With the 2020 elections coming fast—Election Day is now less that an year away and the Iowa Caucuses are Feb. 3—smart organizations are already preparing. Part of that means keeping tabs on the elections that take place before then, and there were several this week.
Important races were decided in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Virginia and elsewhere Tuesday. Here’s a quick analysis of what happened, including victories for both parties and some surprising results.
The biggest news was Democrats unseating Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) in an election that came down to a margin of just 1.4 votes per precinct. Attorney General Andy Beshear (D), the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, won the Governor’s office 49.2 percent to 48.8 percent, a spread of just 5,150 votes out of more than 1.41 million cast. Turnout increased dramatically over the 2015 Governor’s election, exceeding 45 percent.
Bevin struggled with approval ratings throughout most of his term, often putting him toward the bottom of the list of all 50 governors. He under-performed in the eastern coal country region, running behind most Republican candidates, which proved a major factor in his defeat.
The Kentucky vote turned out better for Republicans in down-ballot statewide races, where the GOP swept offices with substantial percentages, including both the Attorney General and Secretary of State positions.
Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves (R) overcame an opponent that all agreed was the Democrats’ strongest possible contender. Reeves scored a 52-percent-to-46-percent win against Jim Hood (D), who was elected as Mississippi’s Attorney General in four consecutive elections. The GOP victory allows the party to keep a gubernatorial office they have held for 24 of the past 28 years.
Mississippi’s turnout increased more than 18 percent over the last gubernatorial election. The last three publicly released polls proved relatively accurate as they all showed Reeves with small leads hovering around the 50 percent mark. Like in Kentucky, the Republicans also swept the down-ballot races.
The Magnolia State also has an interesting provision in its gubernatorial elections. A gubernatorial candidate must not only win a majority of the statewide vote, but must also carry at least 62 of the state’s 122 House districts, a system that Democrats have argued violates the one-person, one-vote federal election standard. The provision would surely have been challenged in federal court had Reeves not earned a majority of the popular vote. In fact, a preliminary injunction request was filed and denied, though the judge gave broad hints that he would void the election if no one received a 50-percent majority.
Though New Jersey Democrats easily maintained the majority in their state House elections, Republicans surprisingly gained six seats. The Democratic advantage is still veto-proof, 54-26, but the GOP did post a victory. Though the state Senate was not up for election this year, Republicans won in a special election for a single seat, converting a district in the southern part of the state by defeating an appointed Democratic incumbent.
Virginia Democrats won the first major national redistricting election. As expected, the party captured both state legislative chambers from Republicans and will now be in position to re-draw the congressional, state Senate, and state House boundaries after the next census is completed at the end of 2020. Democrats could potentially cement their recent victory into a majority lasting for years.
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