AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

November 6, 2013

 

AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

Chris Christie, Terry McAuliffe winners as voters weigh in across America

ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) — The 2016 overtones were clear in this year's two most high-profile elections.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie's resounding re-election victory in Democratic-leaning New Jersey sets the opening argument for a possible White House run while Terry McAuliffe's gubernatorial victory gives fellow Democrats — if not his confidante Hillary Rodham Clinton, herself — a road map for success in the pivotal presidential swing-voting state.

Christie became the first Republican to earn more than 50 percent of the New Jersey vote in a quarter-century. McAuliffe is the first member of the party occupying the White House to become Virginia governor since 1977.

Among a slate of off-year balloting from coast to coast, New York City voters also elected Bill De Blasio, making him the first Democrat to lead the nation's largest city since 1989. Colorado agreed to tax marijuana at 25 percent, and Houston rejected turning the Astrodome into a convention hall, likely dooming it to demolition. Alabama Republicans chose the establishment-backed Bradley Byrne over a tea party-supported rival in a special congressional runoff election in the conservative state.

Turnout was relatively light — even in the most hard-fought races. Without presidential or congressional elections on the books, voters were primarily hard-core partisans. But to win, both gubernatorial victors sounded a tone of pragmatic bipartisanship — at a time of dysfunctional divided government in Washington — and, because of that pitch, they managed to cobble together a diverse cross-section of voters from across the political spectrum.

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Analysis: Christie, McAuliffe show merits of consensus-building after government shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Electability and pragmatism won. Ideology and purity lost.

In Democratic-leaning New Jersey, voters gave Republican Chris Christie a second term and rewarded him for his bipartisan, get-it-done, inclusive pitch. In swing state Virginia, voters narrowly rejected Republican Ken Cuccinelli's uncompromising, conservative approach.

If there's a lesson from Tuesday's off-year elections, it might be that during a time of deep divisions within the Republican Party, staunchly conservative GOP candidates who press ideological positions have difficulty winning general elections in competitive states. Candidates with mainstream appeal like Christie in New Jersey and Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia can overcome obstacles that might trip up others.

Christie, in a victory speech aimed at national Republicans, said Americans "angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington" could look to his state as a model for getting things done.

"I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TVs right now," Christie said. "See how it's done."

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10 Things to Know for Today

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

1. CHRIS CHRISTIE SCORES DECISIVE VICTORY

The ease with which New Jersey's Republican governor wins re-election bodes well for his 2016 presidential chances.

2. TORONTO MAYOR ADMITS SMOKING CRACK

He says he was drunk at the time — and vows to remain in office despite the startling admission.

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Voters render verdict on ballot questions including casinos, pot taxes, Astrodome

Voters across the country faced ballot measures Tuesday ranging from whether to approve seven casinos in New York to the fate of Houston's iconic Astrodome. Here's a look at some of the questions.

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MARIJUANA AND ALCOHOL

COLORADO: Voters approved a 25 percent tax on newly legal recreational marijuana to fund school construction. Opponents argued the tax rate would benefit black market sales.

MAINE: Voters in Portland, Maine's largest city, declared victory on a measure to legalize possession of recreational amounts of marijuana.

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Sebelius back to Capitol Hill for fresh grilling on health care as lawmakers' worries grow

WASHINGTON (AP) — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is returning to Capitol Hill for a fresh interrogation on the health care law, this time from senators with growing concerns about President Barack Obama's crowning legislative achievement.

Sebelius was due to face questions Wednesday from the Senate Finance Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was a chief author of the 2010 law and remains a vocal defender. Yet in a measure of its troubled rollout, even he has concerns about the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov website and the potential security risks it poses for consumers' private information.

"I want it all to work, and security is one factor, one component. It has to be secure," Baucus told reporters Tuesday.

To the chagrin of increasingly nervous Democrats, Republicans are also on the attack about the millions of Americans whose health insurers have told them their current policies are being canceled. Obama has said that people who liked their coverage would be able to keep it.

"The American people are tired of all the broken promises from the Obama administration — from the millions who've had their insurance dropped, to the increase in the cost of their health plans and that many won't be able to keep the doctors they've come to trust," Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, top Republican on the Finance panel, said Tuesday.

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Illinois set to be 15th state to allow gay marriage; measure allows weddings starting in June

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — With Illinois set to become the 15th state nationwide to legalize same-sex marriage, Chicago couple Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos finally began planning the wedding they'd started thinking about more than two decades ago.

"From the moment we met and fell in love, the language was, 'If I could marry you I would,'" said Volpe, who is expecting the couple's third child. "We waited a long time for that to happen, to hear ... that we can have that. I think it's really the final stamp on our relationship."

