July 20, 2018

From coast to coast, CONSERVATIVES score huge victories in off-year elections

bevindavisnov1THE BIG IDEA: Just like the midterms one year ago, it was another awful night for Democrats.

  • Republican Matt Bevin won a big upset in the Kentucky governor’s race. The guy who Mitch McConnell crushed by 25 points in a 2014 primary will now become just the second Republican to govern the Bluegrass State in four decades.
  • Democrats failed to pick up Virginia’s state Senate. It’s a huge blow to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who went all-in to make it happen. Democrats could have won by capturing just one seat because of the tie-breaking authority of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D). But Republicans held every single seat.
  • Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, designed to protect the rights of gay citizens and others, failed by a wide margin.
  • Ohio rejected marijuana legalization by a two-to-one margin.
  • Even in San Francisco, the sheriff who steadfastly defended the city’s “sanctuary city” policy went down. Fox News: “Ross Mirkarimi and his office received heavy criticism after Mexican illegal immigrant Francisco Sanchez allegedly shot and killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle on San Francisco’s waterfront July 1. Sanchez had been released from Mirkarimi’s jail in March even though federal immigration officials had requested that he be detained for possible deportation.” The city also rejected new regulations on Airbnb.

–2015 really is the Year of the Outsider. Democratic Governors Association executive director Elisabeth Pearson chalked up Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway’s defeat to “Trump-mania” in a press release: “Jack Conway ran a strong campaign … Unfortunately, he ran into the unexpected headwinds of Trump-mania, losing to an outsider candidate in the Year of the Outsider.”

–Focusing on social issues, including promises to defund Planned Parenthood and defend Kim Davis, helped drive the conservative base to turn out. I wrote here Monday about Bevin’s focus on energizing evangelicals in the final days, and it clearly paid off.  Kim Davis called herself “ecstatic” about Bevin’s victory in a statement released by the nonprofit representing her: “He is such a genuine and caring person. I will be forever thankful that he came to visit me while I was in jail. At a clerks’ meeting he hugged me and said he was praying for me. I am looking forward to his leadership as our new Governor.”

–The South is becoming even redder, and the realignment that began a half century ago is nearly complete. President Obama is toxic, even in non-federal elections. Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant easily won reelection, too, and the GOP increased its majority in that state’s House from 67 to 73 (of 122 members). That’s nearly a super majority. Republicans even toppled the House Minority Leader, per the Clarion Ledger. 

–Pressure will let up a little bit on Rand Paul to drop out of the presidential race to focus on his 2016 Senate reelection campaign. The incumbent state auditor, Adam Edelen, who national Democrats hoped would challenge Paul in next year’s Senate race lost in a stunning upset, David Weigel and Paul Kane note in a smart take. “What this election shows is that people who’ve been promoting Democrats on the rise in Kentucky have been completely wrong,” Paul told The Post last night. “Not only has President Obama destroyed the party in Kentucky, he’s destroyed the bench. The bench that was supposed to rise up and run for office — that’s gone.”

Paul celebrated Bevin’s win, even though Bevin had said during the campaign Ben Carson is his favorite candidate in the presidential race…

Paul celebrated Bevin’s win, even though Bevin had said during the campaign Ben Carson is his favorite candidate in the presidential race…

–The Republican win is another big nail in the coffin for big labor unions in the South. Bevin’s top economic priority is making Kentucky a Right To Work state.

–Bevin will be a bull in the china shop, but he is unlikely to govern as radically as many of the stories you’ll read today suggest. I’ve spent more than 24 hours with the governor-elect going back to January 2014, when I profiled him for Politico. Bevin is certainly an ideologue, but I’ve seen him show signs of a profound pragmatic streak. He told me last week that he’ll lead in the tradition of a former KFC CEO, a moderate Democrat, who was not beholden to anyone and cleaned up state government in the ’70’s. His efforts to make nice with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who attacked him fiercely last year, show that he’s capable of becoming a serious politician.

–There should be more soul searching among pollsters, who once again got it wrong. Every survey of Kentucky showed Conway ahead, which meaningfully altered perceptions of the race.  


— But, but, but: Turnout was VERY low across the country. Republicans could over interpret the results at their own peril. The presidential election, exactly one year way, will have dramatically larger and more diverse turnout, which works against the GOP. Serious structural problems persist: the Grand Old Party is still too white, too male and too old. Hillary Clinton’s political director, Amanda Renteria, tweeted a photo of a “Vote Here” sign overnight and wrote: “Wish more people did this today.”

 There were also some bright spots for the left on an otherwise dark night:

–In a stinging rebuke of Chris Christie, undercutting one of his rationales for seeking the presidency, New Jersey voters ousted at least three Republicans from the state Assembly. Alexander Burns in the New York Times: “Republicans had hoped to build on Mr. Christie’s political successes and cut into the Democratic majority in the chamber, where Democrats currently hold 48 of the 80 seats. Instead, the election became a sharp reality check for allies of the governor, who only two years ago won re-election by a towering margin. Democrats battered Republicans for their affiliation with Mr. Christie, sending paid political mail accusing them of aiding the governor’s presidential ambitions at their constituents’ expense. Perhaps mindful of his diminished popularity, Mr. Christie appeared at private events to raise money for Republican candidates, but he never hit the campaign trail as a public spokesman for his party.” Dems now have their biggest majority since the 1970’s.

Other notable election results from last night:

  • Salt Lake City elected Utah’s first openly gay mayor and only the second female top executive in the capital city. (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Democrats won mayoral races in Charlotte and Indianapolis.
  • Voters in suburban Denver recalled three conservative members of a school board who had worked to weaken the local teachers union, Lyndsey Layton reports.
  • Maine passed a good-government campaign finance referendum. (Bangor Daily News)
  • Manchester, N.H. Mayor Ted Gatsas, a Republican, narrowly won re-election. (Union Leader)
  • The four-term mayor of Alexandria, Va., fell far short in a write-in campaign to retain his job. (Patricia Sullivan)
  • Loudoun County Board Chairman Scott K. York (I) was defeated by Democrat Phyllis J. Randall in a three-way race. (Rachel Weiner)

Source: The Washington Post