To Hawthorn Friends & Family –

With elections coming up in a handful of states next Tuesday, November 7 (and already over for governor in Louisiana, along with a possible November 28 runoff in Mississippi) and 2024-focused national political news starting to notice THIS year’s elections, we thought we’d highlight what we’re watching:

Louisiana –

Our Cajun friends held their primary on Saturday, October 14.  Despite the presence of seven Republicans (including a late withdrawal), two Democrats AND four independents in the “jungle primary,” GOP Attorney General Jeff Landry took nearly 52% of the vote and won it outright, taking control from the Democrats.

Most notable was low turnout:  36%, lower than when Bobby Jindal ran essentially unopposed for re-election in 2011 (and this year was the first time since 2011 the governorship was decided without a runoff).  If relevant, that low turnout doesn’t bode well for Democrat Brandon Presley in neighboring Mississippi.

Mississippi –

Incumbent GOP Gov. Tate Reeves is being hotly challenged by Democrat Public Utility Chair Brandon Presley.  Latest polls run from within margin-of-error (Presley’s polling) to Reeve’s holding an eight-point margin.  Four years ago in mid-October, Reeves was up three points on Democratic AG Jim Hood and beat him by five.

Presley has raised an astonishing $12 million (Brandon says most ever in Mississippi, more even than the legendary Haley Barbour) and is investing heavily in turnout, especially African American.  If he can push that over 32% (it was 31% four years ago), he likely wins.  And, with a third-party candidate still on the ballot (despite having dropped out and endorsed Presley), he could alternatively force it into a November 28 runoff, which will put real funding pressure on both national parties.

Most encouraging for Presley is Reeves’ negative favorability/job approval, “under water” in nearly every poll.  People simply don’t like him, which is not surprising since he’s unlikeable.  Question is whether that goes beyond the political “chattering class.”

Barriers for Presley are:

  1. Reeves won as a non-incumbent four years ago and now he is the incumbent;
  2. Presley has never run statewide, only in north Mississippi, and critical voter concentration is the mid-state and coast;
  3. Mississippi is solidly red, i.e., except for their fellow-southerner Jimmy Carter in 1976, the last time a majority of Mississippians voted Democrat for President was for Adlai Stevenson in 1956, 67 years ago; and
  4. despite national media attention on the advantages of the Presley name, his cousin Elvis died in 1977, 46 years ago.

All that noted, Brandon could very well score an upset for Dems. in Mississippi.

However, while a potential Presley victory would be tempting for the media to claim that even deep-red Mississippi is turning blue, Republicans will hold at least seven of the eight statewide elected offices (token opposition from Democrats), two of three Public Service Commission seats (no opposition from Democrats), and likely two Transportation Commissioners (one unopposed and one challenged by an Independent).

In the 51-member State Senate, 28 Republicans are running unopposed (plus eight Lean-R contested) vs 11 Democrats running unopposed (four Lean-D contested)

In the 122-member State House, 59 Republicans are running unopposed (plus nine with minor party opposition) vs 32 unopposed Democrats (plus four minor party opposition)

Make no mistake:  Mississippi is still a Republican state, and should Presley pull off an upset, he will have an uphill battle ahead of him.

Kentucky — 

Polls consistently show Gov. Andy Beshear is the most popular Democratic governor in the country and is headed for nearly unanimously predicted (among the political prognosticators) re-election against McConnell acolyte GOP Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

Virginia — 

ALL Virginia legislative seats – State Senate and House of Delegates – are up for re-election this year, many in districts newly drawn, causing many incumbents not to seek re-election (10 Senators and 32 Delegates).  Dems currently hold control of the Senate by four seats while Republicans hold the House by two seats (with six vacancies)

This may be the most important/instructive election in 2023 for 2024 because:

  1. it could lead to a GOP trifecta, given GOP Gov. Glenn Younkin; and
  2. boost the governor’s national standing, or, given his enormous investment in these races, damage it;
  3. it may be indicative of turnout (especially African-American) for 2024; and
  4. pundits will debate the importance of:
  • abortion (a national hot/turn-out issue),
  • education (critical in the Dems.’ loss of Virginia governor two years ago),
  • GOP chaos in U.S. House (perhaps of interest ONLY in the Virginia “collar” counties around Washington), and
  • impact of Biden/Trump and national/international issues.

New Jersey –

All of the historically Democrat-controlled New Jersey legislature is up for re-election this year.  While once far-fetched, the GOP MIGHT win up-set control of at least one chamber thanks to:

  1. the Menendez scandal with emerging intra-party and GOP challengers including the possibility that New Jersey’s First Lady, Tammy Murphy, might get into the race along with U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3);
  2. a major announcement Tuesday night of cancellation by a developer, Orsted, of its offshore wind plan, a hallmark of the Governor’s green agenda that the legislature put themselves out for in granting the proceeds of federal credits (instead of granting proceeds of federal credits back to ratepayers); and
  3. a continuing drumbeat by Republicans that Democrats are stripping away parental rights in the classroom.

Ohio –

Voters head back to the polls (with what turnout, among which demographics???) to vote on an abortion amendment which has drawn enormous national attention and money, with more than $50 million spent to date.

Maine — 

A ballot issue gives voters the options of taking state control of the currently privately (European and Canadian) owned electric utilities.  This will have huge implications for the industry, specifically for San Diego where a similar issue looks headed to a ballot in 2024.

For an “off” year, 2023 is a uniquely busy one . . . and MAYBE instructive for 2024 . . . for which we see:

  • Presidents Trump and Biden increasing their holds on re-nomination (noting Biden’s mis-handling of New Hampshire and the danger he could suffer there, like LBJ in 1968)
  • For SECOND place among the GOP, South Carolina Gov. Haley’s moving past Florida Gov. DeSantis and his failing campaign, a fate also affecting South Carolina U.S. Senator Scott and the now withdrawn former Vice President Pence.
  • Biden continues to suffer awful job approval and personal favorability ratings, which makes it difficult it for voters to give him any credit for positive accomplishments.
  • It’s increasingly clear that, as a third party candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., takes votes and raises money more from GOP than Dems.
  • We simply don’t know, yet, the impact of the Middle East worsening crisis, but it is clearly being felt VERY locally and personally.

We have a major presentation on November 9, two days after next week’s elections.  Hopefully, we’ll have some analysis to share.


P.S.  Even if you aren’t as ancient as I am, do you remember when it was once permissible to poke (and even have) fun in politics?

The announcement of Tammy Murphy’s, the First Lady of New Jersey, decision to enter the U.S. Senate race prompted our colleague Larry Walsh to send a link to the Chad Mitchell Trio’s song about the late Lurleen Wallace in Alabama.  We include it here, along with links to the Chad Mitchell Trio’s incomparable “John Birch Society” and “Barry’s Boys,” along with their legendary rendering of the non-political “Lizzie Borden.”