Democrats Win Control of Virginia Legislature and Claim Narrow Victory in Kentucky Governor’s Race

Democrats won complete control of the Virginia government for the first time in more than two decades Tuesday and claimed a narrow victory in Kentucky’s governor race, as Republicans captured the governor’s mansion in Mississippi.

In winning majorities in both chambers of the Virginia legislature, Democrats have cleared the way for Governor Ralph S. Northam to push for progressive measures that have been blocked by Republicans in the past, including raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, tightening access to guns and passing a state-level Equal Rights Amendment that would grant civil rights protections to women and the LGBTQ community, paving the way for a federal ERA.

Democrats’ victories in Virginia suggest the commonwealth is moving away from its swing-state status and trending more solidly blue. Republicans have not won a statewide political office in Virginia since 2009, but held onto power in the state legislature partly because of past districting that a court deemed a racial gerrymander. The court ordered districts be redrawn ahead of the 2019 election, which helped Democrats flip the House of Delegates as well as the state Senate. Now that they’re in control, Democrats will help determine congressional and legislative district lines in the future.

In Kentucky, Governor Matt Bevin — a deeply unpopular Republican — refused to concede the election to Attorney General Andy Beshear, his Democratic challenger. With all precincts counted, Beshear was ahead of Bevin by more than 5,000 votes when he declared victory, telling supporters that he expected Governor Bevin to “honor the election that was held tonight.”

Bevin’s loss did not negatively impact other Kentucky Republicans, however, who won all of the state’s other constitutional offices on Tuesday, evidence that the election was more of a referendum on Bevin than a party shift. “Tonight, voters in Kentucky sent a message loud and clear for everyone to hear,” Beshear said. “It’s a message that says our elections don’t have to be about right versus left, they are still about right versus wrong.”

Republicans did manage to capture the governor’s mansion in Mississippi as Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves defeated Attorney General Jim Hood by about five percentage points in an open-seat race. The race was closer than usual in Mississippi, with Hood emphasizing his opposition to abortion and gun control while also campaigning to expand Medicaid in the state, which Reeves opposed. Reeves’s campaign got a boost when Trump campaigned in Tupelo, Mississippi for him last Friday before the election.

Sources: Vox 11/5/19; NY Times 11/4/19; NPR 11/5/19

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