Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Democrats Rack Up Off-Year Election Wins in State and Local Races

On Tuesday, Democrats held onto control of the Pennsylvania House, while robbing Republicans of two of their major local offices. However, the GOP is solidly behind its candidate in the year's key race for governor.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron won the GOP nomination to stand against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
(Silas Walker/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)
Republicans united behind a candidate in the nation’s premier race for governor on Tuesday, but Democrats enjoyed a strong night overall, holding onto power in a key legislative chamber and further eroding the GOP presence in major cities.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron survived an expensive and often hostile primary race to win the GOP nomination against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. “Cameron has run a mostly tame and upbeat campaign, leveling attacks at Beshear rather than his primary opponents,” says Stephen Voss, a political scientist at the University of Kentucky. “A conservative warrior, he will continue to do so effectively.”

Democrats know the race will be competitive but are optimistic that Beshear can hold on, despite GOP dominance of Kentucky in federal races. Beshear’s approval ratings are the best of any Democratic governor.

Republicans went into Tuesday holding just seven of the mayor’s offices in the nation’s 40 largest cities. They lost two more — Jacksonville and Colorado Springs. In Philadelphia, former city councilmember Cherelle Parker outpaced the large field of Democrats to win the party’s key nomination to succeed term-limited Jim Kenney.

In suburban Philadelphia, Democrat Heather Boyd won a special election to the state House, preserving her party’s narrow majority in the chamber. Both President Biden and Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro emphasized abortion rights in expressing their support for Boyd.

Across the commonwealth in Pittsburgh, progressive candidates dominated Democratic primary races in Allegheny County. State Rep. Sara Innamorato won the nomination to replace term-limited County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“Well, it sure looks like the moderates didn’t do well,” Fitzgerald told WESA. “It’s been seven years in a row of the far left winning Democratic primaries in Allegheny County. It looks like we’re going to become similar to places like San Francisco or Seattle or Portland, with a far-left agenda of our elected officials.”

It was a bad night for election deniers. In the GOP primary for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Carluccio defeated Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, who handed Trump one of his rare legal victories following the 2020 election. McCullough — an ally of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, last year’s loser in a U.S. Senate race — halted the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results, but her decision was swiftly overturned by the state Supreme Court.

In Kentucky, Secretary of State Michael Adams defeated two challengers who claimed recent elections were ruined by voter fraud. “If you cave and get into these conspiracy theories, all it does is validate them,” Adams told NBC News. "I’m not going to fall for that.”

Bad Move by DeSantis

Cameron won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump soon after entering the Kentucky governor’s race last year. He had also served as counsel to Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader of the Senate. But Cameron was unable to clear the field and faced multiple opponents.

In the end, he won easily, taking 48 percent of the vote — more than his top two challengers combined. State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles took 22 percent of the vote while Kelly Craft, a former ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, took just 17 percent.

Craft and her husband Joe had spent nearly $11 million on the race, meaning each vote she won cost nearly $200. Craft launched many attacks against Cameron, attempting to suggest he was “woke” and weak on crime. Kentucky Republicans are now hoping the Crafts, who are dominant donors in Kentucky GOP politics, will let bygones be bygones. In her concession speech, Craft did say Republicans must unite to defeat Beshear in November, but pointedly did not mention Cameron by name.

Cameron made a point of acknowledging the importance of Trump’s support in his victory speech. “The Trump culture of winning is alive and well in Kentucky,” he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a tactical error, endorsing Craft at the last minute. The Trump-aligned Make America Great Again PAC put out a statement suggesting this proved Trump is the party’s undoubted leader. “Republican voters stand with President Trump, not Ron DeSantis,” the PAC stated. “It’s time to unite around Donald Trump.”

GOP Shutout at Local Level

DeSantis’ favored candidate also lost in Jacksonville. Democrat Donna Deegan, a longtime newscaster and health advocate, won the mayoral runoff against Republican Daniel Davis, the head of the local chamber of commerce and a former city councilmember and state representative.

Davis had outspent Deegan, by at least $8.4 million to $2.1 million. “Love won today,” Deegan said on Tuesday night. “I cannot tell you how excited I am to bring this city together and move us forward.”

Jacksonville, the nation’s 12th largest city, is currently the biggest with a Republican mayor. Deegan is only the second Democrat to win a mayor’s race there in the last 30 years. She will be Jacksonville’s first woman mayor and its second Arab American mayor, following her cousin Tommy Hazouri, who served from 1987 to 1991.
Donna Deegan.jpg
Donna Deegan won the race for mayor of Jacksonville, Fla. She is a longtime newscaster and health advocate, beating Republican Daniel Davis in a runoff election. (Facebook)

Republicans also lost the mayor’s race in Colorado Springs, traditionally a conservative bastion as the home of the Air Force Academy and the evangelical organization Focus on the Family. The GOP has controlled the mayor’s office since 1979.

“It’s a new day in our beloved city,” said Yemi Mobolade, an independent who beat former Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Mobolade, a restaurateur and Nigerian immigrant, will be the city’s first Black mayor.

"It's clear Colorado Springs is less conservative than it used to be,” Williams told KRCC. “When I was chairman here [of the El Paso County GOP], we had no Democratic state reps. Now we have three.”

Good Night for Progressives

Both the mayor’s race in Philadelphia and the county executive contest in Allegheny County split along racial and geographic lines. “There were too many white men in this race, that’s the reality of it,” said County Treasurer John Weinstein, who lost to Innamorato.

Innamorato, who had the backing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, thanked a multi-ethnic coalition of supporters for her win. She was supported by environmental and LGBTQ groups and labor unions. “We are gonna make Allegheny County the best damn place to form a union in the country,” she said Tuesday night, according to reporter Ryan Deto.

Matt Dugan, the county’s chief public defender, appears poised to join the nation’s ranks of progressive prosecutors, beating Stephen Zappala Jr., who has served as district attorney for a quarter of a century. But local Republicans encouraged their voters to write in Zappala. It’s not yet clear whether he received enough write-in votes to make the November ballot.

“The Republican Party has decided to make me their nominee,” Zappala said. “I apologize to my friends and supporters that we didn’t have a stronger showing this evening, but if we stick around to November, we’re going to kick some ass and take some names.”
Alan Greenblatt is the editor of Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @AlanGreenblatt.
From Our Partners