Category Archives: State Legislatures

Tuesday’s Election Reflection

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2019 — Kentucky’s GOP Gov. Bevin looses, Republican Reeves wins in Mississippi and state legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia are looking decidedly blue …

Kentucky

Gov. Matt Bevin (R), always lagging near the bottom of the 50-state gubernatorial approval polls throughout his term, lost his re-election bid to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

The vote totals fell within three-tenths of one percent, or an unofficial raw vote margin of 5,150 votes of 1.41 million votes cast. The Beshear victory spread translates into just 1.4 votes per precinct, statewide. Additionally, the Libertarian candidate in the race, Kyle Hugenberg, attracted over 46,000 votes, nine times greater than the spread between the two major party candidates.

The defeat appears to belong solely to Gov. Bevin, and not the Republican Party in general. The down-ballot Republicans scored a clean sweep, converting the attorney general’s office that Beshear held with 58 percent of the vote, and the secretary of state’s position (52 percent). GOP incumbents also were re-elected as state treasurer (61 percent), agriculture commissioner (58 percent), and auditor general (56 percent). With these hefty Republican percentages recorded for the other offices, it is clear that Gov. Bevin severely under-performed.

Political trouble for the governor became apparent when he won re-nomination last May with just 52 percent of the vote against little-known state Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) and two others. Bevin under-performed in the “coal country” area of the state, an area from which Goforth hails, and again fell below typical Republican vote patterns here in the general election, which evidently cost him the race. Mining healthcare issues became a problem for Bevin, and his position with regard to miner health benefits went a long way toward unseating him election night.

Andy Beshear was elected attorney general in 2015. His father, Steve Beshear (D), served the maximum two terms as governor prior to Bevin winning four years ago. Therefore, the Beshear name is extremely well known throughout Kentucky.

Voter turnout was up a whopping 45 percent above the 2015 odd-year election, though still significantly under presidential levels. In 2016, more than 1.9 million voters cast ballots in the presidential election.

Mississippi

The Mississippi voter patterns in the election were similar to Kentucky’s, except for the final result in the governor’s race.

In this contest, Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated four-term Attorney General Jim Hood (D), 52-46 percent, thus likely nullifying a federal court challenge to the state’s system of requiring that gubernatorial candidates carry a majority of state House of Representatives’ districts in addition to winning the popular statewide vote. Since Reeves recorded a clear majority in the popular vote, there will be no grounds for legal action.

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Yesterday’s Odd-Year Election Day

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (L) and Attorney General Andy Beshear

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 6, 2019 — The odd-year Election Day hit yesterday, with voters going to the polls in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. Governors’ chairs were at stake in Kentucky and Mississippi, while state legislators were on the ballot in all of the aforementioned with the exception of Kentucky.

Bluegrass State Gov. Matt Bevin (R) ran for a second term after a tenure that has seen him dwell at the bottom of the 50-state approval polls for almost his entire time in office. Bevin was a surprise winner in 2015, defeating then-Attorney General Jack Conway (D) who was viewed as the favorite for the entire campaign. Similarly, Gov. Bevin again faced a Democratic Attorney General in this election, Andy Beshear, the son of the man who he replaced in Frankfort, former Gov. Steve Beshear (D).

Polling suggested a close race. Polling was right. As of publish time, the election still was too close to call despite Beshear claiming victory. Bevin would not concede. Fewer than 5,000 votes separate the two candidates, the advantage going to Beshear at the moment.

Bevin lagged behind early in the general election cycle, but returned to parity. The polling pattern was similar in Bevin’s last contest, so he is obviously hoping for a repeat performance. In 2015, Bevin defeated AG Conway by a surprisingly large 52-44 percent spread, a margin that surprised pollsters.

Mississippi featured an interesting gubernatorial campaign between GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who attempted to succeed term-limited Gov. Phil Bryant (R), and state Attorney General Jim Hood (D), serving his fourth consecutive term. This race, as in Kentucky, has been close in the polls with Reeves maintaining a small lead. And Reeves is ahead with 53 percent of the vote.

The Mississippi race included a budding controversy that could take shape after the election. Under state law, a gubernatorial candidate must not only win a popular vote majority at the statewide level, he or she must also carry a majority of the 122 state House districts. A federal judge appears ready to strike down the result if the state legislature is forced to decide because no candidate wins both a majority in the statewide vote and in the state House districts.

