Voters to decide on hot issues, governors in N.J., Va.

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Virginia and New Jersey choose governors Tuesday after campaigns marked by record spending and ads that showcased Adolf Hitler and a candidate’s ex-wife. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to revive his standing with ballot initiatives that are lagging in polls.


Virginia poses the first test of whether problems facing President Bush and Republicans will influence voters. Polls showed Democrat Tim Kaine edging past Republican Jerry Kilgore in a contest that hinges on turnout.

Bush, beset by Iraq violence and a White House indictment, has a job-approval rating in the low 40% range in largely conservative Virginia. Kilgore, a former state attorney general, skipped a Bush speech in Norfolk last month but invited Bush to rally Republican loyalists Monday night in Richmond.

Kaine, the lieutenant governor, is counting on a boost from Gov. Mark Warner, a 2008 presidential prospect with a 70%-plus approval rating. Warner can’t run for re-election because of a state term-limits law.

Kilgore paints Kaine as a liberal who would not enforce the death penalty — even for Hitler, as a murder victim’s relative says in a Kilgore ad. Kaine says he would continue Warner’s popular economic policies while Kilgore would take the state backward.

Two multimillionaires are on the ballot in New Jersey: Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine and Republican businessman Doug Forrester. Corzine leads in polls despite a new Forrester ad using critical comments by Corzine’s ex-wife.

California polls showed Schwarzenegger’s initiatives, including ones to cap spending and remove lawmakers’ power to redraw political districts, faring poorly. Unions for nurses, teachers, police and firefighters are fighting them.

Maine voters will decide whether to keep a law that shields lesbians and gay men from job, housing and education discrimination, while Texas considers a state ban on gay marriage. Washington state voters will decide whether to repeal a gas tax hike. Ohio has four initiatives on the ballot, including a redistricting measure similar to the one in California.

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