Your Off-Year Election Guide

The only race tomorrow that will have anything to do with national political trends is a tiny congressional district in upstate New York. But there are other races that everyone will talk about as if they mean something.

The Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races have nothing to do with Obama or national politics, at all, except in that Obama did not do as much campaigning and organizing in those two races as the Democratic candidates would've liked. Otherwise, they are strictly local races and the results will reflect only the material concerns of the residents of those states. Still! They have been in the news a lot, so let us talk about them.

New Jersey: Incumbent Governor Jon Corzine is a very rich former Goldman Sachs executive. Despite that, he was a pretty good liberal Senator, for a couple years (he voted against the war!). But then, like a moron, he decided to govern the ungovernable state of New Jersey. He was promptly met with a government shutdown and huge budget problems and a populace that enjoyed the various programs the government provided but did not want to pay so many taxes all the time, or at all. And so he has had to cut spending, which makes everyone mad, and raise some taxes, which made everyone mad.

So waddling in comes Republican Chris "The Big Man" Christie, who has a brilliant plan: he will cut taxes! And cut wasteful government spending! Sounds wonderful! Christie was initially kicking Corzine's ass in the polls, and Democrats wrote off Corzine. But Corzine, who is very rich, remember, launched a hilariously negative ad campaign against Christie. Now, because Christie is fat and also because he's refused to give any details at all on what he would do as governor besides "not be Jon Corzine" (but mostly because he is fat), he is neck-and-neck with Corzine.

That tie is also thanks to this guy named Steve Chris Daggett, who is running as an independent, which means "the guy you vote for if you hate Corzine but don't want to vote for a fat Republican." Daggett is running on a platform of cutting everyone's property taxes, which is always a wonderful idea.

This one is a toss-up.

Now: do you see anything in that summary about Barack Obama's approval ratings, or health care reform's popularity, or Nancy Pelosi? No, you don't. This has nothing to do with anything besides the terribleness of New Jersey's government and populace.

Virginia Virginia does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms, which is nuts, but it keeps things interesting. So there is Republican Robert F. McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds. But stupid Deeds is a rural southern Virginia Democrat, not one of the rich suburban northern liberal Virginians, so he is not really exciting those Obama voters! Or black voters! So the coalitions that helped Obama win Virginia will probably not be turning out for Deeds. McDonnell is a tremendous asshole but this race is his to lose. Once again: this has nothing to do with national politics, except that people who vote on national issues don't usually turn out for off-year races.

New York's 23rd Congressional District This one is wonderful. Barack Obama appointed a Republican congressman from a safe Republican upstate New York seat to be the Secretary of the Army. The local Republicans decided to nominate a local Republican assemblywoman to take his place. But!!! While she is a Regular New York State Republican, she is also pro-abortion and pro-gays. So, hah, the complete lunatics who run the national Republican party, with blogs and TV shows and so on, went nuts and decided to throw their support behind the Conservative Party candidate.

New York's Conservative Party was invented to police the local Republicans, who have a tendency to be more liberal than Republicans elsewhere, because they want to get elected. It was also invented so that William Buckley could run for mayor on a "John Lindsay sucks and I am so awesome" platform. (Fun fact: Buckley supported congestion pricing! And also police brutality. He was always big on police brutality.)

So! The regular "moderate" Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, was called all sorts of names by the internet, and every Republican who endorsed her, like Newt Gingrich, got called even more names, by the internet. The Club For Growth then organized the grassroots conservative campaign for the Conservative Party candidate, some guy named Hoffman who does not actually live in the district and who is also not very smart. Sarah Palin's Facebook page sealed the deal, and suddenly every Republican who wants movement approval and money had to endorse Hoffman. Scozzafava finally quit the race (though she remains on the ballot) and, hilariously, endorsed the Democrat.

Hoffman will probably pull this one off. Frank Rich thinks this is a good thing, because the Republicans are forcing out even more of their electable moderates, and making the party more extreme and more white. Josh Marshall seems to concur, comparing it to when Rush Limbaugh was making everyone apologize to him a while back.

And, ok guys, it is maybe beneficial to the Democrats for the Republicans to become even less inclusive and even less able to adapt to the new America and all that.

But honestly, because of our intractable and entrenched two-party system, all this really means is that the next time the Republicans take back control of any portion of the government they will be even more destructive and evil than they were before.

There is one last race you should keep an eye on, though:

Queens NYC City Council District 19 This race to represent Bayside pits Democrat Kevin Kim, who'd be the first Korean-American elected to the New York city council, against Republican Dan Halloran, who is a pagan lord who worships ancient Norse gods.

Your Off-Year Election Guide

As the Tribune first pointed out, Halloran is "First Atheling," or prince, of a Germanic neo-heathenist "theod" or tribe. State records show that he incorporated the group in 2002 with the official name of "New Normannii Reik of Theodish Belief."

Colloquially, Halloran's followers refer to their tribe as "New Normandy," with a territory that incorporates New York City and parts of New Jersey (some of Halloran's Pennsylvania tribesmen recently broke away — with his blessing — to form their own group, which they call "Arfstoll Thjod").

Obviously there's nothing wrong with being a modern pagan (except that it is dumb), but this particular branch of paganism has been quite popular with white supremacists. Not that this guy his a White Supremacist! Like many Pagans, he may just enjoy playing dress-up.