This year, southern states had a good run in state and local elections. Virginia had state legislative elections, Kentucky had a smattering of state executive elections, and Mississippi and Louisiana both had state legislative and executive elections.
Most of the elections went as expected for the south. Mississippi elected a Republican governor and legislature, Louisiana’s legislature now has Republican supermajorities, and most of the Kentucky elections yielded Republicans. Three states made some surprising turns, however. Virginia cemented itself as a firmer “blue state,” flipping both chambers of its legislature for the first time in close to twenty years, Louisiana’s governor’s race is surprisingly close considering Republican domination here, and in Kentucky it would seem that all roads point to Democrat Andy Beshear flipping the governor’s mansion from red to blue. Because Louisiana and Kentucky are in similar predicaments, I would like to compare their two elections.
In both states, where Republicans have a firm standing, Democratic candidates for governor are doing surprisingly better than the norm. Every elected branch of government in Kentucky, besides the governor and lieutenant governor, have Republican majorities, making this election seem more like a fluke, and indeed a case for that can be made. Matt Bevin is a deeply unpopular governor, sometimes ranked as the most unpopular governor in the country depending on which poll you look at. Perhaps his Democratic challenger Andy Beshear won out of Kentuckian spite for Bevin. That begs the question, though, of why Bevin was not ousted in the Republican primary? That, I do not have an answer to.
In Louisiana as well, John Bel Edwards’s ascendance to the Governor's Mansion might have been a fluke. In 2015, he ran in the runoff against sex-scandal riddled David Vitter, and so many might have voted for Edwards for the sake of not voting for Vitter. If Edwards is re-elected on Nov. 16, then we might be able to say it was not an outlier, but until then we can only speculate.
Another commonality both of these states have is that, as of now, it still is undetermined who the next governor will be. Here in Louisiana it is because of a runoff, but in Kentucky it is due to Matt Bevin, the incumbent governor running for re-election, challenging the election results. The margin of Beshear’s victory was very close, he won by about 5,000 votes out of 1.4 million cast, but Kentucky does not have laws concerning recounts in governor election, and so Bevin seems to have claimed voter fraud (without evidence) to overturn the election in his favor. Personally, this is not the move I would make if I were the most unpopular governor in the country, as overturning a free and fair election tends to make people a little angry, but what do I know?
Something that I have heard a lot since these elections started is the questioning of the effect of President Trump’s influence on the outcomes. I don’t think rallies he holds or tweets he sends out have much of an effect on the election outcomes, at least in his favor, and I think that is evident by the 2017 Alabama senate special election, the 2017 Virginia governor race, the entirety of the 2018 midterms, and the 2018 Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin governors’ races. But this is a topic that deserves so much more attention than I can give it here, so it is something I will write about more in-depth in the future.
In all, I generally do not think that President Trump has had much effect on statewide races, unless you count votes against his party as the effect. Kentucky and Louisiana have an interesting situation between them. Highly contested elections in what would seem to be safe one-party states is something that we don’t get to see very often (when was the last time you heard a Democrat had a shot at winning in Wyoming or Republican in California?) let alone happening in our own state. I already early voted in our governor election, so I can only sit and eagerly await our results. Until then, I will keep my eye on Kentucky.