Ohio voters reject anti-union measure
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Voters in Ohio on Tuesday restored the bargaining rights of public employees, repealing a law that had been backed by the state's Republican governor.
Meanwhile, Mississippi voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have declared that life begins at fertilization, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide.
Two gubernatorial offices were up for election, and Kentucky and Mississippi refused to turn those offices over to different parties, despite the nation's stubborn economic woes.
Supporters of the Mississippi measure had hoped hope to use it to mount a legal attack on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established the right to abortion.
Ohio voters overwhelmingly repealed a new law that severely limited the bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees. With 35 percent of precincts reporting, the repeal effort had 62 percent of the vote, compared with 38 percent who voted to keep the law.
The decision was a stiff blow to Gov. John Kasich and cast doubt on other Republican governors who have sought union-limiting measures as a way to curb spending.
The disputed law permitted workers to negotiate wages but not pensions or health care benefits, and it banned public-worker strikes, scraps binding arbitration and eliminates annual raises for teachers.
The outcome no doubt will be watched by presidential candidates as a gauge of the Ohio electorate, which is seen as a bellwether. No Republican has won the White House without Ohio, and only two Democrats have done so in more than a century.
Also in Ohio, voters approved a proposal to prohibit people from being required to buy health insurance as part of the national health care overhaul. The vote was mostly symbolic, but Republicans planned to use it in a legal challenge. The vote came on the same day as yet another federal appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the health care law, which includes the controversial provision requiring people to purchase health care insurance.
The Mississippi measure -- a so-called "personhood" initiative -- was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling.
The measure divided the medical and religious communities and caused some of the most ardent abortion opponents, including Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, to waver with their support.
Opponents said the measure would have made birth control, such as the morning-after pill or the intrauterine device, illegal. More specifically, the ballot measure called for abortion to be prohibited "from the moment of fertilization" -- wording that opponents suggested would have deterred physicians from performing in vitro fertilization because they would fear criminal charges if an embryo doesn't survive.
Elsewhere, Kentucky's Democratic governor was re-elected, and voters picked a new governor in Mississippi -- decisions that could foreshadow the public's political mood just two months ahead of the first presidential primary and nearly four years into the worst economic slowdown since the Depression.
In both governors' races, the offices had been expected to stay in the hands of incumbent parties, suggesting voters were not ready to abandon their loyalties, despite the nation's economic woes. Still, the contests were being closely watched for any hints going into 2012, when 10 states will elect governors.
In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear was easily re-elected despite high unemployment, budget shortfalls and an onslaught of third-party attack ads. He became the second Democrat to win a governor's race this year, after West Virginia's Early Ray Tomblin.
In Mississippi, voters picked Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant to succeed Haley Barbour, who could not run again because of term limits. Mr. Bryant beat Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree, the first black major-party nominee for governor in Mississippi.
In Arizona, state Sen. Russell Pearce, architect of the tough immigration law that put the state at the forefront of the national debate, was ousted after a recall attempt led by a fellow Republican.
Other votes of note:
• In San Francisco, interim Mayor Ed Lee could become the city's first elected Asian-American leader.
• In Philadelphia, Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter trounced a little-known Republican challenger named Karen Brown, a former math teacher and Democrat who switched parties to challenge the incumbent.
• Washington state voters decided whether to end their state-run liquor system and allow large stores to sell alcohol.
First Published November 9, 2011 12:57 am