Governor's races in 2 states echo the White House contest

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FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 file photo, Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, Corey Stewart, speaks at a campaign kickoff rally in a restaurant in Occoquan, Va. Stewart, a tough-talking former Donald Trump campaign chairman who says the president’s victory has freed candidates to "simply be yourself." (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The governor's races this year in Virginia and New Jersey are unfolding in ways that powerfully echo the wild campaign for the White House.

Insurgents are making populist appeals. Establishment figures on are the defensive. In Virginia, there is Corey Stewart, a blunt and combative Republican who sneers at political correctness.

There's even a former TV star in the mix: "Saturday Night Live" comic Joe Piscopo, who is thinking of running in New Jersey.

The two contests for governor are seen by the Democrats as a potential referendum on Donald Trump and an important early test of the party's strength less than a year into his presidency.