After months of arduous lobbying in President Barack Obama's home state, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure Tuesday that would legalize same-sex marriage. Under the legislation, which Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign, couples could start tying the knot in June.

Fourteen other states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.

The road to the Illinois vote was long and included a stalled attempt earlier this year, frustrating activists in a state where Democrats lead the House, Senate and governor's office. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who is the main sponsor, decided not to bring the bill for a vote in May, saying he didn't have the support.

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GED exam sites prepare for flood of test takers before new exam rolls out Jan. 2

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans who passed part, but not all, of the GED test are rushing to finish the high school equivalency exam before a new version rolls out in January and their previous scores are wiped out. About 1 million people could be affected.

With the new version, test takers must use a computer instead of paper and pencil. The test itself will be more rigorous and cost more — at $120, the price in some states will be significantly higher than previous versions. Some places may subsidize all or part of the cost.

"This is the thing that's sort of putting the spur in the saddle," said Lecester Johnson, executive director of Academy of Hope, an adult charter school in Washington. "People just don't want to start over."

Test takers have been warned for more than a year about the approaching Dec. 31 deadline to complete the test. States and localities are phoning people, and thousands of letters have gone out — including to 32,000 Californians who passed parts but not all the test in the last two years.

"We don't want anyone to be caught off-guard and come in and test in January or February thinking they have their old scores, and they have to start over," said Pam Blundell, who oversees adult education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. She said Oklahoma test sites have added additional test days and referred students to other sites.

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Confessions on state TV the latest tactic in China's campaign to scrub unwanted discourse

BEIJING (AP) — The 27-year-old journalist wore a green jail uniform, his head shaved and hands in metal cuffs, when he appeared on national TV and confessed his guilt in bribery allegations. And he had yet to be charged with anything.

"I willingly admit my crime, and I repent it," Chen Yongzhou said in footage aired on the state broadcaster China Central Television. He said he took money while a reporter at a metropolitan newspaper in southern China in exchange for running several stories smearing a company that makes heavy machinery.

It was the latest of several high-profile, televised confessions, a new tactic by Chinese authorities attempting to scrub information they deem harmful, illegal or false from the public domain, especially from the Internet. The confessions have come alongside a propaganda campaign warning against relaying false information, and new penalties for reposting untrue information in social media.

Critics warn that the government is trying to curb public speech, and legal and journalism scholars say the airing of confessions before court trials tramples on China's rule of law.

"The street parades of yesterday have become television parades of today," Chinese University of Political Science and Law professor He Bing lamented on his microblog. He was alluding to China's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, when mobs denounced and punished suspected wrongdoers without due process.

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Swedish cinemas challenge Hollywood's gender bias by introducing feminist movie rating

STOCKHOLM (AP) — You expect movie ratings to tell you whether a film contains nudity, sex, profanity or violence. Now movie theaters in equality-minded Sweden are introducing a new rating to highlight gender bias, or rather the absence of it.

To get an "A" rating, a movie must pass the so-called Bechdel test, which means it must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.

"The entire 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, all 'Star Wars' movies, 'The Social Network,' 'Pulp Fiction' and all but one of the 'Harry Potter' movies fail this test," said Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house movie theater in Stockholm's trendy Sodermalm district.

Bio Rio is one of four Swedish movie theaters that launched the new rating last month to draw attention to how few movies pass. Most visitors have reacted positively to the initiative "and for some people it has been an eye-opener," said Tejle, reclining in one of Bio Rio's cushy red seats.

Beliefs about women's roles in society are influenced by the fact that movie watchers rarely see "a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them," Tejle said, noting that the rating doesn't say anything about the quality of the film. "The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens."

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23-year-old Ryan Riess wins World Series of Poker, $8.4M title in short, event-filled session

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 23-year-old poker pro from Michigan won the World Series of Poker main event late Tuesday, claiming the $8.4 million title after pushing past his last opponent in a brief, dramatic match.

Ryan Riess started out behind on Tuesday, but used cleverly varied play to seize and maintain a lead amid the unpredictability of no-limit Texas Hold 'em.

On the last hand, 29-year-old Las Vegas club promoter Jay Farber went all-in with a Queen-Five. Riess, dealt an Ace-King, rightly suspected his opponent wasn't holding much and called instantly.

Riess backed into the stands to watch the cards turn, and won the championship with the arms of his girlfriend around his shoulders.

Moments later, he kissed the diamond-encrusted championship bracelet he's been chasing since he was 14 years old. After tearfully thanking his friends and family, he told reporters, "I just think I'm the best player in the world."

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