Election Day 2023: What to watch in Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and more

By | November 7, 2023

Voters in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi and elsewhere will head to the polls Tuesday for off-year elections that will offer clues about the continued power of abortion against the low approval rating of the President Biden as politicians prepare for the upcoming presidential election year. .

The results could determine whether Democrats find reassurance about their approach on key issues like abortion, which has been a bright spot for the party in a new era. New York Times/Siena Poll which showed Donald J. Trump leading Mr. Biden in five critical swing states a year later.

Here’s what to look for:

The 140 seats Virginia General Assembly are on the ballot Tuesday, the Democratic-leaning state’s relatively popular Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, hoping to capture the state Senate and secure full Republican control of Richmond. The feat would propel Mr. Youngkin’s national ambitions.

But Democrats are fighting for abortion rights, warning that Republican Party control would end abortion access in the Southeast’s last remaining state.

Mr. Youngkin is test a compromise that national Republicans hope will be a winning message after so many party defeats since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion: a ban on access to abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exemptions for rape, incest and the life of a mother. Democrats say it’s a ruse, but they must overcome the weight of Mr. Biden’s unpopularity.

A similar dynamic is play in Kentuckywhere Democrats leaned heavily on the issue of abortion, particularly to tarnish the Republican challenger for Governor Daniel Cameron, who, as the state’s current attorney general, had to defend Kentucky’s total ban on abortion. The outgoing Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, remains popular, with a last name (his father, Steve Beshear, was also governor) and a moderate reputation that has sheltered him from attacks against him. soft on crime and supports “radical” transgender rights.

Mr. Beshear still ahead in the pollsbut in a state which former President Donald J. Trump won by about 26 percentage points in 2020, the “D” next to Mr. Beshear’s name is a liability. The last polls of the cycle highlighted an impasse.

Ohio has been a reliably Republican state since Mr. Trump took office, but a referendum to establish the right to abortion under the state constitution could be the purest test Tuesday of even Republicans’ position on the issue. Or not.

Abortion rights groups are on a winning streak with ballot measures that directly pose the issue of abortion to voters since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, thereby removing constitutional protections for the right to abortion. Even in deeply Republican states like Kansas, voters overwhelmingly supported abortion access. But abortion opponents won important victories ahead of Tuesday’s referendum. In this election, voters will have to vote “yes” to constitutional change; Ohioans have always tended to reject ballot amendments.

Although the amendment would establish “the right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” it also explicitly allows the state to ban abortion once viable, or about 23 weeks, when the fetus can survive outside the uterus, unless the pregnant woman’s doctor believes the procedure “is necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant patient.” But at the polls, voters will see a summary from the Secretary of StateFrank LaRose, a Republican opposed to abortion, who says the amendment “would still allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability.”

Both sides of the issue have accused each other of misinformation and underhanded tactics.

MississippiThe abortion ban brought down Roe v. Wade when the Supreme Court sided with Mississippi health official Thomas E. Dobbs in Dobbs v. Jackson.

The Deep South state now faces a pitched battle for governor, but the candidates have not made abortion the central issue, as incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and his Democratic challenger, Brandon Presley, both oppose it.

Instead, Mr. Presley’s surprisingly powerful challenge was fueled by an effort to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and a public corruption scandal that saw the diversion of $94 million in federal funds intended for Mississippi’s poor for projects like a college volleyball center pushed by the quarterback. Retired superstar guard Brett Favre.

Mr. Reeves was never directly involved in the scandal, but he fired a lawyer in charge of the investigation immediately after lawyer issued a subpoena that could have revealed details about the involvement of prominent Mississippians

“If you think Tate Reeves is going to take on corruption, I have a beachfront property in Nettleton to sell you,” Mr. Presley said. in a debate this monthreferring to his hometown in the northeastern part of the state.

Mr. Presley, a member of the Mississippi Civil Service Commission, enjoys a unique reputation; he is a first cousin of Elvis Presley.

But in Mississippi, Mr. Reeves has three advantages that could prove impenetrable: incumbency, the “R” next to his name on the ballot, and the right to vote. support for Mr. Trumpwho won the state in 2020 by nearly 17 percentage points.

Voters will make many direct decisions on Tuesday, bypassing elected officials. Beyond abortion, the most followed initiative will be, here again, in Ohio, where voters will decide whether cannabis should be legalized for recreational use. If voters agree, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize marijuana. That could put pressure on Congress to advance legislation to at least ease restrictions on interstate banking for legal cannabis businesses.

Texans will decide the fate of 14 constitutional amendments, including one that would prohibit the state from imposing a “wealth” tax, or a tax on the market value of assets owned but not sold. Liberal activists and some prominent Democratic senators, like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have touted these taxes as the only way to exploit the wealth of billionaires, whose income taxes are minimal but whose vast untaxed wealth supports a style of sumptuous life.

Texans will also decide whether to raise the mandatory retirement age for state judges from 75 to 79.

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