Let’s tally up all the turnovers in statewide and legislative races last night. Democratic pick-ups are in blue; Republican pick-ups in red. Italics denote a close race that appears to be going to a recount.
Kentucky: Governor/Lt. Governor (59%)
Maine: ME-HD93 (53.8%)
New House margin: 90D–59R–2I
Mississippi: Secretary of State (59%; open), Insurance Commissioner (57%; open), MS-SD02 (61%), MS-SD04 (57%), MS-SD18 (52%), MS-SD29 (57%), MS-SD43 (52%), MS-HD01 (54%), MS-HD15 (58%), MS-HD43 (47%), MS-HD71 (53%), MS-HD99 (52%), MS-HD111 (50%)
New Senate margin: 28D–24R (Chamber flip)
New House margin: 75D–47R
New Jersey: NJ-SD01 (56%), NJ-SD02 (57%), NJ-SD12 (54%), NJ-AD02, NJ-AD08, NJ-AD12, NJ-AD14.
New Senate margin: 23D–17R.
New Assembly margin: 48D–32R.
1:45AM: One more update, and then I’m done. (I swear.) Mark Nikolas over at the Bluegrass Report hears some serious buzz that Kentucky state Auditor Crit Luallen is gearing up to take on Sen. Mitch McConnell next year. 1:27AM: Alright, one final update: Democrat David Poisson just won re-election to the Virginia House of Delegates by a 53%-47% margin. Republican hopes of a pick-up here went unrealized. 1:16AM: Time for me to sign off for the night. To sum up the situation, Democrats made some historic victories in Kentucky, capturing the Governor’s mansion with 59% of the vote and winning all statewide offices other than Secretary of State and Agriculture Commissioner by wide margins. Democrats won control of the Virginia state Senate and made some gains in the House of Delegates. In New Jersey, the parties more or less broke even, but Democrats made some exciting gains in the district of US Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R), where two potential ’08 foes won election to the state Senate (Jeff Van Drew and Jim Whelan). In Mississippi, Democrats got whipped in the statewide races but held on to the Attorney General’s office by 20 points and recaptured the state Senate. And in Ohio, it looks like Bob Latta is squeaking ahead of Club For Growth nutcase Steve Buehrer in the GOP special primary to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmor, but just barely.
Feel free to keep the momentum going in the comments.
1:11AM: Well, what do you know. Despite taking an early lead, Republican Bob Latta only leads Club For Growth nutcase Steve Buehrer by a 43%-41% margin in the OH-05 special primary, with 86% of precincts reporting. 1:08AM: Darn. Democrat Janet Oleszek fell short by a mere 91 votes in her bid to defeat Republican incumbent Ken Cuccinelli in VA-SD37. However, Democrats still picked up the chamber by a 21-19 margin. And as several users have pointed out in the comments, it looks like Mississippi Democrats have re-captured their state Senate, as well! 1:00AM: The votes have just began to be counted, but incumbent Delegate David Poisson (D) is losing by a 44%-56% margin with 1 of 23 precincts reporting. HD32 could be the one loss for Virginia Dems this year. 12:31AM: Here’s one Barbour that Democrats can beat — Democrat Lynn Posey is leading Charles Barbour (Haley’s nephew) by a 51%-46% margin for Public Service Commissioner (Central District) in Mississippi with 85% reporting. 12:24AM: This one looks like it could be another open seat pick-up for Virginia Dems: VA-HD34, where Margaret Vanderhye (D) leads by 450 votes with 18 of 19 precincts reporting. 12:18AM: Tally up another Democratic pick-up in Virginia: Paul Nichols (D) beat Faisal Gill (R) by a 52%-48% margin in VA-HD51. 12:08AM: In MS-SD43, Democrat Tommy Dickerson knocked off the Republican incumbent by a 52%-48% margin. 12:06AM: In MS-SD29, Democrat David Blount is leading the incumbent Republican by 53%-47% with 63% of precincts reporting. 12:02AM: Looks like Democrats picked up MS-SD02, with Democrat Bill Stone leading Republican incumbent Ralph Doxey by 58%-42% with 87% in, but they lost MS-SD18, with Democratic incumbent Gloria Williamson losing by a 48%-52% margin. 11:58PM: Democrats picked up at least one seat in the Mississippi state House: HD71. I still have to go through the results to see if any other seats flipped control. 11:49PM: Blue Jersey says that NJ Republicans gained at least two Assembly seats tonight. On the bright side, NJ Democrats enjoyed a pretty wide margin of control in the state Assembly (48-30) before tonight. 11:39PM: Not Larry Sabato has the current Virginia Senate and House of Delegates breakdown. 21D-18R and 1 undecided race in the Senate; 52R-43D-2I-3 undecided races in the House. Before tonight, it was 23R-17D in the Senate, and 56R-41D-3I in the House.
