Those high-profile gubernatorial and congressional races in Virginia, New Jersey and New York got most of the headlines, but the genuinely revealing contests may well have been some of the down-ballot contests held in Maine, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
In Maine, a referendum to repeal the state's recently enacted gay marriage law won 52-48 percent. despite a massive outpouring of resources by gay rights groups. Gay marriage advocates spent an estimated $4 milion defending the law, while opponents reportedly spent about $2.5 million.
Turnout was higher than expected for an off-year election, according to Maine officials, and there were about 100,000 absentee ballots cast in the election, an indication of intense voter interest. Maine is the 31st state to vote on the marriage issue, and in every case, the traditional definition of a man and a woman has won majority support, though not always by decisive margins.
In Pennsylvania, partisan control of the state's highest court was up for grabs in the contest between Republican Joan Orie Melvin and Democrat Jack Panella. It was a heated battle, with Panella raising in excess of $2.3 million just through Oct. 19. Melvin had raised only $733,000 by that point, but still won 52-48 percent, according to Judgepedia.
The Pennsylvania contest could have big national implications because the GOP will now have a majority of the state supreme court, which will have a central role in the post-2010 redistricting process. Pennsylvania is one of only seven states that elect state supreme court justices.
Finally, in Atlanta's mayoral race, Mary Norwood, a Republican who ran with backing of conservatives and tea partiers, won 46 percent of the vote and is the leading candidate in a run-off next month against a candidate with President Obama's vocal backing. Since Atlanta voters gave Obama a 79 percent vote total in 2008, Norwood's victory could indicate dissatisfaction within the Democratic party, as well among those typically expected to oppose the president.