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Governors-Elect Face Tough Times on Budget Front

Vote: N.J.'s McGreevey and Virginia's Warner consider ways to deal with huge deficits. Elected mayors see similar challenges.

November 08, 2001|From Times Wire Services

Even in the glow of victory, winners of the off-year elections acknowledged Wednesday that they face immense challenges in the months ahead as the economy veers toward recession and fears of terrorism persist.

In New Jersey, Democratic Gov.-elect James E. McGreevey warned that a state budget deficit forecast at more than $700 million means tough times ahead. He pledged not to raise taxes, but said the budget would undergo an "agonizing reappraisal."

"Santa isn't coming to the state Legislature with Christmas tree lists this year," McGreevey said. "We need to cut back. We need to be fiscally responsible."

Virginia--the other state where a Democrat ended an eight-year Republican hold on the governorship--also faces a huge budget shortfall. Gov.-elect Mark Warner, unlike McGreevey, faces the extra challenge of dealing with a GOP-dominated Legislature.

"You will see the most bipartisan administration in this state's history," said Warner, a wealthy entrepreneur who has never held political office.

President Bush, by telephone, offered condolences to the Republicans who lost to McGreevey and Warner. But White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the results were no reflection on Bush or the Republican Party.

"When you look at [Tuesday's] election day, you really see a series of local issues decided locally," Fleischer said.

Democrats disagreed.

"The nation is united behind the president for international relations because we are at war," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, the next head of the Democratic Governors Conference. "When you get down to the real issues that matter for most voters--particularly concerns about the economy, the environment and education--the Democratic message and Democratic values are winning."

Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Warner and McGreevey ran particularly well in suburban areas that have become a key electoral battleground.

The new governors face challenging times, but so do several big-city mayors who won terms on Tuesday.

* In Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, the 31-year-old state House Democratic leader, was elected mayor and will lead a rundown city with an estimated $33-million budget shortfall. Detroit's murder rate is 2.6 times the national average, and the Police Department is under investigation by the Justice Department.

* In Atlanta, former city administrator Shirley Franklin, who will be the city's first female mayor, must reconcile a projected $45-million shortfall with her campaign pledges not to raise taxes or lay off employees.

* In Cincinnati, perhaps the biggest challenge for victorious incumbent Charlie Luken is to quell racial tensions that have lingered since rioting in April sparked by the police shooting of an unarmed black man.

Two big cities have another round of mayoral voting to come.

In Miami, Mayor Joe Carollo lost his bid for reelection, while former Mayor Maurice Ferre and Manny Diaz, an attorney for Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives, advanced to a runoff.

In Houston, Mayor Lee Brown, a Democrat, and Republican City Councilman Orlando Sanchez will compete in a runoff within the next month.

In Seattle, election officials declared the mayoral race between two candidates too close to call pending counting of a large number of mail-in ballots.

King County Councilman Greg Nickels, an advocate for light rail transit, led brash-talking Mark Sidran, city attorney, 54% to 46%, or 48,612 votes to 41,698, but about 100,000 mail-in ballots remained to be counted.

Election officials said they would certify the vote Nov. 21.

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