11:35PM: Time for a new thread. Let’s continue this adventure over here.
11:28PM: With 38 of 39 precincts reporting, Oleszek is down by 69 votes.
11:25PM: Oleszek is now down by 140 votes with 92% in. Barker (D) still leads by 1000 votes with 85%, so Democrats will most likely win the state Senate tonight no matter what happens with Oleszek’s race.
11:14PM: Oleszek (D) is up by 54 votes in VA-SD37 with 84.6% in!
11:09PM: Oleszek (D) is down by FOUR votes in VA-SD37 with 82% in. George Barker (D) is up by 1100 votes in VA-SD39 (75% in). With a Barker win, Democrats will control the Virginia state Senate.
11:07PM: Blue Indiana has Indiana’s municipal elections results. Bart Peterson, the Democratic mayor of Indianapolis (who declined to run against Gov. Mitch Daniels next year), lost his job tonight.
10:53PM: It’s tight, but thinks are looking up for George Barker (D) in VA-SD39. He now leads by under 700 votes (51.36%-48.53%) with 64% in. Oleszek (D) is closing in on Cuccinelli (R-inc), now only 127 behind with 74% in. Hang on. We need one of these seats to win the Virginia state Senate.
10:48PM: Latta is kicking ass in OH-05. He leads Club For Growth stooge Steve Buehrer by 62.94% to 24.11% with 25% in.
10:32PM: It’s going down to the wire in Virginia, with Democrat George Barker leading by 400 votes (50.93%-48.95%) in SD39 with 56% in, and Janet Oleszek (D) trailing by under 270 votes (49.36%-50.42%) with 64% in.
10:30PM: It looks like state Sen. Ellen Karcher (D) has lost to Republican Jennifer Beck in New Jersey. With Karcher’s loss, that still makes it a net gain of 1 seat for the NJ Senate Democrats so far, by my count.
10:27PM: Some results are starting to trickle into the OH-05 Republican special primary. Latta is leading Buehrer by 45%-39.5% with 7.44% of precincts reporting.
9:48PM: John Miller has picked up VA-SD01 for the Democrats. It looks like Ralph Northam has done the same for VA-SD06, and Chap Petersen will win VA-SD34. One more pickup needed.
9:42PM: With 16% of precincts reporting, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is leading John Eaves (D) by 54%-46%. The Clarion-Ledger is calling this race for Barbour.
9:30PM: As previously stated, the Democrats need to pick up four seats in order to win the Virginia Senate. Let’s see how they’re doing so far:
SD01: Miller (D) leads Stall (R) by 51.30%-48.30% with 90% in.
SD06: Northam (D) leads Rerras (R-inc) by 53.98%-45.96% with 88% in.
SD22: Breiner (D) is lagging behind Smith (R) by 49.03%-50.85% with 98.6% in. (This is a Republican open seat.)
SD27: Schultz (D) is behind by 45.33%-50.15% with 73% in. (Republican open seat)
SD28: Pollard (D) leads Stuart (R) by 50.48%-49.38% with 77% in. (R open seat)
SD34: Petersen (D) is eviscerating Devolites-Davis (R-inc) by 58.70%-41.12% with 44% in.
SD37: Oleszek (D) leads Cuccinelli (R-inc) 51.68%-47.98% with 10% in.
SD29: Barker (D) leads O’Brien (R-inc) 50.60%-49.22% with 22% in.
9:23PM: With 6% of precincts reporting, Gov. Haley Barbour is leading John Eaves (D) by 61%-39%.
9:15PM: Time for a fresh new thread. In New Jersey, Jeff Van Drew (D) is leading state Sen. Nick Asselta (R-inc) by 56%-44% with 109 of 204 precincts reporting.
9:19PM: This thread is getting too crowded, so we’re continuing all our race coverage over in this one. Stay with us.
8:59PM: In the state of Mississippi, there is now a grand total of 152 votes counted. Eaves (D) is up by 84% to 16% for Barbour (R-inc). Don’t rush them. (Results here.)
