2014 Midterms: From U.S. Senate to Soda Taxes, What to Watch on Election Day

Signs point to an electorate that is decidedly disinterested in the 2014 midterm elections, but Tuesday's ballots offer no shortage of contests that will have an impact on policy and politics for years to come.

Here's a look at some of the races, issues and trends to watch this Election Day:

Fate of the U.S. Senate Decided (or Not): Much of Tuesday's drama and suspense is centered on a handful of states where the outcome of close races will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Republicans need to pick up six seats to win back a majority. With 10 or more considered in play, including New Hampshire and Virginia, most analysts think they have a good shot.  But there's a chance voters waking up Wednesday won't yet know which way the party pendulum has swung. Competitive races in Georgia and Louisiana could go to a runoff if the winner takes less than 50 percent of the vote. A win by an independent in Kansas or South Dakota or a lag in getting votes counted from parts of Alaska could also delay the outcome if control comes down to just one seat. Still, by 10 p.m. ET we may have a sense of how the night is headed, according to NBC News.

Statehouse Shake-Ups: A near record number of incumbent governors could be looking for work come Wednesday. Eleven sitting governors are facing touch re-election races this year, with polls showing contests in several states, including Connecticut and Florida, in a dead heat heading into Election Day. One governor, Hawaii Democrat Neil Abercrombie, was already ousted in the state's primary and polls are pointing to a landslide defeat for Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett, a Republican. A spate of losses could make 2014 the worst cycle for sitting top state electeds in at least 20 years. The last time five or more incumbents lost was in 1994, according to NBC News, with a record 11 incumbents getting the boot back in 1964.

Pot Politics — and an End to Prohibition? Two states will decide whether to follow the leads of Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana for recreational use Tuesday, while voters in other areas will consider relaxing pot laws. Measures on the ballot in Alaska and Oregon seek to allow and tax marijuana for anyone over 21. A number of other state and local measures, including one on the ballot in Washington D.C., would effectively legalize possession of small amounts of pot. Marijuana backers in Florida, meanwhile, are hoping to secure the 60 percent support needed to OK the drug for medical use. Voters in Arkansas are tackling a different sort of prohibition. A ballot initiative aims to end a booze ban still in effect across half of the state’s counties. Supporters face an uphill fight, according to a recent poll.

Another Bush, Carter in Office? A Bush is on the ballot again in Texas and a Carter in Georgia. George P. Bush, son of former Florida governor and possible presidential contender Jeb, is the favorite in Tuesday's race for Texas land commissioner. Leading the somewhat obscure agency, which manages land and mineral rights in the Lone Star State, is widely seen as a political steppingstone for the younger Bush and a chance for the family to extend and rebrand its political dynasty. The rising GOP star's Hispanic heritage — his mother is of Mexican descent — could also help GOP efforts to win over highly coveted Latino voters in 2016 and beyond. Meanwhile, Jason Carter is making bid for Georgia governor, a seat once held by his grandfather, former President Jimmy Carter. Jason Carter, a 39-year-old state senator, was locked in a close fight against Republican incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal. Jimmy Carter, out on the stump for his grandson at age 90, told voters recently, “He was 2 years old when I was president. He wasn’t born when I was governor.”

Soda Wars Head West: The California Bay Area cities of San Francisco and Berkeley have become the latest high-profile battlegrounds in the fight over taxes on soda and other sugary drinks. The beverage industry has spent big to defeat measures seeking to hike taxes on the drinks in the neighboring liberal enclaves, pouring more than $10 million into the campaigns. A win could be a needed boost for backers of what they see as a public health measure following losses at the state and local level and the courts, which rejected former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban supersize sodas there. "If it can’t pass in Berkeley, where is it going to pass? Honest to God, if they can stop us here, they can stop us anywhere. And they know that," Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates told The New York Times.

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