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.

The other odd-numbered election year state featuring a governor’s race, Louisiana, will hold its general election run-off on Nov. 16. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) was forced into a secondary election when he failed to achieve majority support in the Oct. 12 jungle primary. He faced off against Baton Rouge developer Eddie Rispone (R), and polls here also showed a tight race, in similar three-point margins to what was seen in Kentucky and Mississippi but, in this situation, the Democratic candidate is posting the small lead.

State legislative campaigns where the first-place finisher in October did not receive a majority vote also were on the ballot for run-off elections. The Republicans were well positioned to establish a Super Majority in the state Senate, while simultaneously maintaining a substantial advantage in the state House.

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