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Election 2019: What Happened, and Why Should We Care?

So we just survived Election Day, and… Wait, we didn’t have any elections here in Nevada. However, several other states held elections for state and local offices, and the results may have offered a few early tea leaves for that other huge election heading next year.

So where are the tea leaves, and how do they look? Go ahead and take a seat, as I have a piping hot pot of tea of serve you.

“Blue Notes in the Bluegrass State”

In 2016, President Donald Trump won Kentucky by a stunning 63%-33% margin. And while the polls in this year’s gubernatorial election appeared close, I always expected Governor Matt Bevin (R) to win reelection thanks to the overall redder hue of the Bluegrass State, including his larger than expected victory in 2015. Jeez, was I wrong!

As of this morning, Bevin appears to be losing to Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) by a very narrow 49.2%-48.8% spread. So what happened? Basically, this is the “Bluegrass Version” of the “Blueprint for a Blue Wave” that I identified after last year’s election solidified Nevada’s reputation as a blue state. Just as U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D) and Governor Steve Sisolak (D) overperformed the usual Democratic baseline in the Las Vegas and Reno suburbs, Beshear broke through in the Northern Kentucky Cincinnati suburbs that used to vote very red. Also like Rosen and Sisolak, Beshear managed to excite more than enough Democratic base voters in Louisville and Lexington to overcome Bevin’s edge in most of the rural areas (and even over-perform the usual Democratic baseline in rural Eastern Kentucky).

Just Monday night, Trump himself rallied his party’s faithful in Lexington to do all they could to reelect Bevin or else risk a batch of bad headlines for him and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who’s also up for reelection next year. “If you lose, it sends a really bad message […] You can’t let that happen to me,” Trump warned the crowd about what this year’s election might mean for next year. Jeez, he must be regretting those words now.

Yes, Virginia, you have a new majority.
Photo by Andrew Davey

The other state I kept a close eye on last night was Virginia. Yes, Nevada, we’re back in Virginia. Republicans have been on a losing streak in the Old Dominion for the last seven years, and that streak continued with the Democrats taking majorities in both houses of the General Assembly (their Legislature).

Just as with Trump’s 50%-44% loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Governor Ralph Northam’s (D) bigger 54%-45% victory over Ed Gillespie (R) in 2017, and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine’s (D) even bigger 57%-41% victory over infamous white nationalist Corey Stewart (R) in 2018, Virginia Republicans’ close embrace of Trump proved to be political poison in the Northern Virginia Washington, D.C., suburbs as Democrats picked up a Senate seat and a few more Delegate seats there. While Republicans seemed to fare somewhat better in the rest of the state, Ghazala Hashmi’s (D) victory over incumbent State Senator Glen Sturtevant (R) in the blue-trending Richmond suburbs proved pivotal in Democrats flipping the majority in the upper chamber of the General Assembly.

Now that Democrats finally have a “trifecta”, Virginians can expect action on matters like gun safety, women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ civil rights, and even ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. On that note, what happened in Virginia may ultimately have national implications.

What happened elsewhere… 

Republicans had a better night in Mississippi, where Tate Reeves (R) won the gubernatorial election and kept the GOP’s winning streak going in the Magnolia State. But just as with last year’s U.S. Senate special election, Attorney General Jim Hood (D) narrowed the usual GOP advantage to a more modest 52.6%-46.3% spread. But now that the Republican “trifecta” holds in Mississippi, any further talk of extending the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion there has likely flatlined.

On the other end of the country, it was a more mixed picture in Washington State. While Amazon’s and other corporate interests’ drive to overturn the progressive majority on the Seattle City Council failed, they may have succeeded in ousting “Socialist Alternative” firebrand Kshama Sawant in her council district. And statewide, the apparent success of a ballot initiative capping most vehicle registration taxes at $30 threatens up to $4 billion worth of funding needed for the Evergreen State’s transportation infrastructure programs.

There were additional municipal elections across the country, and Democrats were mostly the beneficiaries as they swept council seats and row offices across the once solidly red (but now, increasingly solidly blue) Philadelphia suburbs, made critical inroads in the once “blood red” Hamilton County north of Indianapolis, and even flipped a Missouri state legislative seat in a special election in the St. Louis suburbs.

And what does all of this mean for us?
Photo by Andrew Davey

We in Nevada know all too well the meta-problem of “solving problems” by creating new ones. Between the Las Vegas City Council’s struggle to contend with the state’s “one step forward, two steps back” approach to domestic violence and the Las Vegas City Council’s bizarre proposed ordinance to charge sleeping on a public right-of-way as a misdemeanor offense (which local progressive activists condemn as criminalizing homelessness) while the state is starting to feel the brunt of the West Coast’s housing crisis, we’re still living the consequences of “quibbling over crumbs” when people are going hungry. On that note, I can sympathize with those in Washington State who are wondering how to save their transportation projects from this “car tabs are too damn high!” revolt.

Zooming out from there, the rest of yesterday’s election results are good signs for Democrats going into next year. While it’s probably a stretch to assume Beshear’s apparent victory in his gubernatorial race means McConnell is vulnerable in his Senate race, this latest and greatest “suburban surge” that stretches from Bucks County (Pennsylvania) and Loudoun County (Virginia) to Campbell County (Kentucky) and St. Louis County (Missouri) is anything but good news for Trump’s reelection campaign. Kentucky and Missouri may not be swing states on the presidential map, but these results suggest that Virginia’s days as a swing state may also be numbered, that Trump may not be as strong as he thinks he is in Pennsylvania, and that even Ohio may be back in play for Democrats. And even worse for the Republican Party, these results even suggest that they have further room to fall if Democrats’ “suburban surge” persists in next year’s Congressional races.

Already this week, we’ve seen several batches of presidential polls suggesting everything from a tough dogfight between the Democrats and Trump and a second “blue wave” resulting in Trump’s landslide defeat, with Data for Progress’ and Civiqs’ new battleground state surveys and a new Monmouth national poll showing something in-between. At the very least, yesterday’s election results show trouble for Trump. We still have a year to go until we know for sure who’s right and who’s wrong here, but at least we now know that 2018’s results were anything but an “aberration”.

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