Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American
November 7, 2023
Today was Election Day across the country. In a number of key state elections, voters rejected the extremism of MAGA Republicans and backed Democrats and Democratic policies.
Four of the most closely watched races were in Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
In Ohio, voters enshrined the right of individuals to make their own healthcare decisions, including the right to abortion, into the state constitution. Opponents of abortion rights have worked hard since the summer to stop the measure from passing, trying first to make it more difficult to amend the constitution—voters overwhelmingly rejected that measure in an August special election—then by blanketing the state with disinformation about the measure, including through official state websites and with ads by former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson, and finally by dropping 26,000 voters from the rolls.
None of it worked. Voters protected the right to abortion. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022, voters in all seven state elections where the issue was on the ballot have fought back to protect abortion rights.
Today’s vote in Ohio, where the end of Roe v. Wade resurrected an extreme antiabortion bill, makes it eight.
Abortion was also on the ballot In Virginia, where the entire state legislature was up for grabs today. Republican governor Glenn Youngkin made it clear he wanted control of the legislature in order to push through a measure banning abortion after 15 weeks. This ploy was one Republicans were using to seem to soften their antiabortion stance, which has proven terribly unpopular. Youngkin was taking the idea out for a spin to see how it might play in a presidential election, perhaps with a hope of entering the Republican race for the presidential nomination as someone who could claim to have turned a blue state red.
It didn’t work. Voters recognized that it was disingenuous to call a 15-week limit a compromise on the abortion issue, since most serious birth defects are not detected until 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Going into the election, Democrats held the state senate. But rather than giving Youngkin control over both houses of the state legislature, voters left Democrats in charge of the Senate and flipped the House of Delegates over to the Democrats. The Democrats are expected to elevate House minority leader Don Scott of Portsmouth to the speakership, making him the first Black House speaker in Virginia history.
Virginia voters also elevated Delegate Danica Roem, the first known transgender delegate, to the state senate. At the same time, voters in Loudoun County, which had become a hot spot in the culture wars with attacks on LGBTQ+ individuals and with activists insisting the schools must not teach critical race theory, rejected that extremism and turned control of the school board over to those who championed diversity and equity.
In Kentucky, voters reelected Democratic governor Andy Beshear, who was running against Republican state attorney general Daniel Cameron. A defender of Kentucky’s abortion ban, Cameron was also the attorney general who declined to bring charges against the law enforcement officers who killed Breonna Taylor in her bed in 2020 after breaking into her apartment in a mistaken search for drugs.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Daniel McCaffery won a supreme court seat, enabling the Democrats to increase their majority there. McCaffery positioned himself as a defender of abortion rights.
There will be more news about election results and what they tell us in the coming days. Tonight, though, political analyst Tom Bonier wrote: “My biggest takeaway from tonight: in ’22 abortion rights had the biggest impact where it was literally on the ballot, less so when trying to draw the connection in candidate races. That has changed. Voters clearly made the connection that voting for GOP candidates=abortion bans.”