discusses the very serious issue of elections. And he's not talking about the 2016 elections; he's talking about Tuesday's elections—
Oliver points out there are key gubernatorial and and legislative elections taking place, with important referenda that will help or hinder course of this country.
For a more 'nitty gritty' digest of additional key races, here is a Daily Kos election blog guide by Jeff Singer. For all of the links, you can go directly to the page. Click
• KY-Gov: The biggest race in the nation happens to be first (though polls close in only half the state at 6:00 PM). Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is termed out, and Attorney General Jack Conway is trying to hold this seat for Team Blue. Conway faces tea partying businessman Matt Bevin, who has been the source of many a headache for the GOP ever since he won his party's primary by 83 votes. Bevin has barely raised any money while also refusing to dump much of his considerable fortune into the contest to make up the difference.
Democrats have aired ads relentlessly portraying Bevin as dishonest, arguing that he's changed his stances on several major policies and has had trouble paying his taxes. Bevin has never had a good relationship with national Republicans, and they stopped airing commercials on his behalf for three weeks in what looked like an unsuccessful effort to send him to candidate boot camp. However, despite Bevin's continued blunders, national Republicans recently waded back into the race.
We've only seen a few polls, but they've all given a small lead to Conway, who's outspent his opponent by a wide margin. However, despite Bevin's terrible campaign, he could still win this on Tuesday. Kentucky is a very conservative state, and the GOP's ads have all tied Conway to the unpopular Obama administration. It's a tactic that's worked many times in the past.
Read below for our tour of top races around the rest of the country!
• KY Downballot: Kentucky will also host several other statewide contests. The race to replace Conway as attorney general race pits Democrat Andy Beshear, the son of the outgoing governor, against Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield. The GOP badly wants to stop the next generation of Beshears now, and the national GOP has spent millions on this race.
The state auditor contest also has some long-term potential implications. Democratic incumbent Adam Edelen is a potential candidate against Republican Sen. Rand Paul next year, but the GOP is hoping that state Rep. Mike Harmon will beat him first. Meanwhile, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is hoping to bounce back from her landslide Senate loss last year by winning a second term as secretary of state. Team Blue is also defending the treasurer's office, while the GOP is trying to hold the state agriculture commissioner post.
• Indianapolis, IN Mayor: Eight years after losing the mayor's office in an upset, Democrats are now favored to retake it. Democrat Joe Hogsett, a former U.S. attorney, has dramatically outspent Republican businessman Chuck Brewer in what's usually a Democratic-leaning city. Brewer has the support of popular outgoing Mayor Greg Ballard, but that probably won't be enough. The Democratic bench has taken some hits in Indiana in recent cycles, and Team Blue is hoping that Hogsett will help them restock.
• VA State Senate: Republicans hold a 21-19 lead in the Virginia state Senate, and Democrats need to net one seat to retake control (Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam would break ties in favor of the Democrats). The top Democratic target in the state is suburban Richmond's SD-10. Chesterfield County Supervisor Dan Gecker, a Democrat, faces Richmond School Board member Glen Sturtevant for a seat that Obama won 50-48.
The Democrats are also hoping that pediatrician Jill McCabe can unseat Republican incumbent Dick Black in SD-13, but this seat is less friendly to Team Blue. Democrats also haven't given up on the swingy SD-07 in Hampton Roads. However, while Gary McCollum has raised plenty of money for his bid against GOP incumbent Frank Wagner, he also faced a lot of bad headlines down the stretch. McCollum was discharged from the Army Reserve in 2001 but continued to say he was still serving; McCollum claims the reserves never notified him of his discharge and he thought he was still serving, but the GOP is insisting that he lied.
Republicans, meanwhile, are on the offensive in Northern Virginia's open SD-29. While this area leans Democratic, weak off-year turnout gives Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish an opening against Democrat Jeremy McPike. The GOP is also going after Democratic state Sen. John Edwards in the Roanoke area. Republican physician Nancy Dye has a good shot here, especially since Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Don Caldwell, a Democrat, is running as an independent.