8:50PM: In New Jersey, Jeff Van Drew (D) is leading by 55%-45% against Republican incumbent state Sen. Nick Asselta with 18/204 precincts reporting. Sweet deal. If Van Drew pulls this off, the DCCC will be knocking on his door to take on Rep. Lobiondo in 2008.
8:45PM: We need four pick-ups to win the Virginia Senate. So far, we’re up by 50.86%-48.70% in SD01 with 81% in; up by 52.51%-47.46% in SD06 with 53% in; leading huge (60%-40%) in SD34 against the odious Devolites-Davis with 21% in; and leading by 51.89%-47.51% in SD37 with 5% in. Democrats are trailing closely in a number of other Senate races.
8:29PM: With Kentucky pretty much a done deal, here are the Virginia Senate races to watch, courtesy of MyDD (* denotes incumbent):
District 1: John C. Miller (D), Patricia B. “Tricia” Stall (R) District 6: Ralph S. Northam (D), D. Nick Rerras* (R) District 27: Donald C. Marro (I), Karen Schultz (D), Jill Holtzman Vogel (R) District 29: Charles J. Colgan* (D), Robert Fitzsimmonds (R) District 28: Albert Pollard (D), Richard Stuart (R) District 33: Mark R. Herring* (D), Patricia B. Phillips (R) District 34: Jeannemarie Devolites Davis* (R), J.C. “Chap” Petersen (D) District 37: Ken, II Cuccinelli* (R), Janet S. Oleszek (D) District 39: George L. Barker (D), J.K. “Jay” O’Brien, Jr.* (R)
8:20PM: DitchMitchKY has got an interesting map of Kentucky returns. 60.4% Beshear with 64% of precincts reporting.
8:12PM: Beshear’s at 60.7% with 56.1% of precincts in.
8:08PM: Local TV is calling the Governor’s race for Democrat Steve Beshear and the SoS office for incumbent Republican Trey Grayson.
8:04PM: With 49.8% of precincts reporting, Beshear is back at 60.2%.
7:59PM: Republican Incumbent Nick Rerras in Norfolk is losing to Democrat Ralph S. Northam by 53.50%-46.46% with 22% reporting in VA-SD06.
7:58PM: It’s tight, but so far, so good in VA-SD01. Democrat John Miller leads Republican Tricia Stall by 50.77%-48.95% with 38.09% of precincts reporting. This is a Republican-held open seat.
7:51PM: 45.8% of precincts are reporting in Kentucky, and Beshear is leading by 59.8%-40.2%. I hope our guy can get back above 60%, but a blowout is still a blowout.
7:43PM: Here’s one Virginia race that I’ll be watching closely: SD34, where the odious Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (the wife of Congressman Tom Davis) is facing off with Chap Petersen (D). With 2 of 47 precincts reporting, Chap is leading by a 63%-37% margin. Not exactly a mandate yet, but let’s hope he can ride to victory. Results here.
7:35PM: It looks like Trey Grayson will be the one bright spot for the KY GOP, as he’s clinging to an 11 point lead with 35% of precincts reporting — well ahead of Fletcher.
Forgy is on KET right now, blaming Republicans for Fletcher’s situation, complaining that $5 million was spent in the primary against the governor. Called the party “fractured” and that Fletcher couldn’t get back the element that Mitch McConnell and Steve Pence took out. Says it’s up to the “Louisville faction” to “create the unity” and putting party back together. When asked if Forgy is going to challenge McConnell he refused to say but said he was “very angry” and so were others at the GOP Election Night event.
7:20PM: With 27.3% of precincts reporting, Beshear continues to cruise by a 62.3%-37.7% margin.
7:12PM: With 20% of precincts reporting, Beshear is leading Fletcher by 63.9% to 36.1%.
7:03PM: Some news from the OH-05 special primary — I just received word that Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is keeping the polls open in Putnam County until 9pm, so the results will be a bit delayed in this race.
6:58PM: To give you a sense of how badly Fletcher is doing, check out the results in Owsley County. In 2003, Fletcher crushed Ben Chandler (D) by a 33% margin in the county. Beshear won the county by 5 votes tonight.
6:53PM EST: Here we go. With 12.7% precincts reporting, Steve Beshear is crushing Ernie Fletcher by 64.2%-35.8% in the Kentucky Governor’s race. Trey Grayson (R), is holding on to the Secretary of State office against his unknown Democratic opponent by a 54.2%-45.8% margin. Results are starting to trickle in from Kentucky, with Beshear/Mongiardo up by a 64-36 margin in the early reports.
