Democrats cleaned up big in off-year elections from New Jersey to California, sinking the candidate who embraced President George W. Bush in the final days of the Virginia governor's campaign. They also turned back Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to limit the power of California's Democratic leaders. Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine easily won the New Jersey governor's seat after an expensive, mudslinging campaign, trouncing Republican businessman Doug Forrester by 10 percentage points. Polls in the last week had forecast a much closer race. Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine won a solid victory in Republican-leaning Virginia, beating Republican Jerry Kilgore by more than 5 percentage points. Democrats crowed that Bush's election-eve rally for the former state attorney general only spurred more Kaine supporters to the polls. In California, Schwarzenegger failed in his push to rein in the Democratic-controlled Assembly with ballot measures that would cap spending and remove legislators' redistricting powers. Another measure he supported was trailing and a fourth was too close to call. Elsewhere, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Maine voted to preserve the state's new gay-rights law, and moderate Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg easily clinched a second term in heavily Democratic New York. Democrats said the results were the first steps toward bigger victories next year - when control of Congress and 36 governors' seats are at stake - and for the 2008 presidential race. Republicans warned against reading too much into two governorships that started the day in Democratic hands and ended that way. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was barred by law from seeking a second term, and New Jersey acting Gov. Richard J. Codey opted not to run. The elections took place at the lowest point in President Bush's five-year presidency with his approval ratings plunging below 40 percent in some polls. Republicans, who control both house of Congress, have been further damaged by criminal charges against powerful congressman Tom DeLay, who was forced to give up his leadership position, and an investigation into the leading Republican in the Senate, Bill Frist. Most voters said President Bush was not a factor in their choices Tuesday, according to the survey conducted Tuesday by the AP and its polling partner, Ipsos. The survey was based on interviews with 1,280 adults throughout New Jersey who said they voted in the governor's election. Survey results were weighted to age, race, sex, education, region and 2004 vote. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. In California, where Schwarzenegger faces re-election next year, the four ballot measures he pushed were seen as a referendum on his leadership. Voters soundly defeated proposals to cap state spending and strip lawmakers of their redistricting powers. A third measure to make teachers work five years instead of two to pass probation trailed, while a fourth proposal to require public-employee unions to get members' permission before their dues could be used for political purposes was too close to call. In other races:
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was in a tight race with challenger Freman Hendrix, a deputy mayor under Kilpatrick's predecessor.
San Diego surf-shop owner Donna Frye, a maverick Democratic councilwoman who nearly won the mayor's race in a write-in bid last year, lost to Republican Jerry Sanders, a former police chief backed by the city's business establishment.