In blow to Trump, state house and senate in Democratic hands in Virginia, as candidate for governor in Kentucky claims victory
Democrats have won control of Virginias state legislature for the first time in a generation, while the Democratic candidate for governor of Kentucky also claimed victory in what could be a huge double blow to Donald Trump one year out from the 2020 election.
The Democratic party prevailed in both the state house and senate in Virginia, a state often viewed as a bellwether for national politics and a battleground in presidential elections. Democratic governor Ralph Northam will now have scope to press ahead with legislation such as tighter gun control in the state.
Im here to officially declare today, November 5 2019, that Virginia is officially blue, Northam, told a crowd of supporters in Richmond.
In Kentucky, which Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in the 2016 election, Andy Beshear the Democratic challenger to unpopular incumbent governor Matt Bevin declared victory as he was narrowly ahead of the Republican, who has refused to concede in a race that was still too close officially to call on Wednesday morning.
Tonight voters in Kentucky sent a message loud and clear for everyone to hear. Its a message that says our elections dont have to be about right versus left, they are still about right versus wrong, Beshear said.
The brightest spot for Republicans came was in the Mississippis governors race, where Democrat Jim Hood, the states attorney general, ran a competitive, but ultimately unsuccessful, race against Republican Tate Reeves, the lieutenant governor.
Yet a year before the presidential election, the results offered warning signs for both parties. Voters in suburban swaths of Kentucky and Virginia sided with Democrats, a trend that would complicate Trumps path to re-election in 2020 if it holds. And the Democrats who made gains in Tuesdays election did so by largely avoiding positions such as the government-run healthcare plan Medicare for All that have animated the partys left flank in the Democratic presidential primary race.
The elections also offered insight into Trumps popularity among Republicans as he battles an accelerating impeachment inquiry. Democratic-aligned groups pumped huge amounts of money into the contests as a way to test-drive messaging and campaigns ahead of the 2020 election, particularly on gun control and clean energy.
Beshear declared himself the winner in Kentucky after securing 49.2% of the vote to Bevins 48.8%. As of late Tuesday night, Beshear led Bevin by a margin of more than 5,000 votes.
But Bevin, who took the stage at the Republican party across town, called it a close, close race and said he was not conceding by any stretch. We want the process to be followed, and there is a process, he said.
Bevin was elected in 2015 and had portrayed this election as a referendum on Trump, who stumped for the governor at a rally in Kentucky on Monday night and called Beshear too liberal, too extreme and too dangerous.
At the rally, Trump told the crowd: If you lose, it sends a really bad message you cant let that happen to me.
Brad Parscale, Trumps 2020 campaign manager, sought to frame the Kentucky outcome as a net positive for Trump. The president just about dragged Gov Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end.
In a late-night tweet after results came in, Trump appeared to concede the Republican may have lost: @MattBevin picked up at least 15 points in last days, but perhaps not enough (Fake News will blame Trump!).
A bullish Bevin had told the New York Times last month that he anticipated winning the election by between six and 10 points.
I think youre going to be shocked at how uncompetitive this actually is, he told the paper at the time.
But while Trump won Kentucky with more than 60% of the vote in 2016 and remains popular in the state, with Republicans in other races there doing well on Tuesday, Bevin who polls as one of Americas most unpopular governors could not ride that popularity to victory.
Beshear, the states attorney general and the son of Kentuckys last Democratic governor, made public education the cornerstone of his campaign, choosing a public high school assistant principal as his running mate and accusing Bevin of bullying schoolteachers who protested against proposed pension reforms.
Bevin, who accused protesting teachers of acting thuggish and said school closures as a result of their actions would lead to children suffering sexual abuse and ingesting poison, said he did not regret his words. Beshear promised he would never bully anybody as governor.
Bevin, meanwhile, fought on broader, national and cultural issues, highlighting his relationship with Trump and his support for the second amendment, while touting himself as the most pro-life governor in America.
While Bevin performed well in much of the state, in parts of Kentuckys largest city, Louisville, one could drive by dozens if not hundreds of Stop Bevin Vote Beshear! yard signs before passing any sign of support for the Republican.
At the Democrats election party at an event center in the predominantly African American Louisville neighbourhood of Smoketown, the mood turned from nervous to jovial as returns showed Beshear taking the lead.
Were off the bus, Bevin is out of here, said Jennifer Leano, 49, as she left the Beshear celebration. After he insulted the teachers, Bevin dug his own grave.
Kentuckys race was one of several closely watched elections in states across the US on Tuesday. Republican Daniel Cameron made history in a resounding win in Kentuckys election for attorney general, becoming the first African American to win the office.
Trump rallied Republican voters on Twitter but stayed out of Virginia, which he lost in 2016.
Democrats have pledged that when they take power, they will pass an agenda that Republicans have blocked for years, including stricter gun laws, a higher minimum wage and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.