I’m going to go grab a quick bite to eat, but we’ll be back soon to liveblog tonight’s local elections.
Now’s your last chance to post predictions in the comments!
Special thanks to The Green Papers, which was the source for several of the poll closing times. One note: the New Jersey state House races are listed slightly oddly, as each numerical district actually has two seats up for grabs.
If you have any races happening in your area that aren’t on this list, let us know in the comments. And if you’d like to give any predictions for any of today’s contests, now is the time to share them. How many counties will Ernie Fletcher win in Kentucky? Will Bob Latta prevail in Ohio? How far will Virginia Democrats go?
Twenty-First Century Democrats has had teams of canvassers in several districts across Virginia. We have knocked on 2,254 doors and talked to hundreds of voters about our candidates and their progressive goals for the state. In addition, we made a direct contribution to the Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus on behalf of our endorsed candidates: Albert Pollard (VA-28) and Janet Oleszek (VA-37). But we are not finished yet! Election Day in Virginia is coming up on November 6th, and we’re redoubling our efforts to help Turn Virginia from RED to BLUE!
The upcoming State Senate races in Virginia are vitally important. Not only are they winnable, but they present a real opportunity to change the map in Virginia and beyond. These are the last State Senate races before the 2010 census and with a Democratic majority in the State Senate we will have a voice in the redistricting process. Success in Virginia this year will set the stage for bigger victories in congressional races in the future – even the Presidential race in 2008. It may seem like a long way off, but winning today will help us build a lasting progressive majority tomorrow.
If you live in the Washington DC metropolitan area and would like to join us as we fight for Democrats in Virginia, please contact us at email@example.com.
(From the diaries. Share your thoughts on Mississippi’s 2007 elections here. – promoted by James L.)
Louisiana has had their jungle primary and Democrats held on to the both chambers of the state legislature, the Lieutenant Governorship, and are heading into run offs for Agriculture Commissioner and Attorney General. Before these runoffs are held, Kentucky and Mississippi will have similar statewide elections on November 6. Additionally, New Jersey and Virginia will be electing large portions of their state legislatures. Going into these elections, I’d like us to have an opportunity to focus on these somewhat overlooked 2007 elections. Before going forward, I will admit that I am not an expert on any of these states and these threads are mostly here for feedback from the forum users. Today, I’ll focus on Mississippi.
Mississippi will be voting for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner, and Insurance Commissioner. Additionally the state legislature is up. Here’s a brief on each office.
Haley Barbour, former tobacco lobbyist, is seeking re-election as the Republican nominee. Barbour beat out incumbent Democrat, Ronnie Musgrove in 2003. Since then he has been received positively by the state, mostly due to what was seen as strong reaction to Hurricane Katrina (no doubt reinforced by Louisiana’s poor reaction). The Democrats have nominated John Arthur Eaves Jr. who, from what I have heard, has run hard on religion and performed well in debates while Barbour has appeared listless. Expect Barbour to win, but his margin of victory to be closer than expected.
Due to term limits, Republican Amy Tuck will not be seeking re-election. The Republicans have nominated 3 term State Auditor Phil Bryant. The Democrat is State Rep. Jaime Franks. Both candidates look to be highly engaged in this race. I have no idea who is favored, but I’d guess Bryant because he has been elected statewide before.
Secretary of State
Incumbent Democrat Eric Clark is retiring. Democrats have nominated Former State Senator Rob Smith. The Republicans have put forward Redstate favorite Delbert Hosemann who will keep those “dirty illegals” from voting. Delbert’s campaign looks much more engaged compared to Smith whose campaign looks nonexistent. Expect the Republicans to gain this one.
Incumbent Democrat Jim Hood is seeking re-election. The Republican candidate is Attorney Al Hopkins. Both sides appear engaged and Hopkins looks like he’s bringing abortion into the election. Both sides also look like they are getting REAL dirty as well. This one may be close, but I’d guess a Hood re-election is in store.
Phi Bryant is the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor, so it is an open seat race. Cousin to Congressman Chip, State Sen. Stacey Pickering is the Republican nominee. The Democrats have nominated Forrest County Adminstrator Mike Sumrall. This one looks like it has gotten away from us and will stay with the Republicans.
Republican Tate Reeves is seeking re-election and the Democrats have frequent candidate Shawn O’Hara. This one is staying theirs.
