Reading The Tea Leaves From Tuesday

It was an exciting election night last night with heartbreak and disappointment for both Democrats and Republicans.  With impeachment dividing the nation there were several top-tier races on the docket last night including races for Governor in Mississippi and Kentucky, along with both houses of the rapidly turning blue Virginia legislature.

In Kentucky, he topline result was unpopular incumbent Matt Bevin losing narrowly.  The story of why Bevin lost was his staggering almost 100,000 vote deficit in Jefferson County and the purpling suburbs of Cinncy turning against him.  AG Andy Beshear, son of a former Governor, also overperformed in rural counties and squeaked out a likely victory due to this unorthodox coalition.

Down the ballot, the news was worse for the party.  Beshear’s AG seat, controlled by his party for 70 years, went to the state’s first ever statewide elected African-American, Daniel Cameron.  The party also lost the Secretary of State’s office by double-digits.  With the GOP holding massive majorities in the legislature, it probably means little change in the direction of the state.  Beshear’s stated goals of boosting education funding and addressing a $43 billion pension liability likely won’t happen without tax increases, something the legislature likely won’t do.  The difference is Beshear probably won’t stick his foot in his mouth like Bevin did.

The race from the left’s perspective is being seen as a repudiation of Trump but in reality the lack of any Democratic strength down-ballot shows this was more about Bevin than anybody else.  Many rural voters who supported Beshear also back Trump and will likely back Mitch McConnell’s reelection next year.  As the saying goes, local elections are a different beast than federal elections.

In Mississippi, Democrats suffered nothing but heartbreak as they not only lost the Governors race with their best candidate, AG Jim Hood, but Hood’s seat went red as well.  This will be the first time since Reconstruction Republicans have held all statewide offices in Mississippi and completes the state’s realignment.

Speaking of realignment, Virginia has officially completed its turn to the blue side.  In an uphill battle to retain control of its legislative majorities after court ordered redistricting, the GOP legislature officially turned blue with Democrats jumping to a multi-seat majority in the state senate and Assembly.  This builds on legislative gains the party made in 2017 and Congressional gains they made last year which most of the gains consolidated among fast growing suburbs.  Arguably, this is the most worrying trend of the night for Republicans, though Trump did not campaign in the state and Virginia has more college graduates (almost 40% of residents) than any other state in the country.

While those were the biggest races of the night, several other smaller profile contests are worth mentioning.  Democrats took full control of the Delaware County (PA) County Commission for the first time ever, further solidifying their hold over the suburbs.

In NY State, a number of County Executive offices split.  Democrats ousted a long-time incumbent in Monroe County while the party held serve in Onondaga and Duchess.

In less stellar news for Democrats, HD 28 in Texas did not go as planned for the party as Democrats accumulated only 39% of total votes cast race widely billed as a test of whether the chamber is in play next year.  The race now moves to a run-off in a GOP leaning district.

Lastly, in New Jersey, Republicans gained back from seats lost in 2017, particularly in South Jersey.  These gains are largely seen as push-back in marginal districts from Governor Phil Murphy’s progressive agenda on guns, minimum wage hikes, taxes, and climate change.  Democrats will retain large majorities in both chambers but unlike in Virginia, it looks like the Trump wave in the state is receding vs. expanding.





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