A peek at the polls

Devyn Shea (TheLorian)

Millions upon millions of voters went to the polls this year. There was a fair voter turnout across the country for elections that weren’t the midterms or president. What were they all for? 

Before this fall, Georgia went to the polls in January to vote for two US Senate seats that would decide who controlled the senate. Both Democratic candidates won with roughly 51 percent of the vote each. Texas held a special congressional race that pitted to pro-trump republicans against each-other in a runoff election in a fairly republican district. Trump had endorsed Susan Wright, whose husband was the representative of the district (sixth congressional) until he passed away which opened up the seat. State representative Jake Ellzey, who ran for the seat in 2018 and was defeated by Susan Wright’s now deceased husband Ron, won the election. In Ohio’s eleventh congressional district, a Democratic Party “proxy war” had happened. It was a continuation of the ongoing feud between the more moderate wing of the party and the more progressive. Bernie Sanders affiliated groups and individuals backed his former campaign surrogate, the former Ohio state senator Nina Turner. Moderate democrats backed Cuyahoga county council woman Shontel Brown; who ended up wining the primary election against Turner.

California also went to the polls, where the recall against Gavin Newsom was voted against with 61.88 percent voting no; which is nearly identical to what he got when he ran for governor in 2018 (61.95 percent). Newsom had won in part due to large democratic enthusiasm after conservative radio host Larry Elder, whom many saw as a controversial figure, jumped into the race in the summer. The enthusiasm among Democrats largely stemmed from opposition to Elder’s conservative platform, which had policies that weren’t popular in the liberal California.

Recently, there were two major gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. These races almost entirely reversed the status quo of the past decade. In New Jersey, the last time a Republican was elected statewide was 2013 when Chris Christie ran for reelection as governor. In 2017, former President Obama official Phil Murphy was elected governor as a Democrat in a landslide. This year, Phil Murphy, whose approval rating has been both above and below 50 percent, won reelection for a second term with a little over 50 percent of the vote, which makes him the first Democratic governor to win reelection in New Jersey since 1977. Meanwhile, the president of the State Senate, a Democrat, surprisingly lost his seat in the legislature to a truck driver who spent less than $10,000 on his campaign. 

America’s eyes were on Virginia this year as well. Virginia has a one consecutive term limit, so former Governor Terry McAuliffe was running to take back the governor’s mansion. McAuliffe easily won the Democratic primary against three other candidates. McAuliffe was running against multi-millionaire businessman Glenn Younkin, who had won a crowded Republican convention earlier this year. Younkin tried to distance himself from former President Trump while not alienating Trump voters. Younkin tried to highlight local issues such as education, taxes, and jobs. McAuliffe’s mistake was forcing the narrative that Trump was a threat to the race and the state, as many Democrats successfully did in California just months before. The only problem was that Trump was staying fairly quiet and out of the race for the most part. On top of that, voters didn’t seem to care about Trump even though, according to exit polls done by The Washington Post, he had only a 40 percent approval rating.

According to the same exit polls, roughly 70 percent of voters said either taxes, education, or the economy/jobs were the most important issues. Younkin was not only talking about the issues voters cared about, but he got the backing of rural voters and suburban voters that had just voted for Joe Biden last year (54 percent of voters in Virginia in 2020 voted for Biden compared to 44 percent for Trump). Younkin was able to portray himself as a change candidate, while McAuliffe was more of the status quo. Biden’s approval at 46 percent, Democrats in Congress not passing the infrastructure bill, and McAuliffe’s negative campaign all contributed to a loss for Democrats in a race they should have won. Younkin received 50.7 percent to McAuliffe’s 48.5 percent. The Virginia House of Delegates elections put Republicans back in control. Also, both the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General races went to Republicans, the former making Winsome Sears the first woman and woman of color to hold the position. 

In addition to these elections, voters turned down defunding the police in Minneapolis. New York City elected a Democrat Eric Adams, a centrist, who ran on issues such as crime. Adams will take his first tree payments in bitcoin. In Buffalo, New York; Byron Brown won a write-in campaign for mayor against the Democratic candidate India Walton who is a democratic socialist. Brown had lost the democratic party nomination, but won the general election by courting republicans, independents, and even democrats.

The main takeaway from this year’s election results show that Biden’s approval is currently not good. He is going to need to accomplish some big items on his agenda if he or anyone in his administration is thinking about running for president in 2024. Not only that, but the elections in Virginia and New Jersey are big indicators to the Biden administration that if they don’t fix things now, they could lose control of Congress next year. These elections also show that in order to succeed, the Republicans need to find a healthy relationship between distancing themselves from Trump while also courting his loyal supporters.

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