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Mary Landrieu

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., talks to union supporters at the construction site of the New Orleans VA Hospital on election day in New Orleans, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Threatened with ouster in a state trending more heavily Republican, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu wasn’t certain to know her political fate Tuesday, as voters cast their ballots in Louisiana’s tight Senate race. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The 2014 Midterm Elections feature a series of key races that could have staggering implications down the road. With eight tightly-contested U.S. Senate races and nine gubernatorial contests, this election cycle has the added drama of being the last two years of President Barack Obama‘s as he navigates low approval from the public.

One of the more high-profile senate races takes place in North Carolina, where Democrat junior U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is facing off against the state’s Republican House speaker Tom Thillis who has been involved in a number of controversial moves that seemingly undermined the will of voters of color in the state. Hagan, a moderate, could win the seat if Black voter turnout is robust.

Keeping up with the trend that the Democratic vote is largely comprised of African-American voters, eyes are watching the Arkansas senate race. Incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor is fighting for his re-election against Republican and war veteran Tom Cotton; he is hoping the Black electorate backs his efforts. Democrats say that they’ve registered 95,000 and are confident turnout in the state will land a victory for their side.

Louisiana is another state embroiled in a tight senate re-election race, ending its early voting cycle a week before Election Day. U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (pictured) is hoping to keep her seat up against Republican U.S. Congressman Bill Cassidy. The GOP has made it a personal party-wide mission to seize control of the U.S. Senate and maintain control of the House of Representatives. Senator Landrieu, in perhaps a bid to energize Black voters, mentioned recently that President Obama’s unpopularity in the South states is tied to his race. The senator is also one of the few officials in contested races who has openly supported Obama.

In Maryland, current governor Martin O’Malley is vacating the seat due to term limits, which has given way to a squaring off of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Republican businessman Larry Hogan. Despite Brown’s experience and connection to O’Malley, Brown has shown himself to be a solid contender in debates and gaining growing statewide support. Worth noting is Brown is African American, and if elected, would be the state’s first Black governor. The state concluded early voting on Thursday.

In Alabama, a state suffering from high unemployment and even more rampant voter apathy, the governor’s race is still one to watch. Republican incumbent Robert Bentley is popular in the state, and his opponent is flip-flopping Republican-turned-Democrat Parker Griffith.

In California, a competitive race for a U.S. House seat features District 52 incumbent Scott Peters and Republican Carl DeMaio, an openly gay challenger who was a a former San Diego City Council member.

Ballot measures are usually low-ticket items in elections but in the District of Columbia, there is one that has the attention of the nation. Marijuana possession could become legal if voters agree to support Initiative 71, which would allow anyone over 18 to have at least two ounces of the narcotic and grow plants for private use. The measure would also allow a person to give up to an ounce to another person of legal age but sales would be restricted. Supporters of the bill are hopeful the city’s Council will move to legalizing sales.

Also in D.C., the mayor’s race is shaking out in favor of Democratic candidate Muriel Bowser, who shocked by upending current mayor Vincent Gray‘s short reign. Bowser faces tough challenges from independent veteran politicians David Cantania and Carol Schwartz. The city is also set to elect its first Attorney General.

The Brookings Institute, a Washington think tank, has a comprehensive look at the 2014 Midterms that can be found here.

A Look At Key Races For 2014 Midterm Elections  was originally published on