Democrats Win Key Elections in 2023

by Jacob Rubashkin November 8, 2023 · 1:35 PM EST

Democrats put up big wins across the country Tuesday night, proving that abortion access is still a salient message a year and a half after the Dobbs decision, and demonstrating that while voters may be dissatisfied with the direction of the country and its Democratic leader, they’re still hesitant to put Republicans in charge instead.

In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear defied political gravity by winning re-election 52.5-47.5 percent despite every other Democrat on the ticket losing by double-digits. Beshear’s focus on local issues and disaster relief helped him amass a high approval rating, and GOP ads that attacked him on transgender issues and linked him to President Joe Biden were unsuccessful in disqualifying him in the deeply Republican state. Beshear also went on offense on abortion with a powerful ad featuring a teenage rape victim.

In Virginia, Republicans running for the state legislature tried to coalesce around a 15-week abortion ban as a way to appeal to voters turned off by more restrictive policies. But Democrats made use of GOP candidates’ previous positions on abortion access, and voters in crucial districts rejected the framework promoted by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, handing Democrats narrow control of both the state House and Senate. (Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the state House.) That likely puts to rest any lingering speculation that Youngkin will be the GOP’s white knight in the 2024 presidential primary.

And in Ohio, turnout was massive for two ballot measures that both passed with roughly 56 percent. One enshrined access to reproductive care, including legalizing abortion until fetal viability, into the state constitution, and the other legalized marijuana.

Democrats did fall short in Mississippi, where the party had high hopes for Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley in his race against Gov. Tate Reeves, who has been dealing with the lingering effects of a welfare scandal and the closure of rural hospitals. Reeves clinched a victory, 52-47 percent, the same margin he won by in 2019. But turnout was down significantly from that year, and Presley wasn’t able to juice Black voter participation as he had hoped.

Elsewhere, Democrats held serve too, keeping a hold of a state Supreme Court seat in Pennsylvania — where the court could hear important cases related to the 2024 election — and retaining control of both houses of the New Jersey legislature. And the party will soon be back to its full strength in the House of Representatives after Gabe Amo easily won the special election in Rhode Island’s 1st District, 65-35 percent, roughly equivalent to Biden’s 63-34 percent win in 2020.