Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa — Big judgments about the direction of the country will have to wait on this Election Day as voters around the country express opinions on a couple of governors' races, several mayoral races and a host of local issues.
Among the contests around the country Tuesday are governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, mayoral races in some of America's biggest cities and whether to spend more than $217 million to revive Houston's shuttered Astrodome.
From ballot initiatives to mayor's races, these off-year elections will shed virtually no light on how the American public feels about today's two biggest national debates — spending and health care. Those will have to be addressed in next fall's midterm elections.
Here's a look at some of the more interesting matters on which voters will render judgment:
—Big city mayors: Big city mayoral races also will be decided in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis and Seattle.
Then there's New York, where Michael Bloomberg has served for 12 years and where former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner's hope for political redemption became an asterisk to the two candidates, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota.
—Washington state: A ballot issue over genetically modified food labeling has become a proxy fight between transparency and the world's largest food companies.
The campaign has drawn hefty financial contributions in opposition from the likes of PepsiCo., Monsanto and General Mills. Last year, such interests combined to spend $46 million to defeat a similar question in California.
Supporters say consumers have a right to know whether foods contain genetically engineered ingredients. Foes say the label would imply the food is less safe.
—Colorado: Colorado voters are deciding whether to tax marijuana at 25 percent and apply the proceeds to regulating the newly legalized drug and building schools.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, voters in 11 rural counties are asking voters to approve secession from the state, where Democrats have legalized pot and same sex unions. One county wants to join Wyoming. It's a longshot proposal but a sign of divisions between conservative rural Colorado, the Denver area's swing-voting suburbs and the liberal city of Denver and resort towns.
In Washington, D.C., the 16-day partial federal government shutdown and troubled rollout of the federal health care law has focused attention on Washington dysfunction, and Americans' contempt for it.
There is no one clear question on the thousands of ballots around the country that will gauge Americans' mood. But there are factors to watch that could have national implications in 2014 and beyond.
—Alabama: Bradley Byrne, the choice of the GOP establishment, is running against self-described tea party conservative Dean Young in this special congressional GOP primary.
The race is the first test of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's promise to try to influence primaries and has pumped at least $200,000 into supporting Byrne, a state senator with almost two decades in politics.
Young has tattooed the chamber endorsement to Byrne as evidence he's the choice of big Washington interests and relishes a confrontational style, marked by his reference to the president as "Barack Hussein Obama."
Byrne has countered by projecting himself as statesmanlike, while also ticking through what he calls a conservative record on taxes, spending and his opposition to the 2010 federal health care law.
New Jersey — Some political strategists might look to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's margin of victory should he win his New Jersey re-election race — where polls show he has widespread support — as a measure of this potential presidential candidate's strength on the national stage.
And in Virginia, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe could win his first elective office in a decades-long political career after linking his GOP rival to House Republicans whose demands helped trigger the shutdown. Polls show McAuliffe with an edge over state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative with tea party support.
And in tiny Coralville, Iowa, a big national outside group is exerting its influence. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity that played a role in last year's national elections has blanketed the eastern Iowa town of 19,000 with mail, radio, Twitter and Facebook ads promoting conservative council candidates to tackle a $280-million debt.
The input is hardly unwelcome, said Republican county co-chairman David Yansky.
"They have great ideas," Yansky said. "They want to be involved where government has overreached. That's part of their mission."
With reports from AP writers Bill Barrow and Christina Almeida Cassidy in Georgia, Kristen Wyatt in Colorado, Chris Grygiel Washington State and Corey Williams in Michigan.
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