Agriculture and Commerce
Republican Lester Spell is seeking re-election. Former Democratic State Chair Rickey Cole is our guy. This is the only race where the Democrat seems more engaged than the Republican. If we upset any race this is it, but the Republican is still favored. A candidate from the Constitution Party may make the difference for us.
DFA endorsed and ex-state fiscal officer Gary Anderson defeated incumbent Democrat George Dale in the primary, so this can be considered an open seat race. The Republicans have nominated Mike Chaney. Anderson looks a bit more engaged, but, and I REALLY hate to say this, expect race may be a factor and we may lose it on that alone, issues be damned! I’d say this leans Republican, but we still have chance.
A pair of Democrats defected earlier this year and gave control of the legislature to the Republicans. The current Composition is 27 Republicans-25 Democrats. I expect the Republicans may have some coattails from many of their top of the ballot races and gain a tad to expand their majorities.
The DLCC website states the Mississippi State House has a 74-48 Democratic majority. Expect our majroity to shrink due to coattails, but Democrats to stay in command.
Republicans will keep the statewide seats they already have, however the race for Governor and Lieutenant Governor may be closer than we could have previously hoped for. The Agriculture Commissioner may flip Democratic, however it is unlikely Democrats can also expect to lose the Secretary of State. Our bright side appears that, while it will be close, we should hold onto the Attorney General, barely, and the State House. While Insurance Commissioner will probably flip Republican, we do have fighting chance of holding it.
Please, comment, and tell me your thoughts on Mississippi. I’ll have more of these up before Nov 6 on New Jersey, Virginia, and Kentucky.
On a complete side note, I am looking forward to Friday when I can get Mac OS X.5 Leopard so I can get bloody spell check build into Safari, so until then, please forgive the spelling typos where they are.
2:44PM Sun: DCal looks at the numbers and finds that the Dems have held the state House, too. 12:35AM (final update): TXObserver brings us some key state House results. Looks like the Republicans picked up a few seats and forced run-offs in other Dem-held districts. Democrats had a 17-seat edge in the state House going into the election. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see what the complete carnage is. 11:59PM: The lack of a Democratic candidate with a strong appeal in Orleans Parish really helped lift Jindal over the 50% mark. Check this out: while Mitch Landrieu cleaned up with 90% of the vote here, Democrats Boasso and Campbell combined for a pathetic 28% of the parish’s vote, with 382 of 442 precincts reporting. That’s way behind Republican-turned-Indie John Georges’ total of 38%, and even behind Jindal’s 33%. Talk about a wipeout. 11:51PM: So here’s why I think that Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (R) didn’t deserve to win re-election tonight: his website sucks. 11:36PM: TXObserver brings us some state Senate races to watch in the comments. It looks like Mitch Landrieu will win comfortably–he’s holding his closest challenger to a 56-32 margin with 82% of the vote in. 11:30PM: KTBS has Jindal at 47% with 3,413 precincts reporting, but he’s expected to rack up some big points in his home turf in the NOLA suburbs (he scored 88% of the vote in his re-election bid there last year against two hapless Democrats). (Update: there seems to be some bad math here, anyway.) 11:23PM: WWLTV’s calling the race for Jindal. 11:14PM: With 3,032 of 3,967 precincts reporting, Jindal is sitting tight with 53%. 11:08PM: Highlights from some of the other statewide races — Mitch Landrieu has 54% of the vote in bid for re-election as Lt. Governor with 2372 precincts reporting. Democrat James Caldwell and incumbent Attorney General Charles Foti (D) are both slightly edging Republican challenger Royal Alexander. Looks like a Caldwell-Foti run-off could be in the cards. 10:40PM: 2.641 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 53%, Boasso 18% 10:33PM: 2,636 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 56%, Boasso 18%, Georges 14%, Campbell 10% (according to WWLTV). 10:22PM: 1,388 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 52%; Boasso, 18%. Landrieu holding at 51%. 10:20PM: 1096 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 53%, Boasso 18% 10:14PM: From WWLTV New Orleans: “Election analyst Greg Rigamer says things are looking very good for Jindal to get over 50% and win outright.” 10:03PM: 787 of 3,967 precincts reporting: 52% Jindal, 19% Boasso. 9:56PM: 470 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 53%, Boasso 19%. Landrieu at 51%. 9:47PM: 298 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 54%, Boasso 18%. Landrieu at 50%. 9:27PM: 11 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 60%, Boasso & Campbell at 14% each. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu at 46% in the absentee ballot count so far. 9:21PM: What a surprise: some New Orleans voters get screwed at the polls. 9:06PM: 1 of 3,967 precincts reporting: Jindal 63%, Boasso 15%.
