December 11, 2023

Come on, folks — we couldn’t go a full two years without some elections to watch, could we? At least not in a handful of states that hold off-year legislative and gubernatorial elections, or one in particular that has two key ballot initiatives.


Let’s start with Virginia, however, which turned unexpectedly purple two years ago in the midst of a parental-rights revolt that vaulted Glenn Youngkin into the governor’s office. Both the state’s House and Senate are up for grabs, and control of the legislature remains critical to Youngkin’s agenda. Republicans are framing their pitch in the Old Dominion around crime and taxes, while Democrats are making it about abortion. You can guess which narrative the media has run with, but Hans Bader notes that the GOP has another argument to make as well:

If Democrats take control of the Virginia legislature, that is likely to block further tax cuts sought by Governor Glenn Youngkin. It also could lead to judges being appointed who are less likely to keep dangerous criminals in jail. The Democratic leader in the House of Delegates is a convicted felon who served seven years in prison, and proposed legislation to release even the most dangerous criminals once they reach a specified age.

In Virginia, the legislature — not the governor — picks state judges. A Democratic judiciary might also give broader latitude to local governments to pass ordinances imposing rent control or meddling in your personal life (by weakening Virginia’s strong Dillon Rule), or let local governments pass a broader array of local taxes that currently are viewed as beyond the power of local governments.

Polls have the race pretty much even for control of the legislature, but polls usually underestimate GOP enthusiasm, especially in states like Virginia. It might not help Democrats much that they’re spending some of their time defending a sex-cam worker who wants to play victim:


As Democrats seek to gain control of the Virginia House of Delegates in Tuesday’s election, a key race hinges on a candidate whose campaign was upended by revelations she engaged in sex acts with her husband on a pornographic website.

Susanna Gibson is running against Republican businessman David Owen in one of the state’s most competitive districts after all 100 seats in the House of Delegates were redrawn to conform with the 2020 Census. …

But Gibson, a nurse practitioner, refused to withdraw from the race, and accused Republicans of dirty politics for exposing her conduct. She largely ignored the allegations and focused on abortion rights, which Democrats said could be in jeopardy if Republicans gain control of the Legislature. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is seeking a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Also playing in the GOP’s favor — a strong and likable Youngkin. Salena Zito thinks that observers may have underestimated his impact:

For Republicans, the race is about layers of bread-and-butter issues that are less cultural and more focused on concerns that affect Virginian’s daily lives. However, through Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA), who has been exhaustively stumping for Republican candidates, they haven’t had to play defense on abortion in the way other Republican candidates have found themselves doing in races across the country.

Youngkin has been consistent in his stump speeches and in the ad his PAC put out at the onset of the cycle in saying unequivocally, “Here is the truth, there is no ban. Virginia Republicans support a reasonable 15-week limit.”


We’ll find out tonight. Here are the DecisionDesk widgets for watching the live results for all of the Virginia legislative races.

VA State Senate

VA House of Delegates

And now some of the other important elections to watch:


Daniel Cameron has turned into a surprisingly strong Republican challenger to incumbent governor Andy Beshear, who had previously been thought fairly popular. Except for one outlier poll from Emerson a month ago, the race has been a dead heat — and even Emerson put Cameron up a point in its most recent iteraton. A Democrat poll put Beshear up two this week, but that’s small comfort for an incumbent, especially in the current mood of the country. Watch this one closely, as a Cameron win would be a real upset for the GOP.


Voters in Ohio have to choose policies on today’s ballot rather than candidates, but they are important issues. Democrats want to enshrine a right to abortion on demand without limits in the state constitution with Issue 1, although they are selling it as a ‘Roe Restoration’ in campaign ads. Popular Republican governor Mike DeWine warned about the radical nature of this proposition. Will it work? RCP doesn’t have any polling on this, but it’s expected to be close.

They’re also choosing whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes for adults 21 years of age and older. If it passes, Ohio will become the 24th state to fully legalize marijuana, and according to Ballotpedia, it would then officially make marijuana legally accessible for over half of the US population. Legalization hasn’t delivered on its promises in other states, but perhaps Ohioans will be more inclined to join the club this time than they were in 2015, when they rejected a similar measure with 64% opposing.


OH Issue 1 Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Amendment Ballot Question

OH Issue 2 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Ballot Question


Incumbent Republican governor Tate Reeves faces Democrat challenger Brandon Presley today in Mississippi’s gubernatorial election. Technically this is a three-person race, but independent Gwendolyn Gray withdrew a month ago, too late to keep her name off the ballot. Mississippi is a deep-red state and a win by Presley would be more miracle than upset. The Cook Report rates this as Leans Republican, while Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates it Likely Republican (via Ballotpedia again). Ballotpedia also lists a few polls from much earlier in the year, but also a Mason-Dixon poll from early October showing Reeves up eight, 51/43. Reeves got 52% of the vote four years ago and should cruise tonight, but … keep an eye on it nonetheless.

Stay tuned for updates as races get called, but those may come very late or even tomorrow.

Update: Decision Desk hasn’t made a call in Kentucky, but Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has.

Wasserman is usually pretty solid, and this isn’t a shock. The wide split at the moment reflects more of the early voting, but the gap looks daunting with 36% of the vote in now.


Also, there is a state supreme court election in Pennsylvania and a special House election in Rhode Island happening tonight as well. I’ll try to keep an eye on those, too.