With most political eyes on the 2016 elections, let us not forget that there are elections this week and in November. All the “action” will be at the state level with gubernatorial elections in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky. There are also lower level statewide executive offices up for grabs in these states and legislative elections in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. This article will focus on the gubernatorial elections primarily.
In Mississippi, Republican Phil Bryant is running for another term. He easily won his primary and will face Democratic opponent Robert Gray. Gray was surprised at his win considering he spent next to nothing and was out of state on a job as a long distance truck driver. He has no ties to the Democratic Party other than being registered as one. In a nutshell, that is how weak the Democratic field in Mississippi was this year. There is nary any polling on this race and anything less than 60% for Bryant can be construed as a negative referendum on his administration going forward.
With Louisiana, Bobby Jindal is term-limited. The election will be held this Saturday. Louisiana uses a jungle primary where everyone remains on the ballot regardless of party affiliation. If no one wins a clear majority on Saturday, a run-off between the top two vote getters will take place on November 21st. There are nine people on the ballot:
- Scott Angelle- former GOP Lt. Governor
- Jay Dardenne- GOP current Lt. Governor
- [mc_name name=’Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’V000127′ ]- current GOP US Senator
- Cary Deaton- Democratic frequent candidate
- John Bel Edwards- Democratic state house minority leader
- S.L. Simpson- Democratic political neophyte and Iraq War veteran
- Beryl Billiot- independent businessman
- Jeremy Odom- independent Baptist minister
- Eric Orgeron- independent businessman
Most polling indicates a Vitter “victory,” but with four candidates with some statewide name recognition, he likely will not get to the magical 50% thus necessitating a run off in November. The big question is who will be the second place finisher. Some polls say Angelle while others say Edwards and one even saying Dardenne. Thus, everything, as far as the #2 spot, is left open. Most likely, it will be Edwards.
The stakes in Louisiana are somewhat high for the GOP. If Vitter wins the Governor’s race, he will appoint his successor in the Senate and then all hell will break lose as there are at least two sitting Congressmen itching for the appointment along with some others. He will obviously choose a Republican to replace him in the Senate until 2016 when his Senatorial term is up for grabs. Being the “incumbent,” if only for a year, would give the appointee a leg up in that election. If Vitter loses to Edwards (or fails to make the top two), then he returns to the Senate and could run for another term in 2016. Thus, all is not lost for Vitter; he has a job to return to. However, after spending considerable money and political capital in the gubernatorial race, he may be damaged goods.
As we near Saturday, old stories about Vitter’s solicitation of prostitutes are being recirculated. These stories are eight years old and may not have any legs now. Still, Louisiana politics can be tough at times.
Finally, there is Kentucky where Democratic incumbent Steve Brashear is term-limited. On the Democratic side, Jack Conway who ran against [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] for the Senate in 2010 and lost, easily won his primary. On the Republican side, a very competitive 3-way race created a victory for Matt Bevin who defeated the state agricultural secretary by a mere 83 votes of over 214,000 cast. Most polling indicates a very close race with both candidates alternating between leader. What is interesting here is the presence of a third party candidate- Drew Curtiss- who, in one poll, was drawing about 8% of the vote. That can play to the advantage of either Conway or Bevin.
Bevin has been a thorn in the side of the Kentucky GOP establishment when he ran against [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] in 2014 for the GOP nod. And although McConnell prevailed, it was a tough fight. Bevin attacked him from the right and, in reality, McConnell, for being Minority Leader at the time, survived but with some dents in his armor. When Bevin won the GOP gubernatorial primary this year, it raised some consternation among the Kentucky GOP establishment.
Kentucky is not as red as some pundits make it to be. Although the state senate is controlled by the GOP, the lower house is held by the Democrats. More ominously, the number of statewide elected officials favors the Democratic Party. For Bevin to succeed, he will need turnout from the Republicans in Kentucky. The primary turnout was higher than that of the Democrats, but that was because it was more competitive. Because the general election is so competitive, that gives this writer hope that GOP turnout will be high. Regardless, this is a close race really difficult to predict. But, keep in mind that a Bevin victory would be icing on the cake in Kentucky and should he lose the GOP dominance at the gubernatorial level is not altered. While the Left plays a possible loss by Bevin to some narrative (Tea Party versus Establishment), remember that his loss would be a net zero. Of course, they are the ones with eggs on their faces should Bevin pull it out.
And lest we forget, there are legislative elections in four states. Recently, Republicans have suffered some setbacks in special state legislative elections in Georgia, Oklahoma and Virginia and in traditionally Republican districts. Some of this may be due to the huge build up of Republican legislators at the state level- a natural evening out of partisan breakdowns of state legislatures. Some of it may be due to changing demographics within those districts, or to issues specific to the districts. However, the GOP cannot rest on its achievements over the past few cycles of winning state level races. If we wish to maintain or build on those advantages, the solution is to get out there and vote!!