Few Surprises in Tuesday’s State Elections
By Heather Perkins, CSG Membership Coordinator
Voters in two states soundly defeated two measures that garnered national attention.
Mississippi voters rejected an initiative that would have defined a person to “include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof.” The matter was defeated by a 58-42 percent margin.
With an overwhelming 62-38 percent margin, voters in Ohio rejected a controversial collective bargaining referendum. By rejecting the issue, voters elected to repeal Senate Bill 5, which limited the ability of public employees to collectively bargain. It was a major loss for Gov. John Kasich, who said, “It’s clear that the people have spoken.”
Voters in five other states considered propositions, including questions related to gambling in Maine and New Jersey.
Maine voters firmly rejected ballot Questions 2 and 3, which would have expanded the number of licensed gambling locations from two to five. At the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey voters passed Public Question 1, which will amend the state’s constitution to legalize sports betting. The passage of the measure will likely set the stage for the state to file a lawsuit to overturn the current federal ban on legalized sports gambling.
Regularly scheduled legislative elections were held in Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. A small number of vacant legislative seats were up for grabs in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. In Iowa, the vacant seat could have had an impact on the party control of Senate. Democrats held a slight 26-24 advantage and were in danger of losing that advantage if the Republican candidate won the race for Senate District 18. A win by Democrat Liz Mathis in Tuesday’s special election secured the Senate advantage for Democrats.
Two states, Arizona and Michigan, held special legislative recall elections in an effort to remove two legislators from office.
Voters in Arizona successfully removed current Senate President Russell Pearce, a Republican, from office in what is the first-ever recall of a legislator in that state. Pearce, who was the author of the state’s controversial immigration law, was defeated by Republican Jerry Lewis 53-46 percent.
Michigan voters also elected to recall a legislator in their state. Republican Rep. Paul Scott became the first Michigan legislator to be recalled since 1983. His seat will be filled in a special election Feb. 28.
In Mississippi, the Republicans picked up at least two seats to widen their control in the Senate. At press time, Republicans held a 29-22 majority with one race undecided and a few races that could be reviewed. Mississippi Republicans were optimistic about taking over the Democratic-controlled House on Tuesday. Although a number of races are outstanding, Republicans appear to have emerged victorious.
New Jersey’s legislative elections left the party control numbers virtually unchanged. After Tuesday, Democrats kept their 24-16 advantage over Republicans in the Senate. Despite Gov. Chris Christie’s campaigning efforts on behalf of Republican candidates, the Democrats picked up one seat in the General Assembly and now hold a 48-32 lead.
Before Tuesday’s election, Republicans were expected to have a good shot at taking the Virginia Senate from the Democrats, who only held a four-seat advantage. If the current election results stand, the Republicans will have picked up two seats, leaving the Senate in a 20-20 tie. House Republicans picked up an additional six seats to bring their advantage to 66-32-1, with one race still undecided. The number of seats held by Republicans sets a record for the House. The previous record number of Republicans was 64.
Executive branch elections were held in Kentucky and Mississippi, neither of which switched party control.
Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear handily won re-election against state Senate President David L. Williams. The Democrats also held onto the positions of secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and auditor, while the Republicans maintained the commissioner of agriculture post.
In Mississippi, current Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant won the governorship over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree. Republicans won the remainder of the executive branch positions with the exception of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, who won re-election.