Cheat sheet: Key races and issues in Tuesday’s elections

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway, center, talks to people following the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce's Red, White and Blue Picnic on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2016 in Owensboro, Ky.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway, center, talks to people following the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce's Red, White and Blue Picnic on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2016 in Owensboro, Ky. Jenny Sevcik/The Messenger-Inquirer via AP

In most states, the big elections will come next year. But on Tuesday, voters in a few states will pick governors and legislators, some cities will elect mayors and a variety of major issues will be settled at the ballot box.

The Nov. 3 elections, though likely to draw fewer voters than next year’s presidential contest, could nonetheless provide a test of public opinion on such topics as marijuana, gay rights and the emerging “sharing economy,” which includes services that allow individuals to rent out rooms in their homes via the Internet. Those issues will be on ballots in Ohio, Texas and California.

A pair of Michigan lawmakers who left office in a bizarre sex scandal will make a bid for a political comeback in special primary elections for their old seats. And months of heavy spending will finally culminate with the selection of a new Kentucky governor and a decision on who controls the Virginia Senate.

A look at some of the offices and issues at stake:

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GOVERNORS

The race to succeed term-limited Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, features candidates who have taken contrasting positions in the national debates over gay marriage and Medicaid expansion.

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway opted not to appeal when a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriage, a year before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized it nationwide. His gubernatorial rival, Republican businessman Matt Bevin, describes himself as a Christian conservative and defends Kim Davis, the county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Conway wants to continue with the expansion of the state Medicaid program made possible by President Barack Obama‘s health care law. Bevin wants to repeal it and replace it with a health care plan requiring more money from participants.

In Tuesday’s only other gubernatorial race, Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has spent $2.7 million on his re-election bid, easily outdoing the $3,000 spent by Democratic nominee Robert Gray, a truck driver.

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LEGISLATORS

Just three states have general legislative elections Tuesday, though at least 10 others will hold special elections to fill vacant seats.

The biggest battle is for control of the Virginia Senate, where Republicans currently have a 21-19 advantage. A gain of just one seat by Democrats could flip control, because Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam would serve as the tiebreaker. The high stakes have attracted large campaign contributions. The nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project says three particularly competitive state Senate races all are on track to break the prior record for the state’s most expensive legislative contest.

Republicans are better positioned to maintain majorities in the Virginia House and in Mississippi’s two chambers. Democrats are looking to hold onto their majority in the New Jersey Assembly.

In Michigan, former state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat will appear on Tuesday’s special primary ballot for their old seats, just months after they left office following revelations they had an extramarital affair and concocted a strange story to make the truth seem less believable.

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