AMAC Exclusive – By B.C. Brutus
Tuesday was an up and down night for Republicans at the ballot box, with several disappointing results in high-profile contests but a number of victories in lower-visibility races. While there are clearly lessons to be learned for Republicans and setbacks in some states remind conservatives to take nothing for granted, overall the evening gave Republicans some good reasons for cautious optimism heading into 2024.
Here’s a recap of the results that we have so far and what to make of them.
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated results of the evening were in the battle for the Virginia legislature. Candidates raised more than $46 million in total, far exceeding previous cycles and elevating the contests to national relevance.
But Republicans ultimately came up short, with Democrats keeping control of the state Senate and flipping the House of Delegates. Although votes are still trickling in, the map suggests that suburban areas in densely populated Northern Virginia that went for Biden in 2020 but Youngkin in 2021 reverted back to leaning Democrat.
Given the trends in Virginia prior to Youngkin’s election two years ago (Youngkin became the first Republican elected statewide since 2009) this year’s results are more evidence that 2021 may have been a temporary red blip in a state that is otherwise trending blue. The massive growth in the state’s deep blue counties outside of Washington, D.C. may now be simply too much for Republicans to overcome except in the biggest of wave years.
Expect plenty of debate in the weeks and months ahead about the future of Republican early and mail-in voting operations after Youngkin made his “Secure Your Vote Virginia” initiative the main thrust of the Republican campaign for the legislature. Early voting skeptics will likely view the results as evidence that the GOP is wasting time and money on similar efforts like the RNC’s “Bank Your Vote” push.
One bright spot for Virginia Republicans came in Loudoun County, where Republican Bob Anderson appears to have defeated George Soros-backed District Attorney Buta Biberaj, although the race will likely end within the one-percent margin triggering an automatic recount. Biberaj gained national infamy after refusing to punish a trans-identifying male student who raped a girl in a Loudoun County high school bathroom and then later prosecuting the girl’s father for demanding accountability.
In the Bluegrass State, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who many view as a rising star in the Republican Party, lost to incumbent Democrat Andy Beshear in the contest for governor.
Although Beshear led by as many as 16 points in the polls with just a few weeks to go, Cameron seemed to have closed the gap by Election Day, leading to renewed hopes that he could flip the governor’s mansion. But even in deep red Kentucky, Beshear has been one of the country’s most popular governors, and will likely expand his razor-thin margin of victory from 2019 when all the votes are counted.
Beshear’s victory was, however, undercut by a Republican sweep of the rest of the statewide offices up for grabs in Kentucky, including attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, auditor, and treasurer. These results suggest that Beshear’s victory was more a reflection of his strengths as an individual candidate rather than a success story for the Democrat Party brand – which Beshear steadfastly tried to distance himself from throughout the race.
The incumbent also had a good night in Mississippi’s gubernatorial election, where Republican Tate Reeves did as expected and cruised to victory over Democrat Brandon Presley. (For those wondering, yes, Presley is the second cousin of the great Elvis Presley.)
Republicans also easily won the races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and several other statewide offices. The GOP will retain large majorities in both chambers of the state legislature as well.
In Ohio, the pro-life movement was dealt another blow with the passage of Issue 1, a measure to add a virtually unlimited right to abortion to the state constitution. Ohio becomes just the latest red state to pass a pro-abortion ballot initiative, further outlining the challenge the pro-life movement has to change the national culture and conversation around protecting innocent life.
Buckeye State voters also passed a measure legalizing recreational marijuana use, making Ohio the 24th state to allow recreational use of the drug.
Democrat Daniel McCaffery defeated Republican Carolyn Carluccio in a partisan election for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court already had a solid 4-2 Democrat majority that will now expand by one.
Tuesday’s defeat is another in a string of alarming results for Republicans in the Keystone State. The GOP also lost contests for governor and the retiring Pat Toomey’s Senate seat last year, while Democrats took control of the state House of Representatives earlier this year.
Pennsylvania and its 19 electoral votes will be vital for Republicans if they hope to secure the White House next year. The GOP will also be gunning to flip Democrat Bob Casey’s seat in their push to retake the U.S. Senate.
The close outcomes in recent races suggest that Pennsylvania is still in play for Republicans, but they have to make adjustments following their recent failures.
There were a smattering of other positive results for Republicans on Tuesday that likely won’t make national headlines.
In Manchester, New Hampshire, Republican Jay Ruais defeated his Democrat opponent and flipped mayor’s office.
In New York, Edward Romaine also became the first Republican in two decades to secure the post of Suffolk County Executive, one of the largest counties in the nation.
The overall results for the GOP on Tuesday seemed largely disappointing to many Republicans, whose expectations were high given the unpopularity of the current administration. Those hopes were thwarted in some cases by a combination of tough demographics and unique factors at play in state and local races that will likely have less of an impact on federal races next year. That means that Republicans still have ample reason to hope for a big year in 2024.
B.C. Brutus is the pen name of a writer with previous experience in the legislative and executive branches.