By Gabriella Borter
(Reuters) – U.S. voters on Tuesday will cast ballots to choose governors in Kentucky and Mississippi, decide legislative control in Virginia and New Jersey, and determine whether the Ohio state constitution should protect abortion rights.
Off-year votes get less attention in the U.S. than presidential and midterm congressional elections, but Republicans and Democrats will be watching some major races and key issues next week for clues about the 2024 elections.
Democratic is running for reelection against Republican state Attorney General Daniel Cameron in the typically conservative state.
Beshear’s campaign is touting his record of bringing jobs to Kentucky, supporting public education, expanding healthcare access and setting strict policies to curb the spread of COVID-19. Cameron is focusing on public safety, learning loss from school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic and culture war issues championed by Republicans nationally, such as opposing gender-affirming care for transgender children.
Republican Governor is running for reelection against Democrat Brandon Presley, a former small-town mayor and current utility regulator for Northern Mississippi. While Reeves is leading in the polls in the deeply conservative Southern state, Presley, the second cousin of singer , has outraised him over the course of the campaign.
In political ads, Reeves has accused Presley of being backed by out-of-state liberals and opposing bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth like the one Reeves signed into law in February. Presley has said he does not support gender-affirming care for minors, or transgender girls playing girls’ sports, and is running on the promise of tax cuts and expanding Medicaid.
All 40 seats in Virginia’s Senate and 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for grabs. Democrats are fighting to hold or widen their 22-18 advantage in the Senate and win a majority in the House, where Republicans have a 52-48 edge.
Virginia, a state that swings between Democratic and Republican control, is the only state in the U.S. South that has not enacted further limits on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. However, Republicans have promised to pass a 15-week abortion ban – supported by Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin – if they take control of the legislature.
NEW JERSEY LEGISLATURE
Republicans are fighting for control of either legislative chamber in solidly Democratic New Jersey, where all seats in the General Assembly and Senate are in play. Republicans have gained ground since 2021, when they flipped seven seats, and are campaigning on issues ranging from the economy to parental rights in K-12 education.
OHIO ABORTION RIGHTS
A ballot question in Ohio asks voters whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, a move that would render moot a six-week limit signed into law by Republican Governor Mike DeWine. That law is on hold pending litigation at the conservative state Supreme Court.
The vote is being closely watched as Democrats nationwide hope to add to their string of abortion-related ballot measure wins in 2022 with more such victories in 2024.
OHIO MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION
Ohio voters will also answer a ballot question about whether the state should legalize marijuana for recreational use. If approved, the statute would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults over 21, expanding on the currently legal medicinal use of cannabis.
Cities across the country will elect mayors on Tuesday. In Philadelphia, Democrat Cherelle Parker and Republican David Oh, both former city council members, are competing for an open seat as Democrat Jim Kenney reaches the limit of his mayoral term.
In Houston, a crowded field of candidates led by U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and state Senator John Whitmire, both Democrats, are competing to succeed the term-limited Mayor Sylvester Turner, also a Democrat.
PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT
The race for a new state Supreme Court justice will not alter the liberal tilt of Pennsylvania’s highest court but could have future implications for abortion rights and election laws in the state.
Planned Parenthood has endorsed Democratic candidate Daniel McCaffery for the 10-year position, while