Pot, gays, and governors
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are the headliners, but the rest of the card is pretty interesting too.
Three states have initiatives that would decriminalize the casual use of marijuana — Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. The language of each measure violates federal law, which takes precedence; will Romney/Obama's Justice Department enforce the law? Or will the first state to actively legalize recreational use open the door to a new way of dealing with drugs? NB: Washington state's measure has the best chance of passing.
Medical marijuana legalization is on the ballot in Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Montana.
As always, California has a plethora of ballot initiatives and referenda. Prop 36 would give judges more discretion to impose less harsh terminal sentences for third strike offenders; Prop 34 would kill the death penalty. Prop 37 would mandate labels on genetically modified foods. There are competing tax hikes — the Democratic governor supports Prop 30, which would raise the sales tax to fund increases in the state education budget. Another proposition would do the same by increasing income taxes. Unions are fighting like hell to defeat Prop 32, which would prevent them from automatically deducting dues out of members' paychecks. Technically, Prop 32 is also supposed to ban corporations from doing the same thing, but since the measure is funded by corporate interests, there are loopholes.
Gay rights advocates are crossing their fingers that Maryland will become the first state to vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Maine could also do the same by overturning a previous measure; Minnesotans will vote on "one man and one woman" constitutional language provision. Gay marriage is also on the ballot in Washington state.
Back in 2002, then-DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe famously spun the party's election results by saying that "half of America is waking up in states controlled by Democratic governors." Whatever the result for Republicans tonight, they're likely to hold at least 30 state executive slots, picking up at least one held by a Democrat. Washington state and Montana provide Republicans with their best shots.
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