Day of Decision Here for Voters In Local Races Across the US

VOTERS go to the polls today across the nation with dismay at politics-as-usual and rising fear of crime uppermost on their minds. That may spell a few setbacks for Democrats, who rule more statehouses and city halls than Repblicans. But clear, national patterns will be hard to discern in the hodgepodge of state and local elections: Governors

* In New Jersey, Gov. James Florio (D) holds a shrinking, but still substantial lead over GOP challenger Christine Todd Whitman.

* In Virginia, Republican George Allen looks almost certain to break the Democrats' decade-old lock on the governor's mansion by defeating Mary Sue Terry. Mayors

* New York Mayor David Dinkins (D) still holds a slim lead over Republican-Liberal nominee Rudolph Giuliani.

* In Detroit, two black Democrats, prosecutor Sharon McPhail and former state Supreme Court Justice Dennis Archer, are duking it out to become mayor of this overwhelmingly black city.

* In Boston, Thomas Menino, an Italian American, is favored to become the first non-Irish mayor in ages by defeating Irish-American state Rep. James Brett.

* Atlanta's mayoral race is wide open. Leading contenders are County Commissioner Michael Lomax and City Council members Bill Campbell and Myrtle Davis.

* In Pittsburgh, Democrat Tom Murphy is favored in a three-way race to succeed Mayor Sophie Masloff. The other candidates are Republican Kathy Matta and independent Duane Darkins.

* Miami voters face a six-candidate field with a Nov. 9 runoff election likely. The favorites are former Mayor Steve Clark and city Commissioner Miriam Alonso. Initiatives

The most important initiative in the country is probably California's school-choice measure. Other hot issues include term-limits on New York City's ballot, anti-gay rights measures in Cincinnati and Lewiston, Maine, and tax-revolt propositions in Washington State.

But the most entertaining election will come - where else? - in San Francisco, where voters will decide whether police Officer Bob Geary can carry his wooden dummy, Brendan O'Smarty, on patrol.

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