The 2023 Election Day primer

Tomorrow will see the majority of off-year elections take place throughout the country. Here’s what races we’ll be keeping a close eye on and the impact they could have on both the local and national level: 

Southern gubernatorial races

In Kentucky, incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear (D) will seek to fend off the state’s former attorney general, Daniel Cameron (R). Cameron has received the backing of former President Donald Trump, Govs. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR), Brian Kemp (R-GA), Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) and his former mentor, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

As attorney general, Cameron’s investigation into the murder of Breonna Taylor at the hands of the Louisville Police Department faced significant scrutiny. Cameron failed to charge any of the officers involved in the shooting of Taylor, who was accidentally killed by officers while implementing a no-knock warrant on the apartment of her boyfriend. 

“Cameron concluded in the fall of 2020 that the use of force by the Louisville Metro Police Department officers that led to Taylor’s death was ‘justified’ under Kentucky law,” John Nichols explained in a May article for The Nation. 

“No charges would be brought against the officer whose shots were determined to have killed Taylor. Indeed, the only charges recommended that fall to a grand jury by Cameron were against an officer who was accused of endangering Taylor’s neighbors.”

Meanwhile, Beshear’s gubernatorial victory in 2019 surprised many, and his tenure has provided optimism amongst Democratic insiders that demographic and generational shifts in the region could provide an opening for liberal politicians in the South. The success or failure of Beshear in this election could also provide us with insight into how the 2024 presidential election could shake out. Currently, polling is favoring Beshear to return to the governor’s mansion — albeit by a slim margin. 

Further south in Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) faces off against Brandon Presley (D), a distant relative of Elvis who has been involved in local politics for more than twenty years. Reeves has become deeply unpopular due to his involvement in a welfare scandal “in which at least $77 million in federal funds intended for the state’s poorest residents were misspent or directed to wealthy, politically-connected Mississippians between at least 2017 and 2020,” according to Mississippi Today. 

Reeves was the lieutenant governor during the pilfering, which has included notable participants like former Green Bay Packers all-star quarterback and Mississippi legend Brett Favre

Presley has played up this detail throughout the campaign and is hoping that Reeves’ exceptional unpopularity in the state (he has one of the lowest approval ratings out of all Republican governors) could create an opening for him.  

Ohio abortion referendum 

In the Buckeye State, voters will have an opportunity to enshrine abortion rights into the Ohio constitution — despite the best effort of Republicans, who in August unsuccessfully attempted to block the referendum via their own failed referendum to create new barriers in amending the state constitution. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the summer of 2022, a flurry of state-level referendums from California to Kansas were proposed to either protect abortion rights or codify their denial into state law. 

Voters overwhelmingly rejected measures to block access to reproductive health care and supported the enshrinement of reproductive rights. And it appears, according to polling, that Ohio will be no different: Recent surveys indicate that the measure could pass by as much as 20 points in favor of abortion protections. 

Consider this to be a crucial chapter in the ongoing fight for abortion rights in a post-Roe world. 

School board elections

On the local level, school board elections across the country will be incredibly important for the overall health of the American education system. As we’ve reported, deranged right-wing outfits like the Minnesota Parents Alliance have organized against so-called “critical race theory” and “gender ideology” in an effort to take over school boards in primarily suburban areas. 

Such campaigns are about invoking the idea that public school teachers, unions and education bureaucrats are trying to subvert parental rights and indoctrinate your children into some kind of newfangled, Marxist belief system. But their ultimate goal — à la Bety DeVos — is to open the door for school privatization, more funding for religious schooling and to undermine the social services that are often connected to schools. 

Depending on how the next few election cycles shake out, we could see a dramatic shift in education policy occurring regionally if conservative activists have their way. Be sure to check and see if your school board members are up for reelection and find out who is on the ballot! 

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Jamie Larson