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2011 ELECTION, POLITICS

Voters Defeat Many GOP-Sponsored Measures

via Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times

Voters turned a skeptical eye toward conservative-backed measures across the country Tuesday, rejecting an anti-labor law in Ohio, an anti-abortion measure in Mississippi and a tightening of voting rights in Maine.

Even in Arizona, voters turned out of office the chief architect of that state’s controversial anti-immigration law. State Senator Russell Pearce, a Republican power broker and a former sheriff’s deputy known for his uncompromising style, was a hero to the Tea Party movement, and apart from his anti-immigration efforts, he had introduced numerous bills to nullify federal laws. Taken together, Tuesday’s results could breathe new life into President Obama’s hopes for his re-election a year from now. But the day was not a wholesale victory for Democrats. Even as voters in Ohio delivered a blow to Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican, and rejected his attempt to weaken collective bargaining for public employees, they approved a symbolic measure to exempt Ohio residents from the individual mandate required in Mr. Obama’s health care law.

And while voters in Mississippi, one of the most conservative states, turned away a measure that would have outlawed all abortions and many forms of contraception, they tightened their voting laws to require some form of government-approved identification. Democrats had opposed the requirement, saying it was a thinly disguised attempt to intimidate voters of color.

In Maine, where Republicans recently had ended same-day registration at polling places, voters decided to restore the practice, which Democrats supported.

Despite the anger at Washington, voters did not appear to be in a throw-the-bums-out frame of mind toward city and state officials. Even in Houston, Mayor Annise Parker, who faced low approval ratings and anti-gay attacks, managed to survive.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, won re-election, as did Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, in Indianapolis and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, in Baltimore.

One upset took place in Holyoke, Mass., where Alex Morse, 22, who graduated this year from Brown University,defeated Elaine Pluta, 67, the incumbent mayor. Mr. Morse campaigned on a platform of making the city a hub for high-tech jobs, opposing a casino in Holyoke and emphasizing his fluency in Spanish; about half the town’s population is Hispanic.

In San Francisco, Edwin M. Lee, the interim mayor, won election to a four-year terms as mayor, according to unofficial results released Wednesday. He is the first Chinese-American to be elected mayor in a city that is one-quarter ethnic Chinese and has the country’s oldest Chinatown.

In Iowa, Republicans failed in their attempt to win control of the State Senate. Had they won a special election there, they would probably have been able to pass numerous measures, including a ban on same-sex marriage, that has been blocked by Democrats.

But in something of a surprise, an expensive effort by Republicans in Virginia to take over the State Senate — and thereby take complete control of the state government — appeared stalled by one unresolved race. The Republican candidate held an edge of just 86 votes, which will almost certainly lead to a recount, which could take weeks. If that Republican wins, the Senate will be split in a 20-20 tie with Democrats. The lieutenant governor — a Republican — could cast tie-breaking votes, but the party had hoped to come away with a cleaner victory.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was Mississippi’s rejection of a far-reaching and stringent anti-abortion initiative known as the “personhood” amendment, which had inspired a ferocious national debate. The measure, Initiative 26, would have amended the state Constitution to define life “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

Supporters, including evangelical Christians, said it would have stopped the murder of innocent life and sent a clarion moral call to the world. They said they expected that passage in Mississippi would have built support for similar laws in other states.

Opponents, led by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposal would have outlawed all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest and when the woman’s life was in danger; would have barred morning-after pills and certain contraceptives such as IUD’s; and could have limited in vitro fertility procedures.

“The message from Mississippi is clear,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “An amendment that allows politicians to further interfere in our personal, private medical decisions, including a woman’s right to choose safe, legal abortion, is unacceptable.”

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