Democrats win back gov­er­nor­ships, state leg­is­la­tures

The Week (US) - - News 5 -

What hap­pened

Democrats bat­tled their way back to power in state capi­tols across the U.S. this week, seiz­ing seven gov­er­nor­ships and six leg­isla­tive cham­bers and halt­ing years of Repub­li­can state-level gains. In Kansas, Demo­cratic state law­maker Laura Kelly hand­ily de­feated Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump ally known for his fiery warn­ings about elec­tion fraud. “What hap­pened in Kansas,” Kelly said in a vic­tory speech, “was a wave of com­mon sense.” Wis­con­sin vot­ers de­nied a third term to GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who won na­tional at­ten­tion by rolling back union rights, nar­rowly elect­ing Demo­crat Tony Evers. Democrats also flipped gov­er­nor’s of­fices in Illi­nois, Maine, Michi­gan, Ne­vada, and New Mex­ico. But Repub­li­cans held on to prize gov­er­nor­ships in Ohio and Flor­ida, where for­mer U.S. Rep. Ron DeSan­tis beat the pre­sumed fron­trun­ner, Tal­la­has­see Mayor An­drew Gil­lum, by less than 1 per­cent­age point. In Ge­or­gia, the race be­tween Demo­cratic can­di­date Stacey Abrams and Repub­li­can Brian Kemp was too close to call as The Week went to press.

Mean­while, Democrats ate into the GOP’s state leg­isla­tive dom­i­nance, flip­ping more than 350 seats from red to blue na­tion­wide and se­cur­ing new tri­fec­tas—sin­gle-party con­trol of the gov­er­nor­ship, state Se­nate, and state House—in six states, in­clud­ing Col­orado, Illi­nois, New Mex­ico, and New York. Repub­li­cans now have full con­trol of the po­lit­i­cal branches in 22 states, and Democrats in 14.

What the colum­nists said

At last, Democrats have rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of state-level races, said Emma Green in TheAt­ The party ne­glected those con­tests un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, and by 2016 the GOP con­trolled some two-thirds of state cham­bers. “In some states, the re­sult was a deep-red leg­is­la­ture gov­ern­ing a pur­ple or blue ma­jor­ity.” Re­al­iz­ing their mis­take, Demo­cratic groups have poured re­sources into state-level ef­forts over the past two years. Now the party will be able to shape lo­cal leg­is­la­tion on taxes, ed­u­ca­tion, and health care that di­rectly af­fects mil­lions of Amer­i­cans’ ev­ery­day lives.

While other states be­came bluer, Flor­ida re­mained res­o­lutely red, said Scott Maxwell in Or­lan­doSen­ DeSan­tis was helped by the fact that the Democrats’ gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date was “a mayor whose city is in the midst of an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” But what re­ally gave DeSan­tis the edge was Flor­ida’s 20 straight years of low-tax, min­i­mal-reg­u­la­tion Repub­li­can rule. All he had to do was ask Florid­i­ans if they were happy with their lives. “If so, I’m your guy—the one who will con­tinue the GOP poli­cies you’ve come to ex­pect and en­joy.”

The rip­ples of this elec­tion will be felt for decades to come, said Dy­lan Scott in Many new Demo­cratic gov­er­nors and leg­is­la­tors will still be in of­fice in 2020, when state-level law­mak­ers will start to over­see the post-cen­sus re­draw­ing of con­gres­sional dis­tricts. Demo­cratic can­di­dates faced a con­sid­er­able dis­ad­van­tage this elec­tion be­cause of ger­ry­man­der­ing, “a byprod­uct of the statelevel losses they en­dured in 2010 be­fore the last round of re­dis­trict­ing.” But the party’s 2018 wins should pro­vide “an open­ing to flip the script—or at least give them a seat at the ta­ble this time.”

Kelly: ‘A wave of com­mon sense’

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