extend probationary periods for new teachers from two to five years. Proposition 75 would require public employee unions to obtain member's permission each year before spending their dues on political campaigns.
Proposition 76 would cap the amount of money the state could spend each year, lower the amount of money guaranteed to schools and ultimately give the governor more power over the state budget.
Proposition 77 would take the job of drawing political boundries away from the state legislators and give it to a panel of retired judges. All four propositions were falling behind in the Field poll.
Schwarzenegger said he's familiar with the polls but is undaunted.
"A lot of money has been thrown into this campaign to try to discredit our reforms and our initiatives and to discredit me personally. Of course, it has an effect you can see in the poll numbers but that doesn't mean we are on the wrong track. We are on the right track, it's just that those people on the other side want to hold onto the status quo," he said.
Proposition 53, also on the ballot in California, would require parental notification before minor women could get an abortion. That proposition does look set to pass.
Ohio also has four initiatives to be decided Tuesday. The constitutional amendments in Ohio would expand voting by mail, limit campaign contributions and create bipartisan boards to draw districts and oversee elections. The amendments were proposed by Democratic-leaning groups in the state they blame for costing them the White House last year. Republicans say they are feeling confident they can defeat the redistricting plan.
Texas voters were asked to decide whether a state constitutional ban should be placed on same-sex marriage. In Maine, a referendum seeks to repeal the state's anti-discrimination law.
U.S. News & World Report senior writer Michael Barone told FOX News that the bans are likely to pass in both states, though by a much smaller margin in Maine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.