Team Red also hopes they can unseat Democratic state Sen. Lynwood Lewis in SD-06. Lewis won a 2014 special election by just 11 votes, but he's decisively outspent Republican Richard Ottinger. Democratic state Sen. George Barker also had a close win in 2011 in Northern Virginia's SD-39, and Republican Joe Murray has been raising a credible amount of money.
• VA State House: The GOP holds a 67-33 edge here, and there's no question that they'll keep their majority this year. However, Democrats are hoping that if they can make some gains this year, they'll set themselves up for more down the road. Via Geoffrey Skelley of Sabato's Crystal Ball, Team Blue is targeting eight seats.
Democrats came very close to winning HD-12, HD-13, HD-31, HD-32, HD-86, HD-87, and HD-94 in 2013, and they're hoping that things will go better this year. Democrats are also eyeing HD-21. However, the GOP is also going on the offensive. Team Red has a good shot to flip the open HD-02, and they're targeting Democratic incumbents in HD-34, HD-37, and HD-93.
• Manchester, NH Mayor: As the head of New Hampshire's largest city, Republican incumbent Ted Gatsas used to get mentioned quite a bit as a future Senate or gubernatorial candidate. However, Gatsas only beat Democrat Patrick Arnold 53-47 two years ago, and Democratic Alderman Joyce Craig is hoping to finish the job this time. If Craig unseats Gatsas this fall, expect to hear her at least mentioned as a future statewide or NH-01 candidate.
• Charleston, SC Mayor: Democratic Mayor Joseph Riley is retiring after an extraordinary 40 years in office, and there's a crowded battle to succeed him. State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis has more money than anyone else, leading businesswoman and fellow Democrat Ginny Deerin $249,000 to $129,000 in cash on hand. Businessman John Tecklenburg, City Councilor William Dudley Gregorie, and former City Councilor Maurice Washington are also running, though they don't have much money available between them. If no one takes a majority, the top-two vote getters will advance to a Nov. 17 runoff.
• Charlotte, NC Mayor: While Charlotte is a predominantly Democratic city, it hasn't been afraid to elect GOP mayors. Republican nominee Edwin Peacock lost the 2013 contest to Patrick Cannon by just a 53-47 margin; Cannon soon resigned and went to prison for taking bribes, so Peacock is hoping that voters are experiencing some buyer's remorse. However, the only independent poll we've seen gives Democrat Jennifer Roberts a 54-39 lead over her Republican rival. Peacock has more money than Roberts, but he's going to need this poll to be very wrong if he wants to come out on top.
• Columbus, OH Mayor: Until June, City Council President Andrew Ginther looked like the easy favorite against Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, a fellow Democrat. Ginther had far more money than Scott, as well as the backing of outgoing Mayor Michael Coleman, while Scott barely beat a little-known Republican for a spot in the general election. However, things got interesting when Karen Finley, a former chief executive for a red-light camera company called Redflex, pleaded guilty to using the state Democratic Party as a pass-through vehicle for bribing several local officials—and then fingered Ginther as one of her targets.
Ginther has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but this story has been a very unwanted distraction. For his part, Ginther is using his superior resources to argue that Scott did a poor job as sheriff. There haven't been any publicly released polls here, so it's tough to handicap this one.
• Toledo, OH Mayor: We have a chaotic special election to fill the final two years of the late Mayor Mike Collins' term. On the Democratic side, interim Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and ex-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner are running. Mike Ferner, a liberal independent who almost beat Finkbeiner in 1993, is also in. Ex-Mayor Mike Bell, a conservative independent whom Collins unseated in 2013, is also trying to regain his old post. Collins' widow, Sandy Drabik Collins, a former gubernatorial aide, is also running as an independent, as is Councilor Sandy Spang. There is no runoff here.
• OH Ballot: Ohio also has three notable measures on the ballot statewide. Issue 3 would legalize both medical and recreational marijuana. It would also allow just 10 farms to grow pot as a means of carefully regulating the plant's production, a system proponents call a "structured oligopoly."
But Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted insisted on calling this setup a "monopoly" in the text of the measure that voters will see, because he "figured that 'monopoly' was the most easily understandable" term. It was a deliberate move, though, to sabotage Issue 3 because opponents also succeeded in getting the GOP-controlled legislature to include a competing Issue 2 on the ballot as well. Issue 2, on its face, has nothing to do with marijuana but rather styles itself as the "anti-monopoly amendment."
