What to Watch for in Today’s Elections

John Haughey
By John Haughey
November 7, 2023Politics
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With Several important elections underway at the state and local level today. What are the key races to watch for tonight and what are some of the major policy issues on the ballot? Joining us now to explore is Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project.

The Iowa Caucuses are 61 days away but the 2024 Election Cycle begins today.

Americans nationwide head to the polls on Nov. 7 for municipal and school board contests. In addition, those in New Jersey, Mississippi, and Virginia are electing state lawmakers and those in Kentucky and Mississippi are casting ballots in gubernatorial elections.

Also on tap today: Voters in five states will see 28 statewide referendums on their Nov. 7 ballots, most notably in Ohio, where the “right to make reproductive decisions including abortion” and to legalize marijuana are being closely watched with the abortion rights measure, in particular, viewed as a possible bellwether for 2024 campaigns across the country.

Emerging trends from these “off-year” elections indicate: abortion will again be a top campaign issue, Democrat voters in some states are not as enthusiastic as Republican voters, and, not surprisingly, 2024 will be the most expensive election cycle in history.

Some say the 2024 election cycle actually kicked off during Louisiana’s Oct. 14 “jungle primary” where Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry was elected governor to succeed term-limited Democrat John Bel Edwards in January 2025.

The Louisiana primary was notable for low turnout, especially among Democrats, as the GOP cemented its super-majorities in both Louisiana state house chambers. Some say this could be a pattern in other elections in other states in 2024.

Low turnout, however, is not expected to be an issue in Virginia’s General Assembly elections and the vote on the two proposed Ohio constitutional amendments.

Abortion on the Ballot

The lone 2023 abortion-related ballot measure in Ohio follows last year’s midterms where, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling that overturned the constitutional right to abortion, there were six state referendums addressing the issue, including three proposed constitutional amendments to establish a right to the procedure.

Pro-life advocates lost all six, including in red states such as Kentucky and Kansas.

Ohio’s Issue 1, the “Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative,” will add abortion rights to the state constitution if approved.

On Aug. 8, Ohioans overwhelmingly defeated a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require 60 percent support from voters to change the constitution instead of the current 50 percent plus one model.

Ohio’s Issue 1 has generated nationwide interest and advertising spending because it’ll determine whether abortion is enshrined in the state constitution.

Baldwin-Wallace University in Ohio released an October poll that indicated Issue 1 will pass by a similar margin to the one that was defeated in August.

According to the survey, 58 percent of likely voters said they were certain to support the measure and 34 percent said they would vote “no.”

Pro-life advocates believe that the amendment is too broad and will compromise parental rights.

Virginia

Abortion is also a top campaign issue in Virginia in what has been a combative and expensive campaign for control of the battleground commonwealth’s General Assembly where, unlike Louisiana, Democrats appear aggressively engaged.

Several months ago, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin outlined his official position on abortion access, permitting abortion up to and including 15 weeks gestation while allowing for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother. Many Republican state and local candidates then aligned their policies accordingly.

On the other side, Democrats messaged that the GOP’s abortion policy is an abortion ban and an infringement on women’s reproductive rights.

Unlike many other Republican-led states, Virginia has yet to change its abortion laws—currently allowing late-term abortions—after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Instead of trying to outline the details of late-term limits in its abortion policy, the Republican Party has tried to focus voters’ attention on parental rights in education.

Whereas voters in New Jersey are expected to elect Democrat majorities and those in Mississippi and Louisiana reaffirm GOP supermajorities in their state legislatures, no one knows how the Virginia General Assembly elections will turn out.

In fact, Virginia’s General Assembly is “the only highly competitive state legislature” in the nation, according to FiveThirtyEight. “All 100 seats in the commonwealth’s House of Delegates, now led by the GOP 52-48, and all 40 seats in the state Senate, where Democrats hold a 22-18 advantage, are on the ballot.

Gov. Youngkin is taking an active role in campaigning—and fundraising—for Republicans across the state.

There is persistent speculation that if he leads Republicans to rousing wins in the state’s General Assembly elections, Mr. Youngkin could emerge as a late-entry GOP presidential candidate to challenge former President Donald Trump’s presumed party nomination. He has repeatedly denied any such intent.

Mississippi and Kentucky Governors’ Races

Thirty-six states staged gubernatorial elections during 2022’s midterms and 11 will do so in 2024. Between, there are three governor contests going before voters in 2023.

With Mr. Landry already winning Louisiana’s governor race, there are now exactly 25 Republican and 25 Democrat governors ruling the nation’s 50 states.

In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves was heavily favored to win a second term to sustain that state’s GOP trifecta but has seen his reelection chances dramatically diminished by a widening corruption investigation over misuse of millions in welfare funds while he was lieutenant governor.

Democrat Brandon Presley, a former mayor and state utilities regulator who is a cousin of Elvis Presley, has run a vigorous campaign and has a legitimate shot to be Mississippi’s first Democrat governor in 20 years.

The outcome of the election may hinge on voter turnout.

Cook Political Report estimates that Mr. Presley needs at least 32 percent of active Black voters to participate in the election in order for him to win. The state has the highest-density Black population of any in the nation at 38 percent. Black voters comprised 31 percent of the electorate in the 2019 gubernatorial contest, and 32 percent in 2015, according to data reported by Cook.

In Kentucky, incumbent Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear faces a stiff challenge from Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the first Republican elected Bluegrass State AG since 1948.

Kentucky has a Republican supermajority in the state Legislature, and former President Donald Trump won the state by 26 percentage points in 2020, but Mr. Beshear was rated the nation’s most popular Democrat governor in a July poll conducted by Morning Consult.

In early October, a survey from Emerson College Polling showed Mr. Beshear with a 16-point lead over Mr. Cameron.

On Nov. 3, Emerson College released a poll indicating that Mr. Beshear and Mr. Cameron were tied at 47 percent, with 4 percent of the respondents reporting that they’re undecided and 2 percent saying they’re voting for someone else.

The survey gives Mr. Cameron a 49 percent to 48 percent advantage over Mr. Beshear when undecided voters were asked whom they were leaning toward.

From The Epoch Times

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