It’s election day in Louisiana, as voters go to the polls to choose between Bobby Jindal (R), Walter Boasso (D), Foster Campbell (D), John Georges (I), and a slew of also-rans in the race to replace outgoing Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Polls close at 8pm Central/9pm Eastern. Turnout has been described as “brisk” and “steady” in the reports that I’ve seen. We’ll update this thread as results come in.
How well will Jindal do tonight? Will he avoid the run-off? Who will place second? I don’t usually like to stick my neck out, but here’s my bet, for what it’s worth: Jinal 55%; no run-off.
With all the tragedy as of late in our nation’s coalmines and with Kentucky’s Senator Mitch McConnell and his wife Secretary of Labor Elaine Chaoat the center of a web of money-grubbing and influence-mongering in Washington that has left these many coalmines the deathtraps that they are for the sake of the almighty campaign contribution and a few ticks on the profit margin, I think the analogy of Kentucky’s gubernatorial election this year being the GOP’s canary in a coalmine is a fitting one.
Watch this latest video from Jim Pence of DitchMitchKY and the HillbillyReport. What’s going on in the video with security personnel at the Kentucky State Fair trying to end an anti-war protest (until they’re set straight by the State Police) is fascinating enough, but what’s even more fascinating is what’s going on in the background: all those cars honking in support of the protest.
Recall that thirteen years ago in 1994, on the cusp of the so-called Republican Revolution, Kentucky served the Democrats in a similar capacity. Then the death in March of that year of Democratic Congressman William H. Natcher (KY-02)-who had represented the district since 1953 and who continues to hold the all-time record for consecutive votes in Congress at 18,401-set up a special election for the seat.
I was only 17 years old at the time, but I had been politically aware since the 1988 presidential campaign, when a longtime Democratic activist in my church started hauling me to rallies, the biggest of those being Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen‘s appearance at the Big Tobacco warehouse in Owensboro, today the largest city in the Second District. I don’t remember anything about the substance of what was said there, but I remember the energy, the pomp, and the confidence among the Democrats gathered.
Yet, a mere six years later the entire region of the Second District was seething against the political establishment and its status quo, its distance, and indifference. That establishment was Democratic.
Perhaps that environment is best encapsulated in a scene that has now been immortalized in Michael Moore‘s latest film SiCKO. On August 29, 1994, at a rally in Owensboro, “Tobacco Rights Activists” burned an effigy of then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in protest of President Bill Clinton‘s health care plan. With a bluegrass band playing the back ground, Stan Arachikavitz, president of the Kentucky Association of Tobacco Supporters, chanted “burn, baby, burn,” as the effigy was doused in gasoline and two women set it ablaze. When asked for comment by a reporter, Arachikavitz replied, “Hillary didn’t last as long as my Marlboro.” The nation was outraged, but there was a quiet satisfaction among many across western Kentucky.
At that rally was Ron Lewis, the Second District’s newly elected Republican congressman. In what had been a shock to Kentucky’s political establishment-if no-one else-Lewis had defeated longtime Kentucky State Senator Joe Prather in the May special election to succeed Natcher. Lewis had won with 55 percent of the vote on a turnout of less than 20 percent. A fundamentalist Christian, Baptist minister, and religious bookstore owner, Lewis had been recruited to the race by Senator Mitch McConnell, who had been narrowly elected to his own seat ten years earlier in 1984 on the coattails of Ronald Reagan.
You may recalled that Lewis’s campaign commercials in the special election had famously morphed Prather’s head into that of Bill Clinton, who was then near the height of his unpopularity. The national GOP considered the technique a success and went on to use it widely in the general election that year. Meanwhile, rumors had circulated in the district that Joe Prather was in Washington to look for a house. Perhaps it was just a rumor spread by the McConnell machine, but it might as well have been true, such was the arrogance and sense of entitlement of Kentucky Democrats of the day.
McConnell went on to recruit Republican Ed Whitfield-who had just as much personal dynamism as Lewis-to run in the First Congressional District in the fall. Both Lewis and Whitfield won; Whitfield became the first Republican ever elected to the First District.
My point with all this is that the political establishment in Kentucky at that time-conservative Southern Democrats-was a bloated and opaque bubble. Its bloated-ness allowed the good old boys to make room for more of their own inside and its opaqueness kept their less-than-altruistic dealings hidden from the masses, but those very same qualities kept the good old boys from witnessing the trouble that was brewing for them on the outside–in the real world.
Mitch McConnell burst their bubble.
Unfortunately, the Kentucky Republican Party that Mitch McConnell replaced the good old boy Democrats with was a political machine that set about inflaming the ugliest elements of Kentucky’s own culture: its racism, its bigotry, its sexism, its churlishness, its phobias, and its anti-intellectualism.
The thing to remember about Mitch McConnell (and this is something that his fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate are discovering now about him in his capacity as Minority Leader) is that McConnell always has McConnell’s interests first. He’s not at all concerned about the long-term consequences of his tactics and actions on the people of Kentucky. What he’s counting on is that Kentuckians and the state’s chattering class will never fully digest the disaster that was McConnell’s Senate career so long as there’s plenty of pork named after him spread around the state.
Mitch McConnell took Kentucky, a state already at the bottom of the cultural and economic barrel of the nation, and he exacerbated the very social qualities of the place that had kept true progress (making gains on its peers, rather than playing catch up) out of reach for so long. McConnell’s strategy was to spear his political legacy with a wicked trident of slash-and-burn partisan politics, redneck populism, and moneyed corporate interests.
McConnell’s Kentucky GOP is today the political establishment in the state, and you can see what sort of establishment it is by the criminal behavior and incompetence of the administration of Governor Ernie Fletcher (R).
As I write, that Republican establishment is bunkering itself deep beneath the political reality on the ground in Kentucky. While Ernie Fletcher and his minions ratchet up their language of fear on expanded gaming and hate against sexual minorities and while Mitch McConnell continues to cultivate the corrupt environment of campaign finance in Washington that he fathered and stands steadfast behind the reckless presidency of George W. Bush, neither Fletcher or McConnell is making headway among Kentuckians.
Both are indeed consolidating support among their conservative base, but that base is shrinking. Kentuckians are waking up to the reality of what Fletcher, McConnell, and conservatives truly are.
The people of Kentucky are once again seething against their political establishment, but this time there is an energized and organized progressive Democratic party waiting in the wings. Whereas last time when Kentuckians cleaned political house they replaced bad with worse, this time the alternative to entrenched Republican corruption is a Democratic party that offers the hope of change and a better future for us all.
(First off, I'd like to thank DavidNYC for asking me to join the Swing State Project team. While the South and its unique brand of politics is my area of greatest familiarity, I'll try not to focus too much on races from below the Mason-Dixon. In any case, I'm looking forward to writing here at SSP and contributing to the electoral analysis and discussion that the site's known for.)
Over the past few months, conventional wisdom has been that Republican “Bobby” Jindal is an inevitability in his campaign for governor of Louisiana. While that opinion's been reinforced by a few polls, there's also plenty of evidence and polling with which to argue the contrary.
Being the front-runner certainly carries its benefits for Jindal, but it also means that he'll be the guy with a big bullseye on his back throughout the campaign. Over the next two months, Jindal's opponents will unload their campaign warchests in a concentrated effort to dampen his support and lower his numbers.
Independently wealthy Democratic State Senator Walter Boasso has been airing ads for over a month with some success. In his ads, Boasso slams Jindal's paper-thin record and highlights Jindal's close ties with the Bush administration. But Jindal is also facing trouble from his right, as wealthy GOP businessman John Georges has $7 million COH with which he plans to argue he is the “true conservative” in the race. In addition, Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has over $1 million in his account. To top it all off, the Louisiana Democratic Party has commenced a major ad buy tarring Jindal.
And of course, the scandal involving Sen. David Vitter's patronage of prostitutes has tarnished the image of the state GOP. To make matters worse for Jindal, he's taking flak from both sides on this issue. Many are upset with Jindal for not calling for Vitter's resignation, while conservatives like Georges are accusing Jindal of “abandoning” Vitter.
Considering that this race is just now heating up although Jindal's been considered an heir-apparent by the media for months, Democrats should take heart from a recent poll commissioned by Georges. In the poll conducted in late July, only 38% of Louisianans said they're planning to vote for Jindal. And the way I see it, he's got nowhere to go but down from there.
This race is far from over. For local updates, keep an eye on the Daily Kingfish.