Category Archives: Kentucky
State elections for gubernatorial, legislative, down-ballot and mayoral offices were held in various states in the United States on November 8, 2011. The main elections were gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi, major state initiatives on the ballots in Ohio and Mississippi and state legislative elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Kentucky, Mississippi and I believe runoffs in Louisiana. I won’t cover all races, but here’s a synopsis of the races I found interesting.
Gubernatorial elections were a snooze. Governor Bobby Jindal (R) had already won a landslide reelection in Louisiana’s jungle primary in October, taking nearly 66% of the vote against some 18% for Tara Hollis, a teacher which was the best Democrats could settle on to oppose a very popular governor in a very conservative state where the Democratic Party is a dying breed as the last specimens of conservative Dixiecrats who are still Democrats join the Republicans. Only West Virginia’s special election on October 4 was remotely interesting, with incumbent Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D), a conservative Democrat, winning a surprisingly close race 50-47 against Republican businessman Bill Maloney. Tomblin, a favourite of the WVDP establishment and of businesses, had succeeded Joe Manchin when Manchin won the Senate contest in 2010.
In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear (D) had defeated corruption scared Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) in 2007 by a big landslide (59-41). A conservative Democrat, he fits his state well and has remained popular. The Republican candidate, David Williams was definitely underwhelming and didn’t stand a chance. Gatewood Galbraith, a civil liberties activist and cannabis-legalization supporter, ran as an independent and surprisingly picked up the endorsement of the powerful UMW.
In Mississippi, high-profile Governor Haley Barbour (R) was term-limited. His successor was Lt. Governor Phil Bryant. Democrats picked Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree (an African-American) in a divided primary to be their sacrificial lamb. Here’s a roundup of the gubernatorial results:
|State||Rep %||Dem %||Ind %|
Dave’s Election Atlas has the map up for Kentucky and Mississippi should be coming up soon. I won’t comment much on the Kentucky map, as it is the usual pattern for a Democratic landslide in the state, but the surprising aspect to me was Beshear’s pretty underwhelming performance in the Democratic bastions of the coal country where he had performed very strongly (60-70%) in 2007 but did pretty poorly this year. Galbraith, being endorsed by the UMW and being from the broader region (though not directly coal country) is part of it, but in places such as Floyd or Pike, Williams did quite a bit better than Fletcher had done in 2007 despite doing some 5% worse than Fletcher state-wide. I wonder if Obama has a particularly rancid effect on those kind of ancestrally Democratic conservative areas which pulls down even a fairly non-controversial conservative like Beshear. In Mississippi, I was a bit surprised by Bryant’s big win, given that even Barbour hadn’t done that well in 2007, though granted maybe Barbour’s opponent being a white good ol’ boy played a role in retrospect.
Democrats won all downballot offices in Kentucky except GOP-held AgCommish, where the wonderfully name Bob Farmer (D) did very badly. Besides that, only the Treasurer contest was narrow. In Mississippi, Democrats held their AG office but lost all others handily to Republicans.
State legislative elections took place in Mississippi, Virginia and New Jersey. In Mississippi, it appears as if Republicans have narrowly gained control of the House with 62 against 60 Democrats, making Arkansas’ State House the last remaining Democratic-controlled lower house in the Confederacy. The MS GOP also held their narrow hold on the Senate. In New Jersey, Democrats held their 24-16 Senate majority and gained a seat from the Republicans (effect of redistricting) in the General Assembly. This is a bit of a blow for Governor Chris Christie (R) who had campaigned for some GOP candidates. In Virginia, the GOP held the House but it seems as if the Democratic-controlled Senate will be going to a 20-20 tie broken by a GOP Lt. Governor but with committees split equally. In Iowa, Democrats easily held SD-18 in a special election which maintains their narrow 26-24 edge in the chamber. In Arizona and Michigan, two incumbent GOP legislators were yanked out of office by recalls.
Initiatives were the interesting things this year.
