It’s Election Day in 2019 and many Americans are headed to the polls for what usually consists of a variety of local races such as county school boards, state delegates, or local judges. There are, however, a few races to watch around the country that could provide a glimpse into the presidential matchup next year. For the most part, anyone watching for national trends will be watching Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening today and the races that could have national implications.
Kentucky – Governor’s Race
Polls Close: 6 pm ET
This is a race where President Trump has been closely involved. Trump visited the state on Monday night in a last-minute push for Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin. The challenger, Democrat Andy Beshear, the current sitting Attorney General in the state, is trying to run a campaign focused on staying away from national issues while presenting himself as the “real Kentucky” choice for voters.
As NPR reports, the Kentucky race could be very close even in this deep-red state that Trump won by 30 points in 2016:
Beshear has his own political pedigree that could help him too — his father, Steve Beshear, was a popular governor who preceded Bevin. But while his dad was seen as a folksy, moderate politician, the younger Beshear has had more trouble connecting with voters and isn’t as centrist on as many issues, particularly abortion.
In order to win, Bevin has nationalized his race maybe more than any other GOP candidate on the ballot Tuesday. His ads play up his anti-abortion, anti-illegal immigration stances, his allegiance to Trump and his opposition to impeachment. A recent Mason-Dixon poll in the state, which found the two candidates tied, also showed that 65% of likely voters also oppose impeachment.That, coupled with a Trump election-eve rally, may be enough to carry Bevin over the finish line, no matter how much some voters may personally dislike him.
In the end, it is Kentucky, so Bevin is still the favorite despite some flagging approval numbers. Similar to other deep-red southern states, Democrats can mount a solid effort, but they may lack sheer numbers in the end. National parties are watching this race closely as proof that President Trump remains popular, or that his 2016 firewall could be hitting some trouble depending on the outcome.
Virginia – General Assembly
Polls Close: 7 pm ET
The Commonwealth of Virginia often plays a crucial role in off-year elections, such as 2017 and now 2019. There are no statewide offices up for election, but control of the Virginia General Assembly hangs in the balance. After a wipeout in 2017, Republicans hang on by a single seat for majority control in the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia. Democrats are hoping to push that over the edge and regain control for the first time in decades.
Democrats have their hopes pinned on suburban voters outside Washington, DC and outside the state capital of Richmond, as NPR notes:
The shifting suburbs are again the story in the commonwealth, where Democrats flipped three congressional seats one year ago. Now, they could do the same thing in the Northern Virginia, Richmond and the Virginia Beach suburbs. In one race, gun control has become a major issue, as NPR’s Melissa Block profiled, following a mass shooting there in May. A special session to try and address gun control in June was abruptly shut down by GOP legislators, and Democrats think Republicans could now feel the backlash in a state that has had several recent mass shootings.
Republicans, however, hope that scandals among the three top statewide Democratic officials could give voters pause. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring both admitted earlier this year to wearing blackface when they were younger, and two women have accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, which he denies.
Earlier in the year, all three statewide Democratic officials in Virginia including Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring were engulfed in scandal. For Northam, it was a racist picture in his college yearbook which he initially apologized for and then said he didn’t believe he was in the photo. Lt. Gov. Fairfax has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault and has managed to fight off calls, some from his own party, for resignation. AG Herring also had an issue with a racist photo that pictured him wearing blackface.
Republicans in Virginia are hoping to use these issues to push back against the Democratic advances in recent years.
Mississippi – Governor’s Race
Polls Close: 8 pm ET
The Mississippi race isn’t being watched as closely as Kentucky since it would appear Republicans are favored to keep this seat out of the hands of Democrats. The race is open, however, which means that without the power of incumbency, it would appear to be a place where Democrats could score a victory if the conditions were right.
Republican Tate Reeves has joined himself with President Trump, praising the president and saying that Mississippi should be run the way Donald Trump is running America. Democrat Jim Hood, the current Attorney General of state, is running a campaign that downplays social issues in favor of bread and butter topics like expanding Medicaid. Hood has positioned himself as anti-abortion and pro-gun, two safe stances for a Democrat running in a deep-red Republican state.
The makeup of Mississippi favors a Reeves victory considering Trump won the state by 18 points in 2016. President Trump, like Kentucky, has campaigned in Mississippi for Reeves in recent weeks.
Will any of these races mean much for the 2020 presidential race? Off-year elections usually hinge on local issues and local personalities, but in the highly polarized world of 2019, even the smallest of elections, such as a school board, seat, can become nationalized to an extent.