Dems pull off significant victories in Ohio, Kentucky while GOP falls flat in school board races


The results of yesterday’s races have been tallied and the final results — from the gubernatorial to ballot measures, to underestimated local races — have been announced. Here’s our rapid-fire assessment of the 2023 off-year elections: 

Beshear triumphs over Trump-backed candidate

Despite presiding over a predominantly conservative state, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) secured a second term after trouncing his opponent, the state’s former attorney general Daniel Cameron (R). In 2019, Beshear won office by just a few thousand votes; this year, he won by almost 70,000.

Beshear’s victory isn’t just reassuring to those concerned about workers’ rights and reproductive freedom — two of the incumbent's primary policy concerns — but also for Democrats more broadly. The past five of Kentucky’s off-year gubernatorial races have predicted the results of the preceding presidential election. 

Cameron's defeat also signals another substantial loss for the Trump coalition, whose state-level electoral record continues to rack up numbers in the L column. Cameron pitched himself as the Trump candidate (Trump handily defeated Biden in 2020 in the state by more than a half-million votes.) He went so far to declare in TV ads that he was the “only candidate endorsed by President Trump and the only candidate who stood up to Joe Biden.”

Such failures make the shadows cast by the GOP’s midterm underperformance in 2022 even more haunting for the conservative movement.

Ohioans successfully back the enshrinement of reproductive rights

Meanwhile, just north of the Ohio River, residents of the Buckeye State resoundingly supported a constitutional right to abortion: almost 57% of voters backed the measure. This comes after failed attempts by Republicans in August to raise the voting threshold required to pass such ballot initiatives to 60%. 

It was a hard-fought win for abortion rights activists. “The reality is Ohio is among the tougher states that we have worked in,” Joey Teitelbaum, a pollster aligned with the pro-abortion movement, told Vox. “We stayed focused on a broad values-based message that went beyond partisan politics.” 

Republicans were up in arms over the results. “Thank goodness that most of the states in this country don’t allow you to put everything on the ballot, because pure democracies are not the way to run a country,” former Tea Party stalwart Rick Santorum told Newsmax as the results rolled in Tuesday night.

Tuesday's results in Ohio — which also legalized recreational marijuana in the state — are further evidence that progressives should be focused on such strategies if they hope to bypass Republican barriers to meaningful political and policy victories. 

Mom’s for Liberty flops at the polls

A final takeaway from yesterday's elections is the electoral fallibility of conservatives focused on getting rid of “wokeness” in schools. Moms for Liberty, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an “anti-government extremist group that advocates for book bans in school libraries and spreads hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community,” failed to build off the favor they’ve curried within the GOP. From Pennsylvania to Iowa, Virginia to New Mexico, candidates endorsed by Mom’s for Liberty were unable to gain traction with voters. 

Ted Bordelon, the executive director of the pro-LGBTQ Agenda PAC, summarized it well in a press statement: "Yesterday's election results reaffirm the clear message that parents reject hate and want equitable, inclusive schools for all kids."

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Jamie Larson