The revolution in American suburbs continued on Tuesday night, as voters ended a generation of GOP control in the Virginia statehouse and appeared to reject President Donald Trump’s personal plea to save the GOP governor of Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Mississippi increased their dominance in the state by keeping the governorship and picking up the last remaining statewide position that has been held by a Democrat -- the office of state treasurer.
But personalities aside, the real victors may have been the issues that Democrats used to elevate themselves in suburban areas of those two states. Health care was foremost, but gun violence was in the mix, too, as well as climate change.
The messaging was a replay of 2018, and will likely encourage Democrats to stay the course in 2020.
The emphasis on health care -- and Medicaid expansion -- in Kentucky and Virginia is likely to resonate deeply in Georgia, where Democrats will be seeking a 16-seat pick-up in the state House, in order to gain control of the chamber.
On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled his plan to abandon the Affordable Care Act for a waiver that would allow the state to set up its own system. An additional 50,000 uninsured would get health insurance coverage -- far short of the 408,000 that might benefit under an ACA expansion of Medicaid coverage.
The issue of gun violence played an important role in Virginia. A reminder from the Wall Street Journal:
A mass shooting in Virginia Beach that left 12 dead in May spurred [Gov. Ralph] Northam to call a special session on gun-control bills in July. The GOP-led legislature rapidly adjourned without voting on any gun legislation, instead directing a state crime commission to do a review. Recent polls by Christopher Newport University found gun control to be popular among voters, including independents.
In Georgia, several municipal races -- from Dunwoody to Statesboro to Savannah - also gave Democrats something to smile about. We’ll expound on those further downpage.
Republicans quickly sought to shrug off many of Tuesday’s results -- particularly the likely defeat of incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky by Democrat Andy Beshear, the state attorney general. (AP has yet to call the contest, but the two candidates are separated by about 5,000 votes.)
Erick Erickson, the Republican commentator and WSB Radio host, recounted that Bevin pulled out of his annual conservative conference after demanding a private jet. From Erickson’s post:
I have heard very similar stories from many people. None blame the Governor himself, but those around him. Personnel is policy and that generated problematic policies for the Governor.
He’s a good man, but his tenure in office was deeply problematic. There is no reason to blame Donald Trump, particularly when the rest of the GOP mopped up in Kentucky.
Wrote Daniel Desrochers, the political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader:
“It's important to note Republicans won the rest of the ticket, even against a well-known and well-liked former Miss America (although she did not run a great campaign). Kentucky is still a conservative state.”
But Bevins, though elected one year before Trump, campaigned as a Kentucky version of the president. And Trump himself laid down the marker during a Lexington rally of voters only 12 hours before polls opened:
“If you lose, they will say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me, and you can’t let that happen to your incredible state.”
Beshear won in large part by picking up the Republican suburbs just south of the Ohio River, opposite Cincinnati. From the Associated Press:
There’s little doubt Tuesday’s outcome is a warning to Republicans across the nation a year out from the 2020 election and a year after the 2018 midterms: The suburbs are still moving in the wrong direction.
“Republican support in the suburbs has basically collapsed under Trump,” Republican strategist Alex Conant said. “Somehow, we need to find a way to regain our suburban support over the next year.”
The stakes are undoubtedly high. While neither Virginia nor Kentucky is likely to be a critical battleground in the presidential race next year, Tuesday’s results confirm a pattern repeated across critical swing states — outside of Philadelphia, Detroit and Charlotte, North Carolina. They’re also sure to rattle Republican members of Congress searching for a path to victory through rapidly shifting territory.
Now, about those Georgia municipal races. Here’s a snapshot of some of the more interesting ones:
-- With most precincts reporting in Savannah, Democratic Alderman Van Johnson built a solid lead over Mayor Eddie DeLoach, the first Republican elected to lead the city in decades. The two are headed to a December runoff. Many of the incumbent members of the city council were also imperiled.
-- In the race for Dunwoody mayor, Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch scored a 20-point victory over Councilman Terry Nall. Deutsch ran with support from local Democrats and intensely targeted the north DeKalb city’s liberal and moderate voters.
-- Democrats in Statesboro picked up three city council seats, including the first women ever elected to the council. Three of them, to be exact, giving them a majority of the five-member council. The local party chair is Jessica Orvis, the mother of Democratic operative Jake Orvis.
Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson is out with a new digital ad trying to capitalize on U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s appearance with President Donald Trump the night he was booed at the World Series.
The ad features a slow-motion shot of Perdue, a Republican, appearing to grimace at the crowd’s reception. The narrator intones, “send in the mop-up man” - baseball slang for a relief pitcher - “or in Georgia’s case, woman.”
Then it flashes to a closeup of Tomlinson, who is lounging on her couch while snacking on popcorn. Check it out here.
You might be inclined to dismiss the spot as a bit of inconsequential fluff, but such things can be defining. Remember that just last year, Brian Kemp used a shotgun and a pick-up truck to shove his way into a GOP primary runoff for governor.
Voters told DeKalb County legislators to go back to the drawing board on ethics revisions, rejecting a referendum that would have overhauled the county’s ethics code.
The General Assembly signed off on Senate Bill 7 during this year’s session, which put the ethics revisions on the ballot. But many of its provisions were panned by opponents who said the bill amounted to a roll back of ethics reforms DeKalb voters overwhelmingly approved in 2015.
Gov. Brian Kemp allowed Senate Bill 7 to become law without his signature, saying he wanted DeKalb voters to decide if the revisions went too far. The people have now spoken, and according to unofficial results it wasn’t even close.
Now, the DeKalb delegation faces pressure to introduce a bare-bones bill in 2020 that only alters the way ethics board members are appointed, which last year’s Georgia Supreme Court ruling requires. It seems like they will do just that.
“They can spot a ruse from a mile away. Now, our legislative delegation must focus on the one thing that needs fixing: the appointment process,” said state Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven. “I’m hopeful we can pass a bill quickly in January that can be included on the March presidential primary ballot.”
The court’s decision came after former DeKalb Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton filed a lawsuit while facing an ethics investigation.
Sutton currently faces trial on federal charges that she accepted bribes while in office.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is using the Nov. 20 debate in Atlanta as the lure in a data base-building effort. Look for more of this in the two weeks ahead.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.