Tuesday’s ‘Off-Year’ Elections in Four States Could Give Insight into 2024 Presidential Battle

Off-year elections are taking place in spots across the country on Tuesday. Some of these state races could have nationwide implications, so they will be closely scrutinized for hints of what may come in the 2024 presidential election. 
Voters in Kentucky and Mississippi head to the polls to choose their next governors. In Kentucky, two former law firm colleagues are facing each other in one of this year’s most high-profile elections. 

Kentucky Governor’s Race

Even though Kentucky is a Republican-leaning state, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is hoping his support of abortion access will persuade enough voters to give him another term in office.

Daniel Cameron, the Republican challenger, if elected, would become the nation’s first black Republican governor. Cameron, the current state attorney general, has reaffirmed his support of current Kentucky law which bans all abortions except when carried out to save a pregnant woman’s life or to prevent a disabling injury. The GOP challenger has also tried to link Beshear to Biden in regards to the current inflation affecting Kentucky families. 

“You’ve heard the governor … tell you how well the economy is doing, but chances are you don’t feel that way because inflation is rocking your wallet,” Cameron said during their final debate.

Beshear pushed back against Cameron’s efforts to make the election into a referendum on Biden and his administration’s policies. 

“This attorney general knows that if this race is about me versus him, that you know who I am and how I’ve led and how I’ve shown up every day,” Beshear said during another of their debates.

Governor’s Race in the Magnolia State

In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is trying to win a second term, but his challenger Brandon Presley’s campaign raised more money to make an aggressive push for the governorship.

Reeves has been telling voters that Mississippi has momentum with job creation, low unemployment, and improvements in education. He says liberal, out-of-state donors to Presley’s campaign are trying to change Mississippi.

Presley, a state utility regulator and second cousin of the late rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley, says Reeves has hurt the state by refusing to expand Medicaid to cover people working lower-wage jobs that don’t provide health insurance. 

“He’s not going to open his mouth about ethics reform,” Presley said of Reeves. “He is the poster child of this broken, corrupt system.”

For the first time, Mississippi has the possibility of a runoff in the governor’s race if no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote.

Republicans have held the Mississippi governorship for the past 20 years. They hold all statewide offices and a wide majority in the Legislature.

All Eyes on the Commonwealth of VA 

In Virginia, all 140 seats of the state legislature are up for grabs in races that have garnered outside attention and big-dollar donors. 

As CBN News reported, the GOP sees an unusual opportunity in the purple state to help Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin move forward with his agenda if they can hang onto their House of Delegates majority and flip just two state Senate seats to win control of the Virginia Senate. 

The contests are “the most important elections in America because these issues that are so important to Virginians are also the ones that are going to be so important to Americans next year,” Youngkin said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

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Meanwhile, Democrats running in Virginia are singling out abortion as a campaign priority.

“Republican Siobhan Dunnavant, she wants to ban abortion,” claims one campaign commercial for state Senate candidate Schuyler Vanbalkenburg. In truth, Dunnavant does not support a ban. She actually favors a 15-week abortion limit with exceptions.

On the Republican side, Gov. Youngkin is helping lead the charge for candidates, tackling abortion head-on by campaigning for what they see as a compromise – a 15-week cut-off. 

“I don’t support an abortion ban, period,” said state Sen. Dunnavant in a campaign ad responding to Vanbalkenburg. “15 weeks is reasonable, she has exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal anomalies,” declared a woman in the commercial. 

Kelsey Pritchard from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said if the Virginia GOP sees success in touting the 15-week abortion limit, 2024 candidates should take note.

“Two-thirds of Americans, according to multiple polls, say that they want a 15-week protection nationally,” Pritchard said. “It’s also a popular thing in Virginia with more than 60% of Virginians saying they want that line.”

Ohio Issue 1 – Enshrine Access to Abortion in State Constitution

And in Ohio, all eyes are on a ballot measure that could enshrine access to abortion in the Buckeye State’s constitution. The pro-abortion measure is known as Ohio Issue 1, or the so-called “Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative.” 

It would establish a state constitutional right to abortion and would only allow the state to restrict abortion after fetal viability, except when “necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health,” according to Ballotpedia. 

As CBN News reported, activists on both sides of the measure have spent millions of dollars in order to win this political battle.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, believes the amendment will diminish health standards for women. 

“Overnight, Ohio can go from being one of the most pro-life states in the country to one of the most pro-abortion states in the country,” Mancini said. “Let’s be clear, we’re talking about painful late-term abortions.” 

Protect Women Ohio, a pro-life coalition, raised more than $16 million to warn the public that Issue One would also remove parental rights if their child seeks an abortion or even a sex change operation. 

The pro-choice ACLU Ohio says those claims are false. “The amendment provides the right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” said legal director Freda Levenson. “It’s literally limited to that. Sexual identity is not reproduction.” 

Meanwhile, a coalition of 110 black pastors is standing against the measure, asking voters in an open letter to join them against abortion. 

“As Black faith and community leaders across Ohio who are called to care for God’s people, we urge our fellow Christians, the Black community, and all Ohioans who believe in the inherent value of every person to vote NO on Issue 1 this November,” the pastors’ letter read.

The pastors also noted, “What is more alarming is the number of Black children – 20 million – who were killed in the womb between 1973 and the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court last June. That is enough to fill Ohio Stadium more than 194 times.”

The pastors also pointed out the black community has historically been targeted by abortion providers like Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American Birth Control League which later became Planned Parenthood. 

“The Black community has been the target of the abortion industry for decades, beginning with the deplorable ideology of racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger, whose Planned Parenthood organization purposefully established abortion mills in minority neighborhoods and targeted
our communities for abortions. Sanger’s mission was to kill Black babies before they entered the world, and Planned Parenthood and the for-profit abortion industry have allowed that mission to continue to this very day,” the letter continued. 

Currently, abortion is legal in Ohio for up to 21 weeks and six days of pregnancy.

“We do not have to have the most radical abortion policy in the union,” said Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance (R). 

Ohio Issue 2 – Legalize Marijuana

Meanwhile, Ohio voters will also decide Tuesday on the future of the legalization of recreational marijuana. In 2015, voters opposed legalizing weed. 

Issue 2 on the statewide ballot would allow adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to grow plants at home. A 10% tax would be imposed on purchases, with proceeds going to administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries, and social equity and jobs programs. 

Proponents say the measure will return tax revenue for pot purchases now going to neighboring states where it’s legal, and help thwart the black market.

But opponents say the taxes collected would benefit the marijuana industry more than Ohio’s budget.

Last month, Frontlines Ohio reported that 142 pastors from across the state released a signed joint statement encouraging voters to vote “No” on Issue 2. 

“Do not let the Buckeye State get lost in the weeds” the pastors wrote.

“As the general public becomes desensitized to drug abuse, the next generation will become desensitized to right and wrong. While GOD has provided many helpful medicines which come from trees and plants, the Bible plainly states there was one tree in the Garden which was forbidden to eat from. In other words, there are natural products that can be toxic, like Marijuana. …we believe it would be morally wrong to legalize Recreational Marijuana due to indisputable evidence showing Marijuana is addictive, habit-forming, and negatively impacts a person’s self-control,” the statement said. 

Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize the adult use of cannabis if the measure passes.