Democrats and abortion rights advocates won a spate of electoral victories on Tuesday, including in conservative Ohio and Kentucky, indicating that reproductive rights will remain a potent topic for Democrats in the 2020 presidential election.
According to Edison Research, voters approved a constitutional amendment safeguarding abortion rights in Ohio, a state that voted for Republican Donald Trump by 8 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election.
The victory extended abortion access advocates’ unbroken streak since the Supreme Court’s decision last year to reverse its 1972 Roe v. Wade decision and erase a nationwide right to terminate pregnancies.
According to the Associated Press, Democrats won control of both legislative houses in Virginia. The outcome was a rebuke for Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, who worked hard to unite Republican candidates around his pledge to restrict most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
In Kentucky, Edison predicted that Democratic Governor Andy Beshear would win a second four-year term, defying the conservative lean of a state that voted for Trump by more than 25 percentage points in 2020.
The elections were among dozens across the country that provided vital information about where the voter sits less than 10 weeks before the Iowa presidential nominating contest officially kicks off the 2024 presidential campaign.
The findings may soothe some national Democrats’ fears about President Joe Biden’s unpopularity among voters.
In a statement, Biden welcomed the Ohio outcome, adding, “Tonight, Americans voted once again to protect their fundamental freedoms – and democracy won.”
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who would have been the state’s first Black chief executive, was beaten by Beshear.
Beshear has maintained strong approval ratings despite his party affiliation, thanks to his leadership throughout the coronavirus pandemic and natural calamities. He also ran on the promise of defending abortion rights, despite his inability to overcome the state’s near-total ban.
Beshear said in his victory speech that his victory was a “clear statement that anger politics should end right here and right now.”
BATTLEGROUNDS FOR ABORTION
Nearly a year and a half after the Supreme Court decision, Ohio became the newest abortion battleground.
Abortion rights advocates achieved a string of successes last year by putting abortion-related referendums on the ballot, including in conservative states.
They have increased their reliance on this method. The victory in Ohio will bolster efforts already underway in other states to bring similar ballot issues before voters in 2024, including swing states Arizona and Florida.
Anti-abortion activists argued that the Ohio amendment was too draconian, while abortion rights advocates cautioned that rejecting it would pave the way for a more stringent ban to take effect.
The vote on Tuesday nullifies a six-week restriction previously set by the Republican-controlled legislature. A court challenge had put the law on hold.
In Virginia, all 40 Senate seats and 100 House of Delegates seats were up for grabs.
Democrats attempted to elevate abortion to the forefront of their agenda. Youngkin had framed his proposed 15-week restriction as a moderate compromise, hoping that it would serve as a model for Republicans next year.
Youngkin spent millions of dollars into the election through his political action committee, and a Republican victory would have undoubtedly increased calls from some party contributors for him to enter the presidential race.
Last week, Biden weighed in on the Virginia campaigns, endorsing 16 Democrats competing in difficult state House races and seven in the Senate, while also urging supporters to donate.
According to Edison estimates, Republican Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves won a second term against his Democratic competitor, Brandon Presley, a former mayor and the second cousin of singer Elvis Presley.
Presley collected more money than Reeves, but he faced an uphill battle in a state where Trump defeated Biden by more than 16 percentage points in 2020.
Despite a plethora of legal entanglements, Trump endorsed both Reeves and Cameron in Kentucky. Trump is the frontrunner for his party’s 2024 White House candidacy.
Joseph Ax contributed reporting, as did Jason Lange, Eric Beech, Nandita Bose, Costas Pitas, and Gabriella Borter; and Colleen Jenkins, Aurora Ellis, Deepa Babington, and Lincoln Feast.