Underestimated: The November Elections
It’s election season again! The results of the November 7th General Election were nothing short of enlightening. We will be looking at several elections of note in multiple states, and then analyzing what they mean for upcoming elections, including the 2018 mid-terms.
First, we turn to Virginia, which had one of the largest groundswells to date. The governor’s race was a blow to the GOP and to President Trump’s image as ‘kingmaker’, with Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate, losing to Ralph Northam, the Democrat in the race. Progressive groups, including Democracy for America, the political organization founded by former DNC chair Howard Dean, slammed Northam for his opposition to sanctuary cities. It appears that, despite this outcry, a majority of voters favored Northam, viewing him as a much preferable option to the Trump-backed candidate. After the dust had settled and Gillespie had clearly lost, Trump backpedaled on his support for Gillespie, saying ‘Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for.’
In the Virginia state legislature, the House majority whip (a Republican) was defeated by a Democratic Socialists of America backed candidate, named Lee Carter. For the Democratic Party, this continues the conflict between the more centrist factions within the party and those pushing for a more populist/left-wing approach. An incumbent Republican in the VA legislature, who helped to author the widely panned ‘transgender bathroom bill’, was defeated by Danica Roem, an openly transgender woman. The Washington Post notes that this makes Roem the first openly transgender woman to ever serve in a state legislature. Democrats in Virginia were hoping to pick up a handful seats, but at last count, they have already taken 15. Three more seats would need to be flipped in order to gain control of the state legislature.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie was not eligible to run for another term, and after voting, he stated that the election of his successor would not be a referendum on his tenure as governor. This might have been a precautionary statement, as the Democratic candidate, Philip Murphy, an advocate of marijuana legalization and a $15 minimum wage, won by more than 12 points.
The mayoral race in New York was over fairly quickly, with Democratic incumbent Bill de Blasio retaining his seat by a nearly 30 point margin. Later in the night, Democrats managed to narrowly seize control of the Washington state legislature. As FiveThirtyEight notes, this marks complete control over every legislature and governorship on the West coast.
Pennsylvania had mostly judicial and municipal elections, and all of the state supreme court justices up for retention won fairly comfortably. A ballot measure which would allow the state legislature to vote on a replacement of property taxes with increased income taxes won by just under nine percent. The measure has received criticism for the threat it could pose to public school funding in the state.
In a win for criminal justice reform advocates, former civil rights attorney Larry Krasner won the District Attorney race in Philadelphia. His platform included an end to cash bail for nonviolent offenders and opposition to civil asset forfeiture without a conviction. Krasner won 75% of the vote, with his Republican opponent, Beth Grossman, trailing at 25%.
Overall, the Democrats picked up a sizable portion of the seats up for grabs across the country. One key takeaway from this cycle is the surge in voter turnout, especially among younger voters in Virginia. Last month’s election was a clear rebuke of the Republican party and President Trump. GOP leadership and President Trump are losing their ability to claim control over party affairs and elections, and this certainly gives new firepower to the Democrats. This election also showed that progressive candidates can (and do) win in statewide elections. This furthers the “civil war” within the Democratic party between the moderates and the progressives.
Our attention now turns to the Dec. 12 special election for the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama that was vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The race will take place between Judge Roy Moore, a Republican who has often been called a conservative theocrat, and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, a Democrat who prosecuted the perpetrators of the racially motivated 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The outcome of this race will give us an even clearer picture of what to expect come 2018, and whether or not the Democrats have any hope of reclaiming the House and Senate.