In Ohio, the big thing was Issue 2 which was about a Republican bill which limited collective bargaining for public employees. The issue, opposed by various unions, went down big. 61.3% voted no, repealing the bill. It is a particularly bad defeat for Ohio Governor John Kasich (R), and judging from the map a lot of Republicans in rural old working-class areas in the Ohio Valley voted with Democrats against Issue 2.
In Mississippi, I was particularly interested by Initiative 26, which would have defined the term ‘person’ as including “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof”, or in other words a measure which would render abortion illegal given that the USSC in Roe vs. Wade had ruled against Wade because they found that Wade’s definition of a fetus as a person lacked the constitutional and judicial precedent, failing to establish that personhood applied to the unborn. What Mississippi’s law would have done is unclear, as state law cannot overrule federal law. Civil liberty groups such as the ACLU had already prepared to take the matter to court. I expected the issue to carry the day pretty easily: this is Mississippi, a conservative and religious state, not Vermont or Oregon. Apparently, the No on 26 campaign was far more successful than expected and the implications of a yes vote on 26 cooled some voters away from supporting the bill. The issue was rejected 58-42, a margin far bigger than expected even in the last days (a PPP poll gave it as yes +1 in the final days). Apparently, the No on 26 benefited from some much heavier than expected black opposition to the issue – the No vote was by far highest in black counties but carried the day in more racially mixed central Mississippi and only passed in northeastern Mississippi (Appalachian Foothills), a more heavily white and Evangelical area. If such an issue can’t pass in Mississippi, where can it pass?
In Maine, something restoring same-day voter registration also passed.
Overall, stability prevailed and voters played it very moderate and cautious. Too radical measures like Issue 2 or Initiative 26 were rejected. Popular incumbents were returned, regardless of partisan affiliation. Democrats might have pulled out the strongest of the night, with only VA-Sen as a major black eye but a string of victories in KY-Gov, OH-Issue 2, NJ-Leg and IA-SD18. That being said, Republicans could claim victory as well with their victories in Virginia. Once again, who won depends on who you ask.
More coverage of primary season in the United States with the four states which voted last night: Arkansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Oregon.
Arkansas’ Class III Senate seat is up for election this year. Incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln, a conservative Blue Dog, was first elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2004. She’s up for re-election this year, but her closeness to corporate America and her conservative votes make her one of the most vulnerable senators up this cycle, and on top of that she’s never been really much of a strong incumbent. She won in 1998 with 55% in 1998 and “only” 56% in 2004, despite Arkansas’ strong Democratic leanings at the state level. Her conservative votes, notably her much-noted opposition to health care (likely the result of a close relation with corporations), won her much ire from liberal Democrats and trade unions, who backed the insurgent Lt. Governor Bill Halter, who staged a late primary challenge to the weak incumbent. A third candidate, a conservative Democrat to the right of Lincoln (and very much anti-Obama), DC Morrison also ran.
The Republicans have been polling ahead of Democrats in all polling, and their field was dominated early on by Representative John Boozman, a popular representative from the Ozarks region of northwestern Arkansas. He faced a challenge from 2004 nominee Jim Holt and State Senator Gilbert Baker amongst others, but he was always the likely nominee.
Here are the results on the Democratic side, with 98.9% reporting:
Blanche Lincoln (D) 44.5%
Bill Halter (D) 42.5%
DC Morrison (D) 13.0%
There are no results from Searcy County (in white)
Halter and Lincoln will face off again in a runoff to be held on June 8. Halter came very close, sometimes even ahead at some points during the night, of Senator Lincoln, showing how extremely vulnerable she is. She seems to have held black voters and won in Little Rock (and the Ozarks), but Halter has seemingly dominated in large swathes of rural Arkansas, somewhat interestingly for the liberal insurgent to the conservative Blue Dog. It remains to be seen if Lincoln has an edge in the runoff, and if she can win the right-wing Morrison voters, but on the basis of last night’s results, she seems extremely vulnerable to Halter, who will have more time to polish his message, in a runoff. Yet, a runoff means that this race stretches out for a long time and will likely result in an internal division within the party, helping the Republicans. Boozman won 53% last night, meaning that there will be no runoff. Holt won a meager 17% while Gilbert Baker won 11%. Boozman must still be counted at the overwhelming favourite to win in November.
Arkansas’ Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, who succeeded retiring Republican Mike Huckabee in 2006, remains extremely popular and won’t face stiff competition from Republican Jim Keet. In fact, the surprise is that the Republicans actually managed to find a candidate, given that they didn’t field one against Senator Mark Pryor in 2006, who only faced a Greenie.
Kentucky’s Class III Senate seat is up for election this year. Republican incumbent Jim Bunning, first elected narrowly in 1998 and re-elected by a similarly narrow margin in 2004, is retiring after a series of controversial statements he made on various topics. In fact, he risked losing re-election if he ran. His retirement opened up the Republican field, which became a race between two candidates: Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s Secretary of State and the early-on establishment candidate and ophthalmologist Rand Paul, the son of Ron Paul, and also a low-taxes campaigner and activist. Paul quickly seize Grayson’s early lead and led by double-digit in polls prior the primary. Rand Paul campaigned against the PATRIOT Act and against taxes, making him the candidate of the Tea Partiers, but the rest of his platform was generally conservative: pro-life, anti-gay marriage and the like. Obviously, to win in a state like Kentucky, which is as far away from libertarianism as you can get, you need to have the conservative rhetoric. Paul’s success came more from his insurgent anti-Washington attitude than from any love of libertarianism in a socially conservative state.
The Democrats had a contested race as well, between Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo and Attorney General Jack Conway. Mongiardo was the favourite in all polls, and was the most conservative candidate in the race, while Conway, the insurgent, was the liberal candidate in the race.
Rand Paul (R) 58.8%
Trey Grayson (R) 35.4%
Bill Johnson (R) 2.2%
John Stephenson (R) 2.0%
Jon J. Scribner (R) 0.8%
Gurley L. Martin (R) 0.8%
Jack Conway (D) 44.1%
Daniel Mongiardo (D) 43.1%
Darlene Fitzgerald Price (D) 5.7%
James Buckmaster (D) 4.0%
Maurice Sweeney (D) 3.4%
Conway’s narrow victory was the marking result of the Kentucky primaries, especially given that Mongiardo had led in all but one poll (in December 2009). The map of the race reveals a close division between the coal mining regions of eastern Kentucky, where Mongiardo is from and where old Blue Dog-type populist politics dominate (as well as in the Purchase area of western Kentucky, the traditional Dixiecrat stronghold of the state) and Conway’s strong victories in Louisville and other more urbanized or developed areas in central Kentucky. Mongiardo has asked for a recanvass of the votes, but it’s unlikely that Conway’s victory will be fought. On the Republican side, Paul dominated all over, with the exception of a handful of counties, mostly in eastern Kentucky. Again, Paul played best in the same urbanized-developed area where Conway did best, on the Republican side, these areas include a lot of suburbs where low-tax rhetoric works wonder (just like Stutzman won Indianapolis suburbs in Indiana two weeks ago). Polls have given Paul a narrow advantage, but Conway is shown to be a stronger candidate than Mongiardo, meaning that this race is best called a tossup.
Oregon’s Class III Senate seat is up for election this year. Democratic incumbent Ron Wyden is favoured to win easily, and he beat minor primary challengers on the Democratic side with over 90% of the vote. Jim Huffman, a little know uni prof of some sort, won the Republican primary with nearly 42%, while his closest opponent polled 15%. Oregon’s Senate contest is not being watched much, and only one poll – by Rasmussen – was done in the state, showing Wyden leading Huffman 49-35. For the record, Oregon votes entirely by mail or drop-off ballot in primaries.
The Oregon gubernatorial contest to replace term-limited Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) might be a bit hotter than the Senate race. Former Governor John Kitzhaber (Governor between 1995 and 2003) won the Democratic primary with 66% of the vote against 29.5% for former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. For once, the Republican establishment candidate prevailed: Chris Dudley, a former NBA player, won 39.9% against 31.9% for Allen Alley, who found most of his strength in conservative rural eastern Oregon. Kitzhaber got national attention when he literally saved somebody’s life at a debate earlier this month. A Rasmussen poll in April showed both Dudley and Kitzhaber tied at 41% each, but then, Rasmussen has weird results at times.
Pennsylvania’s Class III Senate seat is up for election this year. The seat has been held by Arlen Specter since 1981, first elected as a moderate Republican and last re-elected by a wide margin in 2004. Specter, who became more and more at odds with the growingly conservative Republican Party, was never the favourite of conservatives. He narrowly survived a primary challenge by conservative Republican Congressman Pat Toomey, and was likely to face an extremely tough race against Toomey again in 2010, especially after being one of 3 Senate Republicans to vote in favour of Obama’s bailout package. Then, Specter left the party on April 28, 2009 and became a Democrat and voted for the healthcare bill. He faced opposition on the Democratic side from Congressman Joe Sestak, a former US Navy Vice Admiral and a liberal Democrat. Sestak ran to Specter’s left, and always referred to himself as Joe Sestak, the Democrat, a snide remark at Specter’s former Republican affiliation. Specter won the endorsement of Obama, Biden, Governor Ed Rendell, Harry Reid, John Kerry, the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state Democratic Party and most trade unions. Sestak notably won Barney Frank, NARAL and MoveOn’s endorsement. Specter had a huge lead over Sestak in 2009, but he blew it away thanks to a poor campaign, and by election day, it was tied.
On the Republican side, Pat Toomey, already running against Specter, became the favourite and faced opposition only from the fringe and perennial candidate Peg Luksik. Toomey, the former leader of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, is a favourite of the low-taxes and anti-pork crowd.
Here are the results:
Joe Sestak (D) 54.0%
Arlen Specter (D) 46.0%
Pat Toomey (R) 81.5%
Peg Luksik (R) 18.5%
Sestak’s victory was surprisingly large, despite Specter leading early returns and tied polling prior to the primary. He won most support in rural areas, while Specter only won Philadelphia (where the Democratic machine and black voters backed him), Dauphin and Lackawanna counties (blue-collar areas where local party support and unions won it for Specter). Seemingly, wealthy suburban voters as well as rural voters in traditionally Republican inland Pennsylvania were Sestak’s strongest backers. Sestak’s victory is yet another in a series of anti-establishment victories by insurgents, and Specter is the second sitting Senator to lose renomination in 2010 after Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett fell victim to right-wing opponents at a State Convention earlier this month. Sestak is seen by most as the strongest candidate to take on Toomey, who still maintains a narrow lead in polls – though Sestak could narrow that down and win.
On the gubernatorial side, incumbent Governor Ed Rendell (D) is term-limited. The Republicans, who nominated Attorney General Tom Corbett (69-31 against State Rep Sam Rohrer) is the favourite against the Democrats. Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) Chief Executive Dan Onorato was the top contender on the Democratic field against Auditor General Jack Wagner, former Congressman Joe Hoeffel and State Senator Anthony Williams. Onorato won 45% against 24% for Wagner, 18% for Williams and 13% for Hoeffel. A map of that primary is attached to the Senatorial primary map. I don’t think it should be too hard to figure out where Williams and Hoeffel are from.
In final news, in last week’s West Virginia primary, long-time Democratic Congressman Alan Mollohan, representing WV-01 since 1983, fell victim to a right-wing primary challenger (Mollohan is already a blue dog, so imagine more right-wing than him) Mike Oliverio, a State Senator. Oliverio is quite far to the right and it would be hard to distinguish him from a conservative Republican.