The entire Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate was on the ballot, and Democrats were confident that they would assume the majority in both houses. Before yesterday, Republicans held a 20-19 edge in the state Senate with one vacancy, and a three-seat margin in the House with one vacancy. The latter majority was literally decided by pulling lots from a hat when the final 2015 Delegate race ended in a tie. The Democrats took back both the House and Senate; it looks like the Democrats will win 21 seats in the state Senate, with the Republicans holding on to 19. In the House, the Democrats are ahead with 53 seats to the Republicans 43 seats with a few races still outstanding.

It was estimated that the redistricting decision since the last election, which mandated the re-drawing of several Delegate districts, would likely give the Democrats an extra boost.

New Jersey voters selected state Assembly members, however the state Senate won’t come before the electorate until 2021. Democrats maintain a huge 54-25 majority with one vacancy, and that could increase. Republican chances of winning a majority in the state Assembly were nil.

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A One-Vote Victory in Virginia;
The Texas Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 21, 2017 — It now appears that an incredible finish has occurred in the Virginia state elections even though voting ended six weeks ago. The House of Delegates’ majority has come down to literally one single vote from one of the 100 districts according to a just-completed recount.

virginia-shelly-simonds-david-yancey-delegatesIn Newport News Delegate District 94, an incredible one-vote victory for Democrat Shelly Simonds was declared as the final recount tally Tuesday, but this result still won’t become official until the certification process concludes. Simonds is a Newport News School Board member who has apparently defeated incumbent Republican David Yancey by the slimmest possible margin. On election night, and through most of the process, Yancey led the count by 10 votes.

Since the election on Nov. 7, the canvassing and subsequent recount process had been underway with election officials attempting to agree upon a final determination as to who actually won the 94th District race where an apparent 23,912 individuals cast their ballots.

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Pennsylvania’s Rep. Pitts to Retire;
A Rundown of Ala., Ark. Filings

Nov. 10, 2015 — On Friday, veteran Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, first elected to the US House in 1996 after spending 24 consecutive years in the state legislature, announced that he will not seek re-election next year. Pitts’ retirement means that 27 seats are now open in the 2016 election cycle — 16 from Republican districts compared to 11 Democratic.

The congressman serves on the Energy & Commerce Committee, where he is fifth in seniority and chairs the Health Subcommittee. His 16th District is anchored in the cities of Reading and Lancaster, though the congressman hails from Kennett Square just north of Wilmington, Del. The seat is reliably Republican, though the Democrats could become competitive with the right candidate. Mitt Romney carried the district 52-46 percent in 2012, but then-Sen. Barack Obama slipped passed John McCain here four years earlier, 50-49 percent.

The name most mentioned as a potential successor is Republican state Sen. Lloyd Smucker. Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin (R) is also a prospective candidate, but reports suggest that he is more likely to seek Smucker’s open state Senate seat should the latter run for Congress.

Alabama, Arkansas Filings

Alabama — With early presidential nomination events occurring in March, some states are holding their 2016 primaries concurrently. Two of those, Alabama and Arkansas, feature the earliest filing periods in the country. Alabama closed Friday, while Arkansas ended Monday.

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Odd-Year Election Recap;
Louisiana Governor’s Poll

Nov. 6, 2015 — Looking beyond the vote tallies in Tuesday night’s odd-year election we find that at least two voting patterns reappeared. First, we again see, as has been the case since the beginning of this century, that Republicans have a clear advantage in low-turnout elections while the Democrats do much better when participation factors are higher.

This same situation was evident in the pre-Reagan era of the 60s and 70s, but changed after the 1980 election. During the 80s and some of the 90s, it was Republicans who generally performed better when turnouts went higher.

In Kentucky, for example, Republican Matt Bevin scored a surprising 53-44 percent victory and, even though voter turnout increased by more than 150,000 people when compared to the last gubernatorial contest of four years ago, the participation rate was only 30.4 percent. Tuesday, just under 975,000 voters cast ballots in the race for governor. By contrast, the 2012 Kentucky presidential vote reached near the 1.8 million range, a turnout percentage closer to 60 percent of the registered voter universe for that particular election.

We also saw Republicans perform well in Virginia, where they held their majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates, losing no seats. The Mississippi races went heavily Republican with Gov. Phil Bryant (R) scoring a 67 percent re-election victory, the GOP taking most of the statewide races, and gaining a net one seat on the entire state legislative scorecard, within an aggregate of 174 (52 Senate seats; 122 House districts) electoral contests.

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