2023 may be an off-year, but we still have plenty of exciting races to watch on Tuesday!
Democrats are fighting to hold Kentucky's governorship and flip Mississippi's, while both parties are locked in an expensive battle over control of the Virginia legislature. Ohio voters will also decide the fate of an abortion-rights amendment, while Pennsylvania holds a competitive statewide race for the state Supreme Court. And there are many more important contests in major cities and counties across the country.
What follows is an hour-by-hour guide to Tuesday's most interesting and competitive contests, organized by poll closing times. Please note that all times are Eastern. All races discussed below (other than ballot measures, of course) are for four-year terms unless otherwise noted. When it’s available, we'll tell you about any reliable polling that exists for each election, but if we don't mention any numbers, it means no recent surveys have been made public.
In addition, a number of these races could have a major impact on voting rights. Daily Kos’ Stephen Wolf has put together a separate guide explaining what's at stake in those contests.
We'll be covering all of these elections live on Tuesday night, starting when the first polls close at 6 PM ET. Join us at Daily Kos Elections, and follow us on X (formerly Twitter) for blow-by-blow updates.
And be sure to enter our annual prediction contest for the chance to win some delicious babka from the one and only Green's Bakery!
6 PM ET: KENTUCKY (Eastern time zone); INDIANA
• KY-Gov: Democrat Andy Beshear narrowly unseated unpopular Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in 2019, but Republicans are hoping that Kentucky is just too conservative for the incumbent to pull off another victory.
However, both sides are going into Election Day acting like the governor is the frontrunner against Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who would be the state's first Black governor. Even pro-Cameron groups have released surveys showing Beshear ahead, and Democrats have decisively outspent Republicans throughout the race.
After trying to portray Beshear as a far-left radical for months, Cameron pivoted to a gentler message just before Election Day. The popular Beshear, meanwhile, has emphasized his record in office and even made an issue of Cameron's extreme views on abortion—an unheard-of attack for a Kentucky Democrat.
(Note that polls in the portion of Kentucky in the Central time zone, where about a quarter of the state lives, close an hour after they do in the east. However, results typically start appearing before all polls are closed.)
• Indianapolis, IN Mayor: Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett is seeking a third term against Republican Jefferson Shreve, a wealthy businessman who has self-funded at least $13.5 million. Indianapolis, which was consolidated with the rest of Marion County in 1970, favored Joe Biden 63-34 in 2020, but Shreve is betting that there's enough unhappiness with the status quo to give him an opening in the most expensive mayoral campaign in city history.
While Hogsett has access to far less money than his rival, he's been reminding voters that Shreve adopted hard-line conservative stances during his failed 2016 run for the state Senate. Shreve has focused most of his campaign on crime, though he branched into other issues in the final month. A late September poll from a GOP firm showed the mayor ahead 47-37.
7 PM ET: VIRGINIA; NEW HAMPSHIRE (Manchester); KENTUCKY (Central time zone)
• VA Legislature: Every seat in the Virginia legislature is on the ballot, and the stakes are high. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin spent the first half of his four-year term watching as the Democratic-led state Senate has blocked key parts of his agenda, including a 15-week abortion ban, and he's doing whatever he can to ensure his party wins control of the chamber. Democrats, conversely, are working to defend their Senate majority and flip the GOP-held state House of Delegates. Senators serve four-year terms, while delegates are on the ballot every two years.
Democrats, who hold a 22-18 edge in the Senate, can afford to lose only one seat because Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears can break any deadlocks for her party. Republicans, meanwhile, are defending a 52-48 majority in the state House (any vacant seats are assigned to the party that last held them). There's no tie-breaking mechanism in the House, so a power-sharing agreement would likely be needed if necessary if there's a 50-50 split.
Because of delayed census data two years ago, this will be the first election conducted using the new legislative maps that were crafted in late 2021 by the state Supreme Court after Virginia's brand-new, bipartisan redistricting commission failed to agree on any plans. We've put together a seat-by-seat guide, which you’ll want to bookmark, to help you keep track of all the key contests.
Much of the focus will be on the districts that backed Biden in 2020 but flipped to Youngkin a year later. Overall, there are four of these Biden/Youngkin constituencies in the Senate and 11 in the House. Democrats, who enjoy an overall spending edge, have made abortion rights a centerpiece of their message, while Republicans have emphasized crime.
• Manchester, NH Mayor: Democratic Mayor Joyce Craig decided not to seek a fourth two-year term to focus on her 2024 campaign for governor, so Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh and Republican Jay Ruais are facing off in the officially nonpartisan race to succeed her. While Manchester, with a population of just over 110,000, is New Hampshire's largest city, it isn't particularly big by American standards. However, its mayoralty is a high-profile position in a competitive state where only the governor and its two U.S. senators are elected statewide.
