The Latest: Turnout up in Virginia’s closely watched race

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Latest on the races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey (all times local):
2:55 p.m.
Early voter numbers are up in Virginia’s closely watched race for governor while polling places around the state are reporting a steady turnout.
Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes says Virginia had a “substantially higher” number of early voters in this year’s closely watched race for governor than in recent past gubernatorial contests.
The 180,000 absentee ballots returned as of Sunday were 60,000 more than all absentee votes cast in the 2013 gubernatorial election.
Generally speaking, Democrats tend to do better in Virginia with a greater turnout.
Fairfax County, a large, reliably Democratic county in Northern Virginia, reported that voter turnout as of 2 p.m. was 30.6 percent.
___
12:55 p.m.
The Democratic and Republican candidates running to replace Gov. Chris Christie have cast their ballots.
Democrat Phil Murphy voted in Middletown on Tuesday and told reporters that his election against Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (gwah-DAH’-noh) is a referendum on the economy, which he says is not strong.
Guadagno told reporters after voting in Monmouth Beach that her campaigns feels “fabulous” and that the momentum picked up in the last couple of weeks. She says voters can’t afford more taxes and a less safe state.
Christie says he voted for Guadagno and that the election is not about him.
Polls are open around the state until 8 p.m.
___
12:25 p.m.
The NAACP says voters in northern Virginia have received phone calls from people who are lying to them and telling them their polling place has changed.
The NAACP says the calls are fraudulent and an attempt to suppress the vote. Virginia voters are choosing a new governor Tuesday.
The NAACP says the out-of-area calls have been reported in Prince William County, as well as in Manassas and Manassas Park.
Hillary Clinton received about 5 percent more votes in Prince William County than Donald Trump did during the 2016 presidential election.
The NAACP says voter protection services are aware of the issue.
___
11:20 a.m.
A friendly crowd greeted Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam and his wife as they arrived at their local polling station to cast their ballots.
Northam hugged cheering voters Tuesday morning at a Norfolk community center, thanking them for their support during the closely watched race. A few dozen voters were there.
He and Republican Ed Gillespie have been locked in a battle to succeed Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who cannot seek a second term.
Virginia is one of only two states electing a new governor this year, and the contest is viewed by many as an early referendum on President Donald Trump’s political popularity.
Democrats are eager to prove they can harness anti-Trump energy into success at the polls, while Republicans are looking to show they have a winning blueprint in a blue-leaning state.
___
9:10 a.m.
Thousands of Virginia voters have already cast their ballots for governor, driven by a wide range of issues.
At Jahnke Road Baptist Church in suburban Richmond, 39-year-old Angelica Bega said Tuesday morning she wasn’t sure whom she would vote for until she was handed a ballot, but she ultimately voted for Democrat Ralph Northam.
As an “issues-driven voter,” she says she said it was “very frustrating” to see so many attack ads. She said Republican Ed Gillespie’s attempt to make immigration such a big part of the campaign frustrated her and was a factor in her decision to vote for his opponent.
Emogene and Jimmy Babb, both 74, voted straight Republican at a rural polling station in Windsor, Virginia.
They said there wasn’t any one particular issue that drove them to the polls. But they said they shared Gillespie’s positions on gun rights and not removing Confederate statues.
“We don’t need a governor who is going to take our guns away,” Jimmy Babb said.
___
7:15 a.m.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter once again to back Republican Virginia gubernatorial Ed Gillespie minutes before the polls opened across the state.
In a series of early morning tweets Tuesday, Trump said Gillespie will crack down on crime and improve the state’s economy.
Trump tweeted that Gillespie’s Democratic opponent Ralph Northam is “weak on crime” and against the Second Amendment. Northam, an Army veteran, says he grew up hunting and wants common-sense gun laws.
Polls show a tight race to succeed Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Virginia is the only Southern state that Trump lost last year.
___
6:45 a.m.
Polls have opened in Virginia and New Jersey as voters choose new governors.
Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam have been locked in a heated race in Virginia to succeed Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who cannot seek a second term. The contest is viewed by many as a referendum on President Donald Trump and a possible preview of the 2018 midterm elections.
Virginians will also cast votes for state attorney general and lieutenant governor.
New Jersey voters are choosing a replacement for Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who cannot seek a third term. Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (gwah-DAH’-noh) and Democratic former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy are the leading candidates.
In Virginia, all 100 state House seats are up for election and voters in New Jersey are choosing lawmakers for all of its legislative districts.
___
3 a.m.
Voters in Virginia and New Jersey are choosing new governors in contests that could be an early referendum on President Donald Trump.
Tuesday’s elections pit two mild-mannered Democrats against two Republicans who have kept the president at arm’s length while mimicking Trump’s posture on certain social issues.
Swing-state Virginia is expected to be close, as most polls show Republican Ed Gillespie within striking distance of Democrat Ralph Northam. In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy holds a double-digit lead over Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Current governors in both states, Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia and Republican Chris Christie in New Jersey, are term-limited.
The outcome of the contests could also shape how candidates campaign in next year’s midterm elections.
Polls open at 6 a.m. in both states.