Despite the public's general fondness for the boardgame of the same name, voters typically aren't too fond of monopolies, and scattered polling shows more support for Issue 2 than Issue 3 (which seems to be a tossup). It's a clever move: Opponents of legalized marijuana want to try to stop commerce in pot by posing as defenders of commerce. But if both measures pass, it's not quite clear what will happen, though litigation would be certain.
Issue 1, meanwhile, would alter the way Ohio draws up its state legislative districts starting in 2021. Under Ohio's current law, a committee consisting of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and a lawmaker from each party draws up legislative lines, and only a simple majority of the commission is needed to pass a map. If Issue 1 wins on Tuesday, an extra Democrat and an extra Republican will be added to the panel, and at least two members of the minority party would need to vote for any new map for it to take effect for the entire decade. This sounds great, but there are a number of catches involved.
If those minority votes aren't found, then a majority of the panel can pass a map into law, but only for four years. However, if the commission can't win enough minority support for a second map, it can then just pass its new map with only majority support once again, and it would remain in place for the final six years of the decade. In other words, Issue 1 would just require a partisan majority to pass two maps over the court of a decade instead of one. The measure also doesn't address congressional redistricting, meaning that the GOP-dominated legislature would still be able to draw the state's U.S. House map.
Even though this is just a phony fig-leaf masquerading as reform, Ohio Democrats have endorsed the measure, and no group has put up any serious opposition to Issue 1.
• MS-AG: Attorney General Jim Hood is the last Democrat holding statewide office in the Deep South, and the GOP is hoping that this will be the year they finally unseat him. There are warning signs for the incumbent: Hood has been running negative ads against former assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, and a recent independent poll gave Hood only a 50-44 lead. Democratic turnout isn't likely to be very high, especially since Gov. Phil Bryant is set to easily win re-election.
• MS Ballot: Besides the attorney general race, the biggest statewide contest in Mississippi is for Initiative 42, a measure that would amend the state constitution to require public schools to be fully funded. Prominent Republicans have come out against it, and the legislature added an extra obstacle to passage by also putting Initiative 42A, which would preserve the status quo, on the ballot as well.
To make things even worse, Initiative 42 supporters have to answer both parts of a two-part question. They must first vote for "either measure," which says they want one of the initiatives to pass; a no vote means they don't want either Initiative 42 or Initiative 42A to succeed. Then, voters need to pick between 42 and 42A—there's no "yes" or "no" vote on this part; you just select the initiative you prefer. You can view this absolutely absurd ballot here.
So for the Democrats to win, a majority of voters need to vote for "either measure" and then vote for Initiative 42. All the GOP needs is for "either measure" to fail or for Initiative 42A to pass. Alternately, if enough voters are confused and fail to fill out their ballots fully, that would suit Republicans just fine, too.
• PA Supreme Court: It may not seem obvious, but if Democrats want a better shot at retaking the Pennsylvania state legislature, they first need to win at least two of the three state Supreme Court seats that are up on Tuesday. Under state law, the state legislative lines are drawn by a commission, and the Supreme Court appoints the tie-breaking member. In 2012, the GOP-led court chose a Republican, and the commission predictably drew up a Republican gerrymander.
All candidates run on one ballot, and the three who win the most votes earn a spot on the bench. The Democrats need to win two of the three seats to take control of the court, though they want to win all three in case another member leaves early due to resignation or death. The three candidates for the Democrats are Kevin Dougherty, David Wecht, and Christine Donohue. The Republicans are running Michael George, Judy Olson, and Anne Covey. Additionally, Republican Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto is running as an independent.
• Bridgeport, CT Mayor: The race for Connecticut's largest city took a turn for the weird in September when former Mayor Joe Ganim unseated incumbent Bill Finch in the Democratic primary. Ganim spent seven years in prison after he was convicted of shaking down city contractors in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of perks, including expensive wine. But there are plenty of fond memories from Ganim's time in office, and he's often credited with revitalizing the city in the 1990s. Bridgeport is heavily Democratic, but this contest isn't over. Finch is backing independent Mary-Jane Foster, a longtime enemy who took third place in the primary.
