By NICHOLAS RICCARDI (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Early results from Tuesday’s off-year election gave Democrats plenty to cheer about, but that may not be enough to make them feel confident heading into next year’s presidential election.
Abortion rights supporters won a vote in Ohio and the Democratic governor of beet-red Kentucky retained his office by championing reproductive rights and portraying his opponent as an extremist on abortion.
The off-year election has big implications for both states and provides a snapshot of American politics in 2024. But two big names – Joe Biden and Donald Trump – were not on the ballot.
Here are some key results from Tuesday’s vote.
Democrats won two early victories Tuesday night in Kentucky and Ohio, both states that voted for Trump in 2020. Abortion was the main issue in both states.
In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear was re-elected in a state where Trump won by 26 percentage points. Beshear had criticized the abortion views of his Republican challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, in debates and television ads. A Beshear ad featured a woman who miscarried at age 12 after being raped by her stepfather and expressed disbelief at Cameron’s opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest.
In Ohio, a ballot measure was passed to preserve abortion rights in a state that Trump won by eight percentage points in 2020. Republicans had already tried to derail the measure by scheduling an unusual referendum in August to make it harder to pass ballot measures, an initiative that was soundly rejected by Ohio voters.
The results suggest a changed political landscape since a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal right to abortion last year. Abortion rights measures have passed in a variety of states, while some other Republican-led states have introduced new bans on the procedure.
Abortion rights may not be strong enough to produce a choice on their own. Several GOP governors who supported new bans ran for re-election last year, including Mike DeWine of Ohio, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas.
But the Kentucky governor’s race shows it can still be a key element in a Democratic candidate’s victory.
Beshear’s father served twice as governor and has a long history of winning statewide elections. But abortion was the central issue of his campaign. And that should be a concern for Republicans in next year’s elections.
It was a good night for Democrats after a string of special election victories and a stronger performance in last year’s midterm elections, which are usually devastating for the party in power in Washington.
But neither race was a decision about incumbent President Biden. And none of them mentioned Trump on the ballot or his ability to increase turnout among low-voter voters.
It was too early to tell which party would control the Virginia statehouse. The state’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, pushed to hand control of the state Senate to the GOP after winning the House and governorship in 2021. Virginia voted for Biden by 9 percentage points in 2020, and the fact that Democrats were sweating over whether they would be expelled is a reminder of their precarious grip on power.
Democrats performed well in recent special elections and did better than expected in 2022. It increasingly appears that the party is starting from a position of strength. But it is not clear whether this extends to the 80-year-old president, who faces widespread skepticism about his job performance and whether he is too old for a second term.
We’ll have to wait until 2024 to see how Biden fares.
Political candidates broke barriers with a handful of victories on Tuesday.
Gabe Amo, a former Biden White House adviser, will become the first Black member of Congress from Rhode Island after winning the special election in that state’s 1st Congressional District.
The son of West African immigrants, Amo emerged from a 12-candidate September primary to succeed retiring Rep. David Cicilline. On Tuesday, Amo defeated Republican Gerry Leonard, a Marine veteran, in the heavily Democratic district.
And Philadelphia will have its first female mayor after Democrat Cherelle Parker defeated Republican David Oh in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.