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Dems Are Hoping to Score Upset Wins in These Races...and Send a Message

These aren’t the most coveted races in media, but they’re essential, nonetheless. Statewide races and those to fill local legislature seats are just as critical as those for federal office. You know the drill: your local politician enacts a policy that is felt much closer to home and more quickly than the business in DC. Yet, every ten years, the media pays attention to state legislature races solely because these chambers control the congressional maps with each new census. 

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The races we’re talking about this year revolve around the state attorney general's office, and Democrats have picked three elections where they feel upsets are possible. Even bolder, these races are in red states, each voting for Trump by 60 percent or more in the last presidential election. Democrats hope to send a message to the GOP ahead of the 2024 race, and they’re banking on abortion to clinch three attorneys general slots. Mississippi, Kentucky, and Louisiana are the Left’s 2023 targets. There is one hiccup for one of the races, however (via The New Republic): 

Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana may not seem to be obvious opportunities for Democrats to win major statewide races. But a new memo from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, first obtained by The New Republic, argues that the upcoming elections in these three states are not only competitive but winnable for Democrats. 

[…] 

The memo attempts to flip the conventional wisdom that Republicans are stronger on issues of public safety than Democrats, contending that GOP candidates and incumbents are “more focused on advancing Washington Republicans’ extremist agenda than keeping their constituents safe.” The memo also highlights abortion as a key issue, after the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade helped motivate voters in the 2022 midterm elections. 

[…] 

The Democratic candidate for attorney general in Kentucky is Pam Stevenson, a state representative and retired Air Force colonel. Her experience in the military and as an ordained minister provide “a key element to communicate with independent and right-leaning voters,” the memo argues. It contrasts her with Republican candidate Russell Coleman, a former U.S. attorney appointed by President Donald Trump who also once served as counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a kingmaker in the Bluegrass State. The memo slams Coleman as a “consummate political insider” who is “pushing the extremist, national Republican agenda,” highlighting his support for the state’s near-total abortion ban and an amendment rejected by voters last year that would have explicitly denied the state a constitutional right to an abortion. 

[…] 

The Democratic candidate for attorney general in Mississippi is Greta Kemp Martin, the litigation director for Disability Rights Mississippi. Given the potency of abortion in modern electoral politics, the memo describes incumbent Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch as “the woman behind the Dobbs decision.” Fitch, the first woman to hold the position of attorney general in the state, filed the brief to the Supreme Court for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which resulted in the court overturning the federal right to an abortion. 

“Kemp Martin’s campaign has highlighted the way the Dobbs decision has negatively impacted Mississippi as a whole, beyond just reproductive rights,” the memo says, giving the example of “health care deserts” in the state. (Several counties in Mississippi have no hospitals providing obstetric care, no ob-gyns, and no nurse midwives, according to Mississippi Today.) The memo also cites a June Mississippi Today/Siena College poll, which found that 45 percent of Republican voters support repealing the near-total ban on abortion in the state; however, that same poll also showed 44 percent oppose repealing the ban. 

[…] 

The greatest challenge may be in Louisiana, where Democrats have not yet fielded a candidate for attorney general, but the memo says that “DAGA is working closely to have a competitive Democratic challenger enter the race.” The memo also argues that the state’s jungle primary “provides a unique opportunity for Democrats.” All candidates will compete in an October 14 primary, and if no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the race continues to a runoff general election between the top two candidates on November 18. 

There is recent evidence that Democrats can win statewide in Louisiana: Current Governor John Bel Edwards won in an upset in 2015 and was reelected in 2019. However, Edwards is term-limited. As state Attorney General Jeff Landry is now running for governor as a Republican, his seat is open. 

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Okay, let’s throw some cold water on this for a second. You can’t have what would be the equivalent of a political three-peat in these races when one doesn’t have a candidate. In the Mississippi AG race, the polling about whether abortion can be a silver bullet is anything but certain. It’s surprising that 45 percent of Mississippians want the state’s stringent abortion law repealed, though 44 percent support it. That doesn’t provide much of a foundation that abortion can be an election killer in the state. And here’s why you can’t trust the polling on this issue because political operatives have mutilated the framing: 

“Views on abortion in the state are complicated: Pew Research finds that 59 percent of adults in Mississippi believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, but a 2022 poll by the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi found that 51 percent of Mississippians oppose the Dobbs decision.

As the publication noted, Mississippi did reject a personhood amendment to its state constitution. Kansas also overwhelmingly rejected a pro-life amendment in 2022. It was confusingly written, but Kansas voters probably considered this issue resolved as their state already bans funding for abortion, has parental consent laws, and prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. 

The only race where I can see a Democrat AG candidate winning is in Kentucky, where immensely popular incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is on the ticket, which could buoy chances of an upset on election night. 

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If we hold, it will surely drop the blood pressures of Republican operatives, who have yet to draft an effective messaging strategy for lawmakers pushing pro-life initiatives post-Dobbs. It will prove that abortion is overvalued with voters and that it will not be the Left’s saving grace amid Joe Biden’s dismal approval ratings that could prove fatal for down-ticket Democrats. But if Democrats get just one win, or two out of three, the panic on our side will be overwhelming, and the jubilation from the media will be outright intolerable.

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