• Worchester, MA Mayor: Conservatives have been gaining strength in Worcester County, and they're hoping to pull off a win in New England's second-largest city. City Councilor Michael Gaffney, a tea partying independent, is trying to unseat Democratic Mayor Joseph Petty, but despite some Republican successes, Worcester is still a predominantly Democratic town. Public safety has emerged as a major issue, and Gaffney received an endorsement from the local police union. For his part, Petty has the backing of Sen. Ed Markey.
• Houston, TX Mayor: There's a crowded race in America's fourth-largest city. Sylvester Turner, a longtime Democratic state representative, has a solid base of support with African American voters, and he should easily grab one of the two spots for the December runoff. However, things are a lot less certain in the race for the critical second spot. Ex-Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a Democrat, originally looked like a solid bet. However, he took some hits after his rivals started questioning his performance in office. At the same time, former Kemah Mayor Bill King has been consolidating Republican support.
Polls show King and Garcia in a tight race for the second place runoff spot. There's also a chance that either ex-Rep. Chris Bell, who has a base with liberals, or Councilor Stephen Costello, a moderate Republican who has a poor relationship with his party's leadership, will meet Turner in the runoff instead.
• Houston, TX Ballot: The other major race to watch in Houston is the referendum on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In 2013, the city council passed a law to protect its citizens from discrimination, especially in housing or employment. However, after conservatives tried to undermine the law, the state Supreme Court eventually ruled that voters would need to approve it for it to go into effect.
Religious conservatives are focused on defeating HERO, and they have some big money backing on their side. In particular, they've tried to drum up fears that HERO would make it easier for rapists to pose as transgendered women and prey on female victims in bathrooms. Business interests, meanwhile, are worried about a repeat of what happened in Indiana after that state's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" debacle and have come out for the law. There's no consensus among pollsters whether or not the pro-HERO ("yes") side will win.
• MI State House: Normally, two special primaries in Republican-dominated state House seats wouldn't be very interesting, but the ongoing saga of ex-state Reps. Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser is nothing short of insane. The two married politicians had an affair, and Courser concocted a lunatic scheme for the ages to cover it up. Courser ordered an aide to spread a fake rumor saying that Courser had been caught in a nightclub paying for sex with another man. (The aide refused and was subsequently fired.) Courser hoped that once people found out his gay sex scandal wasn't real, they wouldn't believe his actual straight sex scandal. It didn't work: The state House expelled Gamrat, and Courser resigned right before they were about to boot him, too.
However, Gamrat and Courser turned right around and announced that they would each run in the GOP primaries for their old seats. Gamrat has seven primary opponents in HD-80, while Courser faces 10 rivals. It will only take a simple plurality to secure the GOP nod, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that one or both disgraced politicians could pull it off.
• Jefferson County, CO School Board: The conservatives running this large suburban county's school board made national headlines last year when they unsuccessfully attempted to adopt an ultra-conservative AP U.S. history curriculum. Among other things, this revisionist curriculum would "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage" rather than "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." The plan may be dead now, but critics are trying to recall members Julie Williams, Ken Witt and John Newkirk. Conservatives have outspent recall proponents, and the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity is also spending in support of the school board members.
• Salt Lake City, UT Mayor: Mayor Ralph Becker faces a tough race with former state Rep. Jackie Biskupski, a fellow Democrat. Becker ran into problems with his now-former police chief, Chris Burbank, who was forced to resign in June after three police officers sued the city over sexual harassment allegations. Becker still has a positive approval rating months after the controversy, and it seems that the passage of time has allowed him to recover somewhat. However, while Becker has significantly outspent his opponent, a recent poll gave Biskupski a small edge.
• Seattle, WA Ballot: Campaign finance reformers are pushing for Initiative 122, which would make Seattle the first place in the country to implement a system of campaign donation vouchers. Every two years, voters would receive four $25 vouchers that they could then send in as campaign donations to local Seattle campaigns. Any candidate accepting vouchers would have to follow certain guidelines, such as taking part in at least three debates. The pro-voucher side has dramatically outraised Initiative 122's opponents.
It's going to be an exciting election night starting at 6 PM ET, and we'll be liveblogging it at Daily Kos. Hope to see you there!
Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections