Another year, another election cycle. The 2023 elections occurred last week, with numerous races occurring at the state and local levels across the country. The elections saw a mix of Democratic and Republican victories, creating an overall neutral environment. Though there weren’t any truly shocking and unprecedented outcomes, there were still a number of results that are worthy of discussion. That being said, let’s take a look at the winners and losers of this year’s elections.
Andy Beshear: Despite Kentucky’s status as a deep-red Southern state and the home of the worst Senate delegation in the country with Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, incumbent Democratic governor Andy Beshear won reelection to a second term with a 5% margin of victory, a significant victory from his 0.4% margin in 2019. Beshear was able to defeat his Republican opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, by regaining support in Eastern Kentucky, an ancestrally Democratic region that has turned solidly Republican in recent years, and running up the margins in Louisville and Lexington. His victory in Kentucky as well as his high approval ratings, puts him in contention for a potential presidential bid in 2028. He’s a dark horse candidate right now, but his ability to win in Kentucky and his relative youth makes him an intriguing candidate in what could be a wide-open primary.
Long Island Republicans: Long Island continued its rightward shift this election cycle, as the island bled red in its county-level elections. Ed Romaine became the first Republican in 20 years to be elected as Suffolk County Executive, a race he won by 14%. Republicans also increased their majority in the Suffolk County Legislature to 12-6, giving Romaine a supermajority to accomplish his goals. This was the latest in a long line of victories for Republicans in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as they now hold both county executives, supermajorities in both county legislatures and all four seats in Congress. A region that was competitive for the past two decades is becoming ruby red, though the 2024 presidential race will determine how red Long Island has become.
Abortion Rights: Abortion rights continue to be upheld at the ballot box, with the latest victory coming in Ohio. 56.6% of voters in the former swing state voted in favor of a ballot measure that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. The success of the referendum marks the fifth time that voters have upheld abortion rights since the Dobbs v. Jackson decision in June 2022, and the second time that it was upheld in a red state. The success of this referendum in a red state like Ohio proves how successful Democrats and liberal activists have been in weaponizing abortion against Republicans, who are continuously painted as abortion hardliners.
Brandon Presley: Arguably the biggest letdown of the night for Democrats was Brandon Presley’s loss to incumbent Governor Tate Reeves in Mississippi’s gubernatorial election. While his loss was not entirely surprising, the race was expected to be more competitive than 2019, with Presley running a populist style campaign to appeal to conservative voters. Instead, Reeves won by a margin of 4.4%, only slightly smaller than his 5% margin in 2019. Presley came up short in what may be the last competitive gubernatorial election in Mississippi for the foreseeable future, as the Democratic bench outside of Presley in the state is bone dry. Presley stated after the loss that he’s not done with politics, but it’s unclear what his political future holds.
Glenn Youngkin: Earlier in the year, rumblings emerged about Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin launching a 2024 presidential campaign depending on what happened in November’s elections. Now, in the wake of Democrats winning control of both houses of the Virginia Legislature, Youngkin declared that he won’t be a candidate for president this year. Though Youngkin would have raced an uphill battle in the primary against the mountain that is Donald Trump, this year would have been his best shot at winnings, as he’s at the height of his relevance among Republican voters. His presidential ambitions are certainly not dead, but it’s hard to say how good his chances will be five years from now.