(The Hill) – Voters across the country will be heading to the polls Tuesday to weigh in on a slew of statewide and local races, which could provide clues about the national mood ahead of 2024.
In Kentucky and Mississippi, voters will weigh whether to give Govs. Andy Beshear (D) and Tate Reeves (R), respectively, a second term, while voters in several states including Virginia and New Jersey will be determining partisan control of their state legislatures.
Meanwhile in Ohio, Democrats and abortion rights advocates are looking to enshrine abortion protections into the state constitution — the first attempt of its kind in the state that’s trended increasingly red over the years.
The races could offer clues about how the electorate is feeling on key issues such as abortion, crime and education, and what the national mood is with both parties.
Here’s a look at five key races we’re watching on Tuesday:
Virginia state Legislature
All 140 seats in the Virginia state Legislature are up for reelection; 100 seats in the House of Delegates and 40 state Senate seats.
In the state Senate, Democrats hold a 22-18 edge, and in the House of Delegates, Republicans hold a 52-48 edge. Analysts see control of both chambers boiling down to a handful of seats, and Democrats have sought to go on offense on the issue of abortion, while Republicans have targeted their opponents over crime.
Many of the closely watched swing seats are in districts that voted for President Biden in 2020 but went for Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R). The governor has notably been heavily involved in the state Legislature races this year, with Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC raising millions of dollars for the 2023 elections, including more than $7 million in the third quarter of fundraising this year alone.
Meanwhile, Biden has issued a fundraising appeal amid the Virginia elections through the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, according to ABC News, and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) has campaigned in the Old Dominion.
Though the Virginia races are being watched as a litmus test over how the parties message on key issues, the stakes are high for Youngkin, who’s been floated as a White House contender and could see his national profile increase if his party is able to flip the state Senate while retaining control in the House of Delegates.
Kentucky governor’s race
Voters in the Bluegrass State will weigh whether to give Beshear another term as governor or pick Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron in a state that former President Trump won by more than 25 points in 2020.
Beshear, whose father also served as governor of Kentucky, narrowly won his first term in 2019 against Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who was seen as unpopular in the state. But dethroning the Kentucky Democrat is no easy feat, even in Trump country, given his strong approval rating in the state.
A Morning Consult poll released this week found Beshear with a 60 percent approval rating, including approval from 89 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents and 43 percent of Republicans. Recent polling, including polling internally and from a super PAC supporting Cameron, shows Beshear ahead.
An Emerson College Polling survey released Friday found Beshear and Cameron both tied at 47 percent, with 4 percent undecided and 2 percent saying someone else. Beshear has leaned into the issue of abortion, and even Republicans have said that the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters that have torn across the state have offered constant coverage of the governor that has benefited him.
Meanwhile, Cameron has sought to tie Beshear to the president and has targeted him over pandemic restrictions and legislation over transgender issues that the governor vetoed, among other issues. The nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report rates Beshear’s seat “lean Democrat.”
Mississippi governor’s race
Gov. Tate Reeves (R) is fighting for a second term as Mississippi’s top executive against Democrat Brandon Presley, a public service commissioner for the northern district of the state and a second cousin to the late rock-and-roll legend Elvis Presley.
A Morning Consult poll found Reeves’s approval rating is underwater in the state, with 46 percent approval of his job as governor. That includes 16 percent of Democrats, 38 percent of independents and 76 percent of Republicans.
Presley has campaigned on expanding Medicaid as the state faces a hospital financial crisis, in addition to issues such as cutting grocery taxes and car tag fees. He’s made courting Black voters a key component of his campaign and has sought to link the state’s welfare scandal to Reeves, though the governor has not been found of any wrongdoing.
Reeves has sought to tie Presley to Biden while touting his endorsement from Trump and has hammered Presley on issues such as gender-affirming care.
A poll from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling firm and released by the Democratic Governors Association showed Reeves at 46 percent and Presley at 45 percent, well within the poll’s margin of error, according to Mississippi Today. A Magnolia Tribune/Mason-Dixon Poll last month had Reeves at 51 percent and Presley at 43 percent.
Reeves will need to outright win at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff Nov. 28. The nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report rates Reeve’s seat “lean Republican.”
Ohio ballot measures on abortion, marijuana
One of the most closely watched races Tuesday will be in Ohio, where voters are considering a proposed constitutional amendment that would establish abortion protections in the Buckeye State. The state became a flashpoint when, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, a 10-year-old rape victim traveled to Indiana to receive an abortion because she was unable to legally obtain the procedure in Ohio.
Abortion is currently legal until 22 weeks in the state, while the Ohio Supreme Court — which has a conservative majority — weighs a six-week abortion ban that briefly went into effect after the Supreme Court’s decision last year before being paused.
The constitutional amendment would protect abortion access until fetal viability, with exceptions for life or health of the patient. Republicans and those opposing the measure call the ballot measure radical and say it goes too far, while Democrats and other proponents of the measure say the possibility of a six-week abortion ban is looming over the race should the ballot measure fail.
The recreational use of marijuana could also be legalized in Ohio, as voters are weighing a separate ballot measure that would make it legal to possess certain quantities of cannabis for those over 21 years old.
Open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Pennsylvanians will be weighing in on an open seat on the state’s high court Tuesday between Democrat Daniel McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio.
They’re vying to fill an open seat following the death of Chief Justice Max Baer last year. Baer’s presence on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave Democrats a 5-2 majority; the vacancy leaves Democrats with a 4-2 edge.
Though the election is considered one of the more under-the-radar races of this year, it’s still seen as a critical election given, Pennsylvania’s status as a swing state and one that has been at the center of several battles over election results and abortion, among other issues.
Should Republicans win the seat, it could put them a step closer toward regaining the majority and could offer some winds to the party’s sails after the GOP lost both the governor’s race and a Senate seat during the November midterms.
Still, polling suggests it’s an uphill climb for either one, given how relatively unknown both of the candidates are. A Franklin & Marshall College poll released in late October found that 71 percent don’t know enough about Carluccio to have an opinion about her, and 76 percent of respondents said the same for McCaffery.