Ruais, who is a former congressional staffer, led September's primary, with 42%, while Cavanaugh, who is a city alderman and former state senator, took 25%. But Cavanaugh and two other Democrats scored a combined 58%, and in recent years, general election results have closely mirrored primary outcomes. Even one prominent Republican strategist called the September numbers "a cautionary tale for the GOP." Manchester supported Joe Biden 56-42.
7:30 P.M. ET: OHIO
• OH Ballot: Voters will decide the fate of Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that would safeguard a range of reproductive rights, including the right to abortion. A pair of polls have found a majority in support of the "yes" side, which has enjoyed an advertising advantage.
However, there's still uncertainty going into Election Day. In August, voters decisively rejected a different amendment that was also called Issue 1. That GOP-backed measure would have made future amendments harder to pass, and some abortion-rights advocates are nervous about voter confusion. The Republican-led Ohio Ballot Board also crafted a ballot summary of the amendment that, among other things, substitutes the word "fetus" for "unborn child."
Also on the ballot is Issue 2, a statutory measure to legalize recreational marijuana. Polls have shown the proposal, which would not amend the constitution, well ahead, and there's been little spending to either promote or defeat it.
8 PM ET: KANSAS (Wichita); MAINE; MISSISSIPPI; NEW HAMPSHIRE (Hillsborough County); NEW JERSEY; PENNSYLVANIA; RHODE ISLAND; TEXAS (Houston)
• Wichita, KS Mayor: Democratic Mayor Brandon Whipple faces a difficult battle against former local TV reporter Lily Wu, who is a Republican-turned-Libertarian, in the nonpartisan general election to lead Kansas' largest city.
Wu, who has the support of the Koch family's Americans for Prosperity, took first in the August primary, with 30%, while Whipple edged out GOP City Council member Bryan Frye by just a 24-23 margin for second. Wu has also maintained a big fundraising advantage for the second round. Wichita backed Donald Trump 50-48.
• ME Ballot: Maine voters will decide Question 3, which would replace the state's current investor-owned energy system with a publicly owned nonprofit led by a board with seven members elected statewide who'd pick six experts to work with them.
However, while advocates have pointed to consumer surveys showing unhappiness with the state's two utility giants, Central Maine Power and Versant, those companies have thrown down massive sums to defeat the measure. Where things stand is unclear: A late October survey from the University of New Hampshire showed a 56-31 majority supporting the "no" side, but the progressive group Climate and Community Project responded with a YouGov survey finding a 37-37 deadlock.
But even if the measure passes, that might not settle things. The utility companies are also promoting Question 1, which would bar the public nonprofit envisioned by Question 3 (and other entities like it) from taking on more than $1 billion in debt without first winning statewide voter approval. (The cost of taking over the two utilities would far exceed that figure.) UNH found Question 1, which would essentially require a second vote before Question 3 could go into effect, winning by a 59-16 margin.
• MS-Gov: Republican Gov. Tate Reeves faces an expensive battle against Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat who is a second cousin of Elvis Presley, in a conservative state that hasn't elected a Democratic chief executive since 1999.
Presley has run ads highlighting the $77 million welfare-funds scandal involving Reeves' predecessor, former Gov. Phil Bryant, and retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre. The Democrat has also highlighted the fact that, under Reeves, Mississippi remains one of just 10 states that hasn't expanded Medicaid. The governor has hit back by tying Presley to Biden, who lost the state 58-41, and other national Democrats.
Polling has been scarce, and the few surveys released ahead of Election Day have shown very different things. An early October poll from Mason-Dixon for the conservative Magnolia Tribune gave Reeves a 51-43 edge. However, Presley's allies at the Democratic Governors Association publicized a late October internal poll from Public Policy Polling that showed the incumbent up just 46-45. The DGA's decision to invest millions in this race indicates it believes Presley can indeed pull off a surprise victory.
But note that the race may not get settled until Nov. 28. That’s because of a 2020 amendment to the state constitution, which replaced Mississippi's Jim Crow-era system for electing governors and instead requires a second round of voting if no one wins a majority. That could happen in a close race because independent Gwendolyn Gray remains on the ballot even though she dropped out last month and endorsed Presley.
• NH State House (special): Democrat Paige Beauchemin faces Republican David Narkunas in the special election to fill the vacant seat previously held by Democratic state Rep. David Cote in Hillsborough County's 3rd District. Biden won this Nashua-based district 63-35, and Democrats need to hold it to have a shot to force a tie in the GOP-led 400-member chamber before next year's general election.
• NJ Legislature: Every seat in New Jersey's Democratic-led legislature is up, and Republicans are arguing that low turnout and discontent with the status quo gives them a chance to take control of at least one chamber for the first time in two decades. Democrats go into Tuesday with a 25-15 majority in the Senate and a 46-34 advantage in the General Assembly. Each of the state's 40 legislative districts elects one senator to a four-year term and a pair of assembly members to a two-year term.
The math for Republicans is daunting, though, under the new map that was approved last year by a bipartisan majority on the New Jersey Legislative Apportionment. Biden won 30 districts to Donald Trump's 10 as the current president was winning the state 57-41 in 2020. And even Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who won reelection by an unexpectedly tight 51-48 margin in 2021, still carried 22 districts. Democratic candidates also enjoy a lopsided spending advantage.
• PA Supreme Court: A key seat on the seven-member Supreme Court remains vacant over a year after Democratic incumbent Max Baer died in office, and both parties are hoping to score a win in Tuesday's expensive statewide battle. Democrats hold a 4-2 majority, so control isn't at stake. However, a Republican victory would give them better odds in any election-related lawsuits that are sure to be filed next year, since some Democratic justices have defected in previous cases. It would also put the GOP one step closer to reclaiming a majority in the future.
Two judges are competing for this 10-year term: Democrat Dan McCaffery, a mainstream jurist, and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, who has flirted with election conspiracy theories. McCaffery's side has spent considerably more money on ads, but neither side can feel certain in this perennial swing state.
• Allegheny County, PA District Attorney: Former Allegheny County Chief Public Defender Matt Dugan scored a 56-44 victory in May's Democratic primary against District Attorney Stephen Zappala, a 25-year-incumbent who is despised by criminal justice reformers, but Zappala won the Republican nomination that same night through a write-in campaign. Biden carried this longtime Democratic stronghold, which includes Pittsburgh and many of its suburbs, by a 59-39 margin, but Zappala believes that enough Democrats will stick with him.
Zappala says he still identifies as a Democrat, but like Republicans in countless campaigns, he's run ads depicting crime in other cities to argue that Dugan would be a threat to public safety. Dugan, who has a modest spending edge, has responded by arguing the incumbent has done a poor job in office and is too close to the gun lobby. A late October poll from Embold Research for SURVIVOR PAC, a group with the stated mission of "advocating for survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes," showed Zappala with a minuscule 46-45 edge.
• Allegheny County, PA Executive: The contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Executive Rich Fitzgerald pits the Democratic nominee, former state Rep. Sara Innamorato, against well-funded Republican businessman Joe Rockey. Whoever holds this post effectively serves as the tiebreaking member of the local board of elections, which also includes one Democrat and one Republican, a fake Trump elector named Sam DeMarco.
Innamorato has been the frontrunner ever since she won the May primary with the backing of prominent local and national progressives. However, Rockey and his allies have made use of their lopsided financial advantage to air ads portraying the Republican as a moderate campaigning against a far-left opponent. Innamorato has pushed back by tying Rockey to unpopular national Republicans. The Embold Research survey for SURVIVOR PAC found the Democrat ahead 47-44 in late October.
• Bucks County, PA Board of Commissioners: In 2019, Democrats took control of the three-member Board of Commissioners in suburban Philadelphia's populous and competitive Bucks County for the first time since 1983, so Republicans are now determined to flip it back. This race has potentially huge implications for the 2024 presidential contest because the commissioners have a great deal of influence over how their county's elections are conducted.
County commission races operate under different rules in many parts of Pennsylvania than they do pretty much anywhere else. All three seats are elected countywide, and voters can select up to two candidates. However, each party can only nominate two candidates, so the board will wind up with a 2-1 split no matter what. The question is which party will get that vital second seat that they need to control the body.
Both Democratic incumbents, Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Bob Harvie, are seeking reelection. Republicans are fielding Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo and County Controller Pamela Van Blunk.
• Chester County, PA Board of Commissioners: 2019 also saw Democrats win their first-ever majority on the Board of Commissioners for Chester County, another suburban Philadelphia community. Unlike nearby Bucks, however, Chester has swung hard to the left during the Trump era, but Republicans are still hoping to return to power.
The election rules are the same as in Bucks. Democratic incumbents Marian Moskowitz and Josh Maxwell are going up against a pair of Republicans, former state Rep. Eric Roe and teacher David Sommers (the lone GOP incumbent isn't running again). Republicans are looking to capitalize on public anger over convicted murderer Danilo Cavalcante's late August escape from a local prison; authorities apprehended Cavalcante after a two-week manhunt, and the GOP is hoping that voters will blame the Democratic commissioners for what happened.
• RI-01 (special): Former Biden administration official Gabe Amo faces Republican Gerry Leonard, a Marine veteran, in the special election to replace former Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, who announced he'd resign months after securing his seventh two-year term. Biden won the district 64-35, and a poll last month from Salve Regina University found Amo ahead 46-35. An Amo victory would make him the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress.
• Houston, TX Mayor: Mayor Sylvester Turner is termed out after eight years in office, and two of his fellow Democrats, state Sen. John Whitmire and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, have emerged as the frontrunners in the nonpartisan race to succeed him. A Dec. 9 runoff would take place in the likely event that no one earns a majority on Tuesday.
Whitmire, who was first elected to the legislature in 1972, has cultivated a moderate image and a strong relationship with several prominent conservative donors. He's also made use of the massive war chest he amassed during his decades in office to far outspend his rivals. Jackson Lee, meanwhile, is a well-known liberal figure who first won her seat in Congress in 1994 and would be the first Black woman to lead Houston.
The field also includes several other candidates like City Council member Robert Gallegos; former METRO board chair Gilbert Garcia; attorney Lee Kaplan; and former City Council member Jack Christie, who is the only notable Republican running to lead a city that supported Joe Biden 65-33. However, they've all struggled to gain traction. An early October poll from the University of Houston showed Whitmire and Jackson Lee respectively securing 34% and 31%, with no one else breaking 3%; it also found Whitmire beating the congresswoman 51-33 in a runoff.
That poll, however, was conducted before an anonymous person posted what they claimed was audio of Jackson Lee berating her employees as "[t]wo Goddamn big-ass children, fuckin' idiots who serve no Goddamn purpose." Jackson Lee, while not confirming or denying the voice belonged to her, acknowledged she had "fallen short of my own standards" in her treatment of her staff, though she's also argued that she's the subject of a sexist "double standard." The congresswoman has also claimed Whitmire's team leaked the recording, an allegation he's denied.
9 PM ET: COLORADO; NEW YORK
• Aurora, CO Mayor & City Council: Even though Biden carried Aurora by a wide 64-33 margin, conservatives have long dominated local politics in this diverse community thanks in part to low off-year turnout and an officially nonpartisan election system. Progressives, though, are hoping for a breakthrough this year. Mayor Mike Coffman, a Republican who previously served five terms in the U.S. House, faces Democratic City Councilmember Juan Marcano. Jeffrey Sanford, an unaffiliated candidate who is not raising any money, is also on the ballot in a race where it takes just a plurality to win.
The mayor, however, is only the most powerful member of the 11-person city council, and progressives are looking to score wins in the five other seats that are on the ballot this year. Coffman and his allies, though, have a financial advantage in most of these contests, and they've also benefited from heavy super PAC spending.
• Erie County, NY Executive: Democratic Executive Mark Poloncarz is seeking a historic fourth term as leader of Democratic-leaning Erie County, which includes Buffalo and some of its suburbs, but he's had a difficult general election.
In late August, a woman Poloncarz was romantically involved with filed a police report alleging that he had grabbed and restrained her after he became "irate" that she was looking at his phone's messages. Poloncarz said in response the two had an "emotional discussion that resulted in a tough breakup," but he denied the allegations.
Republican businesswoman Chrissy Casilio, who was already arguing that Poloncarz has done a poor job handling the arrival of asylum-seekers, is hoping the incumbent's woes will give her an opening in a county that Biden carried 56-42. But Poloncarz, who has far outraised his rival, has in turn focused on Casilio's old social media posts, including writings comparing abortion to the Holocaust and slavery.
• Suffolk County, NY Executive: Democratic incumbent Steve Bellone is termed out after 12 years of leading this populous Long Island community, and Republicans are looking to capitalize on their recent successes here. While Trump won Suffolk County just 49.30-49.27―a tiny 232-vote margin that still made it the largest county in America to back the GOP ticket―the area zoomed hard to the right in 2021 and 2022.
The GOP has picked Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, while the Democrats are fielding Dave Calone, a businessman and former prosecutor. Romaine, who has the support of the county's Police Benevolent Association, is adopting the tough-on-crime and anti-tax playbook the GOP successfully employed during the last two elections. Calone is pushing back by highlighting his own experience as a prosecutor and tying Romaine to local corruption.
11 PM ET: WASHINGTON
• Snohomish County, WA Sheriff: Hard-right Sheriff Adam Fortney made a name for himself during his first term by refusing to enforce Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's public health measures, as well as for rehiring deputies accused of wrongdoing, including one fired for an unjustified killing. Fortney is now defending his post against Susanna Johnson, who left the sheriff's office shortly after he took over in early 2020.
The race is officially nonpartisan, but the county GOP is for Fortney, while Johnson has the support of several Democratic groups; five former sheriffs are also in the challenger's corner. Biden carried Snohomish County, which is to the north of Seattle, 59-38.