Three States To Watch In Tomorrow's Elections

[ Posted Monday, November 6th, 2023 – 16:42 UTC ]

This week is going to be chock full of big political stories, including Donald Trump testifying in his fraud trial in New York today and the third Republican debate on Wednesday. But today I thought it was worth taking a look at the other big political story of the week, since tomorrow's elections have several interesting possibilities that could reverberate beyond the borders of the states where they are held. Three states in particular are going to be impactful, no matter what the outcomes may be: Mississippi, Virginia, and Ohio.



While there are other governor's races worth paying attention to tomorrow night (Kentucky in particular, where a popular Democratic governor is being challenged by a Republican who is trying to paint him as Joe Biden's best buddy), the one in Mississippi is likely going to be the most interesting.

The Republican governor, Tate Reeves, is being challenged by Democrat Brandon Presley. Who happens to be second cousin to one of Mississippi's most famous sons, Elvis Presley. But Brandon is not relying on name recognition -- in fact, he doesn't use his distant family connection in his campaign strategy at all. Even so, the fact certainly isn't going to hurt him with any Mississippi voters, one has to assume.

Presley has been a small-town mayor and has also been "Public Service Commissioner of the Northern District of Mississippi," so he's got at least some political experience to run on. He is running as a populist outsider, with an anti-corruption message. Reeves has not been directly implicated (yet) in an ongoing scandal over the misuse of tens of millions of dollars of welfare funds (including some which inexplicably went to Brett Favre...), but he was indeed lieutenant governor during the time period involved (the investigation is ongoing).

Presley is running on issues such as finally allowing Medicaid expansion in the state, and (a closely-related issue) saving rural hospitals from going under. He's no radical lefty, though, seeing as how he's a supporter of gun rights and is anti-abortion -- both of which are positions that play well in Mississippi. He's also running on cutting back the seven percent grocery tax (the highest in the nation), which resonates with all kinds of voters, especially the poorest ones.

Black voter turnout will be key to Presley's chances tomorrow. Mississippi has the highest percentage of Black voters in the country (37 percent), but living in such a conservative state means a lot of them are disillusioned and have essentially given up on their vote changing anything in any way. A major effort to enthuse Black voters and get them to turn out tomorrow has been underway for a while, but the real question is whether it will bear fruit or not.

Presley has personally experienced hardship, having been raised by a single mother after his father was murdered when he was only eight years old. She struggled financially and at one point had her utilities cut off. This sort of story resonates with a lot of Mississippi voters, both White and Black.

Reeves is unpopular, but the state is still a pretty dark shade of red, so he has to be seen as the favorite to win tomorrow. However, if neither candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held a few weeks later, and that could be an avenue to success for Presley. Win or lose, though, it is rather extraordinary that a Democrat even has a chance in red-state Mississippi.



Virginia's elections may determine the political trajectory of a man who isn't even on the ballot tomorrow -- Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin. All 140 seats in the state's legislature are up for grabs tomorrow. Currently the Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the lower house and Democrats hold a 22-17 majority in the upper chamber (with one seat vacant).

Any outcome is possible, at this point. The Democrats could wrest control of the lower house from the Republicans while keeping their senate lead, which would force Youngkin to deal with their priorities rather than his own. Republicans could win control of both chambers, which would give Youngkin a green light to push his conservative agenda on the state. Or some sort of divide in control may persist.

The stakes are high, as Youngkin wants to tighten up abortion laws in the state and address issues like gun control and public education. Democrats are leaning heavily on the abortion issue in an effort to convince voters to give them the power to check Youngkin's conservatism in what can only be called a purple state.

Youngkin's victory in his own race was a real shock for Democrats, and he has been seen as a poster child of sorts for Republicans who want to capitalize on the MAGA energy in the party's base without tying themselves too closely to Donald Trump. Youngkin won in part by stressing "parents' rights" in how the state's schools are run, but that issue has faded somewhat in this election cycle.

The results in Virginia will have repercussions nationally. If the Democrats emerge victorious, it will be seen as another indication of the potency of the abortion issue for the party. If Republicans chalk up the win, however, it will immediately spur a revival of speculation that Youngkin should really jump into the Republican presidential race to provide some sort of viable alternative to Trump. This is rather unlikely (even if the GOP does win big tomorrow in Virginia), mostly because it is already so late in the process -- Youngkin would likely struggle to get his name onto many states' ballots, just for starters. And he seems politically savvy enough to bide his time until the next election cycle, in 2028. But the calls for him to run this time around will be persistent and frenzied, if the Republicans pull off a big win tomorrow night.



In Ohio, the voters will decide on two big ballot initiatives: enshrining abortion rights in the state's constitution, and legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. The marijuana one hasn't gotten nearly the attention that the abortion one has in the news, but I find myself wondering if a whole bunch of single-issue voters may turn out for the legalization question and by doing so aid the abortion question as well (early voting has been exceptionally popular already, indicating that turnout in general is likely to be very high for an off-year election)

The abortion issue is quite likely to pass. There is solid evidence for this, and not just the fact that reproductive rights support polls in the high 50s with the state's voters. Republicans, realizing they were at a disadvantage, have been trying every trick in the book to defeat Issue 1. First, even though they had banned August elections previously, they reversed themselves and held an August election this year to try to change the rules of the game before tomorrow's vote. They tried to raise the bar for amending the state's constitution to 60 percent of the vote (instead of a simple majority), but this measure went down by a 57-43 margin, showing the voters weren't fooled by it. Then the secretary of state rewrote the language of the ballot measure (which is only a little over 200 words long) to include anti-abortion terms such as "unborn child" instead of "fetus." And the state's Republicans have just been flat-out lying about what the initiative would do, just for good measure.

None of this is likely to work. Ohio's voters have already indicated, by a whopping 14-point margin, how much they want this initiative to pass. Abortion rights have won at the ballot box in every state where the voters have had a say, including some states that are even redder than Ohio currently is. Tomorrow will likely continue this unbroken winning streak, which will send a message to both parties nationwide: abortion is a big winner for the Democrats, period. And there are plenty of other states where ballot initiatives are being prepared on the issue for next year's election.

And who knows? Maybe Ohio will legalize weed tomorrow too....

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


3 Comments on “Three States To Watch In Tomorrow's Elections”

  1. [1] 
    dsws wrote:

    Any third-rate regional power can come up with hogwash as justification for its claim on the territory and wealth of its smaller neighbors. Every such entity has done so throughout history, and presumably before the invention of writing as well. No one cares what the details of the hogwash are, not even the people who write it.

    Russia completely lacks the conventional military power to restore imperial control over the former territory of its empire, unless the rest of the world allows it to do so one little bite at a time. There is no possible reason for the rest of the world would possibly allow that, except nuclear blackmail.

    Even if, by some impossibility, this is the one case in all of history where the hogwash isn't hogwash, and Russia has wonderful altruistic reasons for once again extending its tendrils across Poland, East Germany, the Baltics, and central Asia, it wouldn't matter. Future third-rate regional powers have no reason to believe it. They wouldn't distinguish those reasons from the historical norm. All they would see is the nuclear blackmail, and they would build their arsenals, just as they will in our world. We're just as dead either way.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Restoring control over former Warsaw pact countries would not double but triple the population under Russian control. Not going to happen.

    A note on nuclear blackmail:

    Russia has been rattling this sword from virtually the opening of it’s full scale invasion in an attempt to stop the flow of military support to Ukraine. Time and again Putin has laid down an Obama-like “red line” and it only works on the hand wringing self soiling Democratic Party types worldwide (see meaningless polls of people who answer phone calls from unknown numbers, ahem.) We have sailed through a couple dozen such threats in these 21 months and we’re still here. Another thing: Russian equipment and the entire military for that matter is rife with corruption resulting in incompetence and equipment failure. I wouldn’t be all that confident that their nuclear arsenal would even work if called upon. And since Western intelligence knows what Putin will be having for lunch before he even wakes up it’s understood that there is no scenario where Putin survives if he launches even one tactical nuke.

    Elizabeth just say NO to appeasement!

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Biden and his neocon colleagues took that choice away from Ukraine and made it for them by insisting,

    No, Vladimir Putin took the choice away by invading, and all evidence suggests that would have happened regardless of all things NATO

Comments for this article are closed.