DemDaily: Bringing Home Blue Victories

November 6, 2019

Now one year away from the 2020 presidential election, voters delivered critical statewide and legislative victories to Democrats in yesterday's elections that bode well for Democrats next November.

The triumphant flipping of the Kentucky Governor's office and both legislative chambers in Virginia are a bruising referendum on the White House and a public rebuke of its chief occupant.

KENTUCKY

In a red state Trump won by 30 points, Kentucky voters delivered a crucial victory to Democrat Andy Beshear who bested incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin 49.2% to 48.8%.

In a rejection of the Bevin, one of the country's most unpopular governors and a close ally of Donald Trump, who campaigned in the Bluegrass State the night before the election, Kentucky's traditionally conservative suburban voters appeared to cast the key votes.

Turnout in Kentucky was up by nearly 50% over the state's 2015 governor's race, increasing from 974,000 voters to more than 1.4 million

The battle between Bevin and bitter rival Beshear, who served as state Attorney General for the last four years and is son of popular former Governor Steve Beshear, has been the focus of national attention as a test of a divisive President in a tight red-state race.

Beshear: "Our elections don't have to be about Right versus Left, they are still be about Right versus Wrong" (ABC7)

The Republican Governors Association spent millions of media dollars in the contest, and Vice President Mike Pence spent part of last week on a bus tour with the first-term governor.

Although other statewide officeson the ballot went to the GOP, a preliminary breakdown of the numbers shows the once-reliable votes in suburban areas helped deliver the Governor's mansion to Beshear.

With 5,300 votes separating them, however, Bevin has so far refused to concede, requesting a recanvass of the election results Wednesday.

Kentucky's current Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), scheduled the recanvass, which is a check of the vote count, for November 14. There is no mandatory recount law in Kentucky.

VIRGINIA
Voters in the Old Dominion sealed the state's final tranformation to solidly blue by flipping both legislative chambers to Democrats, giving them their first trifecta since 1994.

former VA Governor Terry McAuliffe: "Trump..is the greatest grassroots motivator we've ever seen" (Reuters)

Democrats took control of the State Senate 21-19, and the State House 53-43, with some races still undecided.

Although Virginia has voted Republican in the presidential race since 1968, shifting demographics and rapid population growth over the last decade thrust the state into the battleground category.

Barack Obama broke the GOP streak with wins in 2008 and 2012, and Hillary Clinton won with 5.4% over Donald Trump in 2016.

Similarly, Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009, but the GOP's media assaults on past controversies surrounding the Governor and state officials threatened Tuesday's outcome.

Going into Tuesday's election, however, Democrats had a significant fundraising and voter enthusiam advantage, in part due to the efforts of popular former Governor Terry McAuliffe, who has once again become the face of the party.

Early voting numbers indicated that, compared to 2015, voter turnout was up in every age category, including an increase of 300% among 18-29 year olds, a key swing demographic.

Democrats were also aided by the redrawing of Virginia's legislative district map in June, after the US Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision striking down earlier maps as racially gerrymandered. The new court-ordered map shifted voters in 25 districts and more evenly distributed African American voters.
With control of both chambers, Democrats will now be in charge of redistricting lines in 2020.

Women lawmakers, who were elected in record numbers to the legislature in 2017, also were a part of the sweep on Tuesday. Among the new members are Democrat Shelly Simonds, who lost a tied House race in 2017 to a random draw, and Ghazala Hashmi, the first Muslim woman elected to the Virginia Senate.

Ghazala Hashmi (D), the first Muslim woman elected to the Virginia Senate, upset a Republican incumbent in suburban Richmond (Carlos Bernate/NYT)

Ultimately it appears voters' distaste for Trump, who has a 37% approval rating in the state, won the day with a large defection of suburban voters choosing to unseat GOP incumbents.

Democrats have now flipped 10 state legislative chambers since Trump's election.

In the Mississippi Governor's race, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves (R) defeated State Attorney General Jim Hood (D) 52.1% to 46.6%.

Although Mississippi is one of the country's most conservative and poorest states, Hood was considered a strong candidate who had won statewide four times, giving Democrats hope -- for the future, if not this year.

Tomorrow: More on nationwide municipal and ballot measure victories tomorrow!

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: Ballotpedia, WashingtonPost, NewYorkTimes, Vox, AP

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