By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor
Democrats and abortion rights supporters around the nation scored some impressive victories during this off-year election cycle. Now, the question is – will these victories translate into something decisive for the Democrats, and President Joe Biden, during next year’s presidential election.
Democrats won big in the two critical contests in Kentucky and Virginia. Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear soundly defeated his Republican challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, in a deep red state by a five-point margin – in a state Donald Trump won in the 2020 presidential race by 26 points. Cameron was in fact endorsed by Trump in this election cycle.
Beshear’s victory came after polls in the runup to election day predicted a tossup.
Beshear, the son of a former popular Democratic governor, earned the only Democratic statewide victory in Kentucky – the other five state offices were won by Republicans by margins of at least 15 percent.
In Virginia, Democrats not only held onto control of the state Senate but also flipped the state House as Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s policy plans came to a crashing end, particularly the abortion ban he had planned to introduce.
In the state Supreme Court race in Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidate Daniel McCaffery defeated Republican Carolyn Carluccio by a six-point margin to maintain the 5-2 Democratic majority on the court. Pennsylvania is a must-win state for the Democratic Party in 2024 and such a state-wide victory is a particularly welcome omen for the 2024 race.
In New Jersey there had been some concerns on the part of the Democratic Party about whether their control of both legislative chambers would be safe but as the vote totals came in, they did prevail and reclaimed some seats lost in 2021 to the Republicans.
The Democrats did not fare quite so well in Mississippi, the other governor’s seat on the ballot. Incumbent Republican Tate Reeves won a second term over Democrat Brandon Presley (second cousin of Elvis) but by a much closer margin – 51.6 to 47.0 – than Mississippi Republicans are used to winning.
The more resounding news on election night was the numerous victories that abortion rights supporters claimed in a variety of states.
Ohio, a state trending red over the last decade – won decisively by Trump in 2016 and 2020 and in which all the statewide executive offices are controlled by Republicans – became the seventh state in which voters have opted to protect abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Voters in Ohio, by a 13-point margin, overturned a Republican legislative initiative to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy – before most women would know if they were pregnant.
The vote to approve the constitutional amendment will permit abortions up to the point of fetal viability and even pass that point to protect the health of the mother.
Abortion also played an important role in both the Kentucky gubernatorial contest, where Beshear had actively campaigned on the issue, and in Virginia, to the dismay of Youngkin, the night’s biggest loser.
For the most part, Democrats such as Beshear, Assembly candidates in Virginia and Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate McCaffery strongly touted their pro-choice credentials during this election cycle. Notably Presley in Mississippi is an anti-abortion Democrat. Given the results around the country, it seems he might have made the wrong choice.
The battle over abortion rights is probably not over in Ohio. State Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, has announced that Republicans may decide to introduce amendments to overturn this year’s amendment, although given this year’s huge victory margin, such an attempt would seem futile at best.
Ohioans also approved a statute initiative to permit the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Huffman didn’t like that decision either and since it is a statute, not a constitutional amendment, Huffman has stated that the General Assembly might well undertake to negate the will of the voters.
In one of the most interesting political contests around the nation, in New York, Yusef Salaam – one of the famed “Central Park Five,” the group of Black teens who were accused of assaulting and raping a white female jogger in 1989, then convicted and sentenced to prison before ultimately being exonerated based on DNA evidence – was elected to New York City Council, representing central Harlem.
Salaam, who was arrested, tried and sentenced at the age of 15, spent nearly seven years in prison before being freed.
Salaam, a Democrat, ran unopposed in the general election after winning his primary contest in a landslide.
“For me, this means that we can really become our ancestors’ wildest dreams,” said Salaam in an interview just before the election.
Locally, in Lucas County, the state Issues 1 and 2 passed with overwhelming support, with much greater margins than reflected in the statewide margins – 63.82 to 36.18 percent for Issue 1 and 61.08 to 38.52 percent for Issue 2
In Toledo, the only competitive races were for several for City Council seats. John Hobbs II,I representing District 1, was victorious over Shaun Strong 61.92 to 37.25 percent; Sam Melden, representing District 5 won over Tom Names 67.38 to 31.75 percent and Carrie Hartman, seeking election to her appointed at-large seat, topped Kristi Kille 68.28 to 28.88 percent.