As voters in Connecticut cities and towns head to the polls today to choose local leaders in the state’s municipal elections, there are some other races in other parts of the country that are being watched and considered a harbinger of things to come for the big showdowns in 2010.

President Barack Obama has campaigned for the Democratic candidates for governor in both Virginia and New Jersey. Republicans are in good position to win at least one if not both races . In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonald heads into today with polls showing him leading Democrat Creigh Deeds by at least 11% and as much as 18%. This despite a campaign appearance just last week from the president. The outcome is seen by many as at least some kind of a test of Obama’s popularity considering he was the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia in 45 years.

Things are tighter in New Jersey where incumbent Democrat John Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie are locked in a dead heat in the polls. This race has had an unusual flare for charges, counter-charges, overall nastiness and huge spending—even for New Jersey. Also, with help from President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, a $30 million bankroll and a surprisingly strong effort from Independent candidate Chris Daggett, Corzine has come back from being behind Christie by 14 points this summer.

The latest Quinnipiac Poll has Christie leading by two points (no word on whether either candidate got the results of the poll ahead of time). If Christie loses, it very well may be because of Daggett who is polling at a respectable 11%.

One particularly negative ad run by Corzine backfired on him. The spot featured an unflattering picture of Christie and accused the obese Republican of “throwing his weight around.” Voters and the media didn’t like it and it gave Christie—who readily admits to not working things that are green into his diet—a chance to sit back and be self-effacing.

In general, New Jersey is in pretty tough shape. It has the highest taxes in the country, the highest unemployment in the region and hundreds of thousands of its residents moving out of the state.

The chances of Connecticut taxpayers seeing a reduction in the sales tax the first of the year are slim and none. And slim just took the the Hartford to New Britain busway out of town. As The Hanging Shad noted back on Oct. 20, despite the governor’s optimism at the time, the sale tax reduction is all but dead.

Just about two months removed from passing a new two-year budget after a summer-long stalemate, Comptroller Nancy Wyman says the budget is $624 million in deficit. The sales tax was scheduled to drop from 6% to 5.5% January 1st but only if revenues did not dip at least 1% below what is projected in the budget.

There is plenty of finger-pointing already as to the reason for the shortfall. Democrats are laying it at Gov. Rell’s feet. State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven), among the most respected lawmakers in the state, says the governor is failing to make cuts called for in the new budget and points out that about a third of the deficit is due to increased spending in the executive (Rell’s) branch of government.

The governor says the problem lies in the new budget itself—which she refused to sign—because it includes structural problems that are leading to deficits. The governor says she is working on a deficit mitigation plan and will use her rescission (cutting) authority that does not require legislative approval.

Democratic State Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Republican candidate for US Senate and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.

DiNardo charges that WWE officials, citing copyright and intellectual property rights, forced the Internet siteYouTube to take down what many considered offensive wrestling videos. The complaint charges that other videos, presumably not so offensive, remain on YouTube. DiNardo claims that constitutes an illegal “in-kind” contribution by the WEE to the McMahon campaign.

DiNardo’s complaint reads, “In sum, WWE has selectively enforced its rights only insofar as they benefit Ms. McMahon’s candidacy…WWE expended its corporate resources…all used in the service of Ms. McMahon’s campaign to force YouTube to remove only the videos that reflected poorly on Ms. McMahon, while ignoring the multitude of other WWE-owned material still hosted on YouTube.”

The McMahon campaign responded, “It’s a baseless accusation and the campaign has complied with all FEC rules and regulations. This latest attack from Chris Dodd speaks volumes about just how worried he is about Linda’s campaign…”

“In-kind” contributions are non-cash donations to a campaign for which a monetary value may be determined such as a consultant’s donated time and expertise, donated buses or cars, paper or supplies and the like. Characterizing the removal from the Internet of some videos and not others an “in-kind” campaign contribution seems a bit of a stretch. State Dems would be wiser to point out McMahon’s hypocrisy such as when she’s slamming Dodd for the loss of 24,000 jobs in the state despite the federal stimulus program when just last January, her company laid-off 10% of its workforce despite massive profits. Not to mention that before her last campaign ad blitz, the last tme anyone saw McMahon on TV was when she was kicking a wrestler in the groin.

For fun on this election day: Among the stranger things the author of The Hanging Shad has seen lately came during a trip to the gym this past weekend. The gym was kind enough to provide complimentary coffee at a table near the entrance. But also available were bagels and donuts. Donuts? Was it membership renewal time? Isn’t that like going to the dentist and having free cotton candy in the lobby? The coffee, however, was great.