Electoral Roundup 2017

Exactly a year out from the presidential election, most people exhausted their endurance for hearing about elections long ago. For the rest of us (mostly political junkies), it’s election day over again! Everyone knows about the quadrennial presidential elections, of course, and some know about the biennial midterms, in which congressional elections coincide with gubernatorial elections as well as many other state races. But in case you were worried about having election-free years interceding between presidential and midterm elections, never fear! Off-year elections are here! This year, there are notable races in Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Louisiana, Utah, Maine, and Florida.

Ohio

Should the state be able to purchase drugs at VA prices?

Ohio doesn’t have any major horse races to speak of, but there will be a vote on Ballot Issue 2. The issue at hand is whether the state should be able to purchase drugs the way the VA does, at the lowest-possible rates reached by direct negotiations. The state wouldn’t gain bargaining power, it would just be able to buy at VA rates. The pharmaceutical industry has spent $58 million opposing this measure because it would hurt their bottom lines. This issue cuts across partisan lines, with Democrats and Republicans joining forces to either help their constituents with healthcare costs, as one side claims, or discourage voting for a measure that doesn’t actually do what it says it does.

Maine

Should the state expand Medicaid?

Like Ohio, Maine doesn’t actually have any major races, but there is an incredibly important issue on the ballot. When the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was implemented, 31 states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid, meaning they accepted more federal dollars to provide healthcare for more people near the federal poverty line. Maine’s governor, then and now, is Paul LePage, a conservative Republican reëlected in 2014 with less than 40% of the vote when the Democratic nominee and an independent split the liberal vote. States that have accepted the Medicaid expansion have done so through their governors, and doing so in Maine would be anathema to LePage. Thus, activists have collected enough signatures to create a ballot measure which asks the public directly about expansion.

New York

NYC mayor, other local races

The race for New York mayor is important, but is not expected to be very exciting, as incumbent Bill de Blasio (D) is almost certainly going to cruise to reëlection. He may even end up with a margin of victory greater than his opponents’ vote totals. De Blasio has endeavored to address brutality at the hands of NYPD officers, particularly the killings of unarmed blacks, for which every cop defendant has been acquitted so far. Elsewhere in the state, there are elections for county executive offices.

Florida

St. Petersburg mayor, Miami mayor

Both major Florida races are interesting in that neither fits the bill of a typical partisan election. In St. Petersburg, polls give incumbent Richard Kriseman (D) a slim edge over his predecessor Rick Baker (R). What makes things unusual is that Baker has a fairly strong African-American base, extraordinary for nearly any Republican candidate these days. In Miami, incumbent Tomás Regalado is termed out, and his successor will be chosen. Miami has a political landscape fairly common in Florida, but largely unheard of elsewhere: it voted heavily for Hillary Clinton a year ago, and Barack Obama before that, but continued to support Republicans downballot. The Republican candidate probably wants to put as much distance as possible between him or herself and Donald Trump in order to win.

Georgia

Atlanta mayor, state Senate District 6

Atlanta has had only Democratic mayors for over 40 years, but independent Mary Norwood is looking to change that. She was only narrowly edged out by incumbent Kasim Reed (D) in 2013 years, but has led polls as the race is likely to head to a runoff between the top two candidates. No poll has shown Norwood with anything near the minimal 50% necessary to avoid a runoff. In the 6th state Senate district, voters have the chance to choose their state senator in a special election. Although it has been represented by a Republican, it went for Clinton by a 55-40 spread last year. If Democrats are lucky enough to elect their candidate, they will be able to break the Republican supermajority in the chamber.

Louisiana

New Orleans mayor

Voters in New Orleans headed to the polls today to select a replacement for two-term incumbent Mitch Landrieu (D), who was also the Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana. The only sure thing is that New Orleans’ next mayor will be a black woman, after LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet won the top two spots in the jungle primary.

Utah

US House District 3

After former House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz announced his intention to resign by June 30th, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) set a special election for today, in line with most of the regularly scheduled elections of this year. Republican Provo Mayor John Curtis faces off against Democratic physician Kathryn Allen in a district that President Trump won by double digits as independent conservative Evan McMullin pushed Hillary Clinton into 3rd place. Allen has had decent fundraising over perceived issues with Chaffetz’s handling of his committee’s investigations of both Hillary Clinton’s email server and other parts of the Obama administration. Allen had intended to run against Chaffetz in next year’s election.

Washington

LD 45

Washington’s legislative districts (LDs) elect two representatives and one senator each, and in this case, there is a special election for state senator in LD 45. This district voted for Hillary Clinton by a wide margin, but elected a Republican at the same time, who passed away earlier this year. Manka Dhingra (D) beat Jinyoung Lee Englund (R) with over 50% of the vote in the all-party primary, but Washington state law requires the second round of the election to be held regardless. The reason that so much hinges on this race is that although Democrats hold a 25-24 edge in the senate, one Democrat caucuses with the Republicans to give them control of the chamber. If Dhingra wins, she will complete a Democratic trifecta (governor, state house, state senate) in Washington as well as a “blue wall” of Democratic control of state governments along the entire West Coast.

New Jersey

Governor, state assembly, state senate

There are not going to be many shocking results coming out of New Jersey tonight. Former Goldman Sachs executive and Obama ambassador to Germany Scott Murphy (D) will wipe the floor with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno by a double digit margin. Although Gov. Chris Christie won reëlection in 2013 with 60% of the vote, he has been dragged through the Bridgegate scandal, in which his aides shut down the George Washington Bridge as retaliation for the lack of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s endorsement, as well as his involvement in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In the state assembly and state senate, Democrats may or may not pad their healthy majorities, but any outcome won’t change much.

Virginia

Governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, House of Delegates

This year’s elections in Virginia feature most of the state offices; the only exception is the state senate, which will hold elections in 2019. The marquee race is of course the gubernatorial election, which both parties are anxiously watching. Hillary Clinton won the state by about five points last year, the third time Virginia was carried by a Democrat since LBJ in 1964. Four years ago, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) surprised political observers by becoming the first member of the president’s party to become governor in nearly forty years (Virginia governors are limited to one term). However, Republicans are hopeful and Democrats are worried that Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) won’t be able to restart the pattern in his race against former RNC chairman and 2014 Senate nominee Ed Gillespie (R) . Each party’s nominee seems to have some personal strength that exceeds his party’s: Northam won his race in 2013 by six more points than McAuliffe, and the next year Gillespie held Sen. Mark Warner to a margin of victory of less than one percent even though the polling average had him up by around nine. After nearly losing the Republican primary to Trump Virginia campaign advisor Corey Stewart, Gillespie turned to nativist identity politics, talking about “preserving our heritage” in terms of Confederate statues. His campaign used images of Salvadoran gang MS-13 while claiming that Northam’s immigration policies would endanger Virginians and allow “sanctuary cities” which don’t exist in Virginia. In the lieutenant governor’s race, Justin Fairfax (D) may become the first African-American statewide official elected in decades. Mark Herring (D) is running for reelection as attorney general, which is important because he has the ability to pursue state prosecutions against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (and others based in Virginia) should the president issue federal pardons and the need arise. In the House of Delegates, Republicans hold a massive (66-34) edge, but Hillary Clinton carried 17 Republican-held districts, just the magic number Democrats need to flip the chamber. One race features the transgender woman Danica Roem (D) against virulently anti-trans Del. Bob Marshall (R). It remains to be seen how much ground, if any, Republicans will lose in this heavily anti-Trump political atmosphere.