Friday, June 2, 2023

Five takeaways from elections in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida

Tuesday saw a number of key races in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida, which underscored former President Trump’s grip on the Republican base and Democrats’ relative strength in suburban areas, among other things.

In one of the night’s marquee races, Trump’s endorsed candidate in the Kentucky GOP gubernatorial primary, Daniel Cameron, prevailed against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s favorite, former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft. The Florida governor’s pick in the Jacksonville, Fla., mayoral race also lost, in one of the biggest upsets of the night.

Meanwhile, Democrats scored a key victory in the Philadelphia suburbs in a race that largely hinged on abortion.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday night’s elections.

Trump notches a win over DeSantis in Kentucky

Trump scored a win over his chief rival in Kentucky on Tuesday night when his endorsed candidate won the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Cameron, who was favored by the former president, won the Republican primary to take on Gov. Andy Beshear (D) this November. Craft, who received a last-minute endorsement from DeSantis on Tuesday, placed third in the primary.

DeSantis’s decision to back Craft comes against the backdrop of a burgeoning 2024 Republican presidential primary field. The Florida governor is expected to formally launch his presidential bid in the coming weeks and is seen as Trump’s fiercest opponent.

DeSantis wasn’t the only high-profile Republican to back Craft — declared 2024 candidate and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also endorsed her. 

Cameron, a rising star in the GOP, touted the former president’s endorsement, even after Trump was held liable for sexual battery and defamation against the writer E. Jean Carroll.

A good night for Dems

Democrats had a lot to celebrate on Tuesday night.

In one of the most closely watched races of the year, Democratic candidate Heather Boyd beat Republican Katie Ford in the special election for a Pennsylvania state House seat outside Philadelphia, allowing them to keep control of the lower chamber.

The race was seen as particularly critical since Democrats feared Republicans would use a potential majority to push through restrictive measures relating to abortion and LGBTQ issues.

Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, Fla., Democrats scored an upset after Donna Deegan (D) won the mayoral race there against Republican Daniel Davis, who was backed by DeSantis. The election offered Democrats some relief given Duval County’s red leanings, suggesting that Democrats can still be competitive in the state even as Florida has trended Republican in recent years.

Meanwhile, in Colorado Springs, independent candidate Yemi Mobolade won the mayoral race against Republican Wayne Williams, a former Colorado secretary of state. The election delivered yet another blow to Republicans given that El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is situated, was a county that former President Trump won by 11 points in 2020. 

Progressives’ big-city winning streak suffers a blow

Not all Democrats were celebrating the primary results, as progressives suffered a blow after their favored candidate, Helen Gym, lost the primary in the Philadelphia mayoral race.

Gym, who received endorsements from high-profile progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), lost the race to become Philadelphia’s next top executive to former City Council member Cherelle Parker. Former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart placed second and Gym placed third.

Parker is almost certain to prevail in the November election against Republican David Oh given the Democratic leanings of the city.

Crime has been one of the driving issues in the race, and Parker, who is Black, has notably vocalized support for the use of the controversial policing strategy “stop-and-frisk.” Her safety and policing platform on her website also calls for hiring 300 more police officers who would be designated to a neighborhood beat.

A surprise upset in Florida

Deegan’s win in the Jacksonville mayoral race was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night. Deegan managed to flip the mayor’s office, which has been helmed by Republican Mayor Lenny Curry since 2015.

The race also further dented DeSantis on Tuesday, given that he endorsed Davis in March.

Surveys ahead of the race had indicated the race would be tight. Polling from the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida (UNF) last month found 48 percent of respondents backing Deegan while Davis received 47 percent support, falling well within the poll’s margin of error at plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. 

That polling also found that the highest percentage of respondents believed crime to be the most important issue facing the city.

Davis’s loss is a blow to Republicans in a county that has become friendlier to the GOP in recent years. DeSantis won Duval County, where Jacksonville is situated, by 12 points during the November midterms against Crist. But in 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum won the county over DeSantis by 4 points. 

Voter turnout was mixed 

Voter turnout in some of the biggest elections turned out to be a mixed bag. 

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) had previously warned that turnout for the GOP gubernatorial primary might end up around 10 percent, and data from the secretary of state’s website as of Tuesday night showed turnout around 14 percent.

Turnout also appeared relatively light in Pennsylvania, with one election official saying early on that the levels were “historically low,” according to WKBN-TV.

But in Duval County, where Jacksonville, Fla., is situated, turnout was at 33 percent as of Tuesday night. Broken down by voter party affiliation, close to 99,000 Republicans voted, while about 92,000 Democrats and roughly 25,000 voters with no party affiliation. More than 2,600 votes came from voters identified as “other.”

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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