In the marquee event of the off-year election cycle, Kentucky Democrat Andy Beshear won the gubernatorial race over Republican incumbent Matt Bevin. With all precincts reporting, Beshear won with a slim 49.2 to 48.9 percent lead, a difference of less than 5,000 votes.
Bevin, whom New York’s Ed Kilgore called “one of those pols with an unattractive personality and unpopular policies,” faced an unusually close contest for a Republican in a state that Trump won last cycle by almost 30 points. Prior to election night, polling on Bevin showed approval/disapproval ratings as low as 34/53, due in part to his Medicaid plan, which would have raised costs and reduced benefits, and his decision to cut public-sector pensions, which helped lead to teacher strikes. Beshear, meanwhile, enjoyed strong name recognition as the state attorney general and the son of the state’s last Democratic governor.
At his pre-election rally on Monday in Lexington, President Trump said: “You gotta vote because if you lose, it sends a really bad message. It just sends a bad and they’re going to build it up … You can’t let that happen to me.” But Trump’s broken thoughts on how the election will reflect on him aren’t totally accurate: Bevin was the most unpopular Republican governor in the country, eight of the last ten governors in the state have been Democrats, and down-ballot, GOP candidates won elections for attorney general, treasurer, and auditor by solid margins. (The race for secretary of state was closer, but Republican Michael Adams still won by four percent.) Still, the loss must sting the party, as it has lost its trifecta control and neither Trump nor Senator Mitch McConnell enjoys strong approval ratings in the Bluegrass State. For Bevin, it must hurt a little more: His camp reportedly expected a double-digit win tonight.
On Tuesday, several other states held elections that could hold some meaning for the races next November.
Democrats are projected to flip the state senate and maintain control of the state house, meaning the Democratic Party has trifecta control of the government for the first time since 1994. With that power — joining 14 other Democratic triple-threats across the country — Democrats are reportedly expected to pursue gun-control reform, LGBTQ protections, climate legislation, an increase to the minimum wage, and will control redistricting following the 2020 census.
The most interesting win in the state belongs to Juli Briskman, who will join the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in the suburbs of D.C. In 2017, she was fired from her job at a government contracting firm after flipping off the Trump motorcade, frustrated by his administration’s underwhelming response to Hurricane Maria and his decision to revoke DACA.
In New Jersey, Democrats held on, as expected, to their control of the state assembly, while Mississippi Republicans enjoyed sweeping wins across the ballot. With the current Governor Phil Bryant term-limited, the Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves beat the anti-abortion, pro-gun Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood by almost ten points. The GOP will maintain its trifecta in the state, and won the races for attorney general and lieutenant governor.
All five ballot measures were cleared with over 70 percent support. Voters approved of an initiative to give power to the Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate and prosecute officers suspected of lying during review-board investigations; a ban on city officials lobbying their former agency until they’ve spent at least two years out of office; the establishment of a “rainy day” fund, which still requires state-level approval; and a rule requiring real-estate developers to share their plans with community boards earlier in the building process.
The most significant change came in the approval of the first ballot question, which established ranked-choice voting for primary and special city elections. Beginning in 2021, candidates will rank their top five choices for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president, and city council. As the New York Times explains: “If a candidate collects more than 50 percent of the vote, that person is the winner. If not, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and the second-choice votes for that candidate would be redistributed among the remaining candidates. The process continues until one candidate has a majority of votes.”
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