It’s election day Tuesday in — well, not every part of America, but several. Two states are electing governors; Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis are electing mayors; and the battle over abortion rights will be decided by a ballot initiative in Ohio and state legislative races in Virginia. Here are three big questions we’ll get answers to.
Have pro-lifers figured out how to win? They’re trying to break a losing streak in two states — Ohio and Virginia — with different stakes and strategies.
In Ohio, where the passage of Issue 1 would add freedom for “reproductive decisions” to the state Constitution, Republicans have deployed both paid messaging and government power to beat it back. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who opposes the amendment, wrote a ballot description that warns it would “always allow an unborn child to be aborted.” If passed, it would allow the state to limit abortions after 23 weeks of pregnancy, but confusing ballot language can change votes.
Abortion rights activists already scored a major victory in August when the state voted down a ballot measure (confusingly also called “Issue 1”) that would raise the threshold for future referendums to pass. That vote was widely interpreted as a stand-in for abortion debates, Tuesday’s vote will test how correct that interpretation is and how well the losing side has tweaked its approach in response.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who’s appeared in anti-Issue 1 ads, suggested last week that he might revisit the state’s unpopular six-week abortion limit and “try to come up with something that the majority of Ohioans can in fact agree on” if the measure fails. Abortion rights groups don’t buy it, but they’re campaigning against similar election-year messaging targeted toward moderates in Virginia, where Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Republicans have committed to a 15-week abortion limit if they capture the state senate as a “consensus” option while portraying the state’s current 26-weeks-plus-exceptions law as extreme. They need to flip two seats to win a majority, while defending a four-seat majority in the House of Delegates.
Can red state Republicans bring MAGA voters home? Republicans flipped Louisiana’s governor’s mansion last month, but are now headed into two tougher southern races — Kentucky, where Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is popular, and Mississippi, where GOP Gov. Tate Reeves isn’t.
Reeves has polled ahead of Democrat Brandon Presley all year, but as they triaged in Louisiana, national Democrats sent resources into Mississippi. Presley and Reeves ended the race with spending parity — $10.9 million for the Republican, $10.7 million for the Democrat, with two-quarters of the pro-Presley money coming from outside the state. The Reeves campaign shamed Presley for that, portraying him as a Joe Biden puppet, and questioning how a self-described “pro-life” candidate could take so much from pro-abortion rights donors.
As he yoked Presley to Biden, Reeves hitched himself to Trump. “Donald Trump only supports the only conservative in this race,” Reeves said at his Nov. 1 debate with Presley, pushing back on ads that have emphasized the Democrat’s Christian faith and social conservatism.
In Kentucky, Attorney General Daniel Cameron has run multiple ads about his own Trump endorsement, calling Beshear a “nice guy” who won’t stand up to Biden. Beshear has heavily out-fundraised and out-spent Cameron, who has ticked up in the final public polls thanks to growing support from 2020 Trump voters. Cameron would be the state’s first Black governor and the final stretch has also featured a fight over an outside group’s ads targeted at Black radio stations declaring “all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk” and attacking his handling of investigations into police officers after the shooting of Breonna Taylor in a raid, an incident that received national attention.
Can progressives hold on, down-ballot? The “parental rights” movement that emerged after Biden’s victory has organized in more places this year, and Democrats who’ve supported criminal justice reform in cities are facing a new wave of back-the-blue opponents, supported by police unions.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has sued school districts over requiring parental notification if students change their gender identity; polling found more than four in five New Jersey parents favored the districts’ position. Republicans have run on that in competitive districts, where they’d need to flip seven seats to win the General Assembly, and conservative school board candidates have run against progressive race and gender education in Alaska, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
In Pittsburgh, progressive Democrats are running to lead Allegheny County and its district attorney’s office; Republicans are warning that the region could look like San Francisco if they win. Democrats are facing challengers from the right from Indianapolis (incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett) to Spokane (a progressive city council) to Manchester, New Hampshire.