The battle for control of the Virginia Legislature is still hanging in the balance, but the first round of returns from Tuesday’s off-year elections delivered one clear message: abortion rights are popular, no matter when or where they are on the ballot.
Voters in Ohio decisively said they wanted a constitutionally protected right to choose with the passage of a ballot measure doing just that – only a few months after they rejected another measure that would have made it harder for them to shield abortion rights.
In Kentucky, the Democratic governor defeated his Republican challenger, a state attorney general with close ties to former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after a campaign in which abortion became a flashpoint.
A victory in the Virginia state Senate would cap off a hat trick of invigorating results for Democrats, who have endured a dispiriting week with multiple polls, including a new one from CNN, showing President Joe Biden could face an uphill fight against Trump in case of a 2020 rematch in 2024.
With votes still being counted, here are a few early election night takeaways on a strong night for Democrats:
Already a proven political winner for Democrats, abortion rights further solidified their place as a driving force in next year’s elections when voters in Ohio, an increasingly conservative state that voted twice for Trump, passed a ballot measure on Tuesday enshrining them in the state constitution.
Red, blue and purple states alike have green-lit similar proposals, solidifying a trend that defies partisan expectations and could have an outsized influence on next year’s federal elections.
In the end, though, Ohio Republicans might have gotten off easy. Their referendum took place now, during an off-year with no voting for statewide office or president. Other state Republican parties might not be so lucky.
In Arizona, activists are gathering signatures for a 2024 ballot initiative that will ask voters a similar question to Ohio’s this year – a development that already has Republicans there fretting.
“Tonight’s results in Ohio should scare every Republican in a state where an abortion question is on the ballot in 2024,” Arizona Republican strategist Barrett Marson told CNN. “Abortion initiatives are both driving turnout among Democrats and forcing Republicans to talk about an issue of which they are on the wrong side of the electorate.”
A handful of potential swing states, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida and Colorado, could have abortion rights measures on their ballots alongside the presidential candidates next year.
Democrat Andy Beshear won reelection in Kentucky. But who lost?
Andy Beshear won a second term on Tuesday in a state that Trump carried by more than 25 points in 2020.
Now the real fight begins.
Endorsed by Trump but often described as McConnell’s protégé, Daniel Cameron’s defeat will stir a lot of finger-pointing within the Republican Party. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was directing his at the former president shortly after the polls closed, calling the result “another loss for Trump.”
“The losing will only end for Republicans if we rid ourselves of Donald Trump,” Christie tweeted in a preview of his message to primary voters Wednesday night during the third GOP presidential debate. “Trump – loser in ‘18, ‘20, ‘21, ‘22 and now ‘23.”
Trump will likely take a different view of the matter, but the reality might be that neither high-ranking Republican Party leader had a direct effect on the Kentucky electorate, which has routinely given Beshear high marks for his work and appears to have been concerned about Cameron’s stance on abortion.
Last year, Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure that would have denied constitutional protections for abortion. During the campaign, Beshear hammered Cameron, the state attorney general, over his support for the the strict law currently in place, which does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
History-making wins in Rhode Island and Philadelphia
Government will look a little more like the governed after Tuesday night’s results are all in.
To start, Democrat Gabe Amo is the projected winner of Rhode Island’s special congressional election. He will be the first Black person to represent the state in Congress.
“As the first Black man to represent Rhode Island in Congress and a proven, dedicated leader, Gabe will be an important voice in the Democratic Caucus and the House of Representatives,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement.
And in Philadelphia, former city councilmember Cherelle Parker will become the first woman to lead the City of Brotherly Love.
She’ll be the city’s fourth Black mayor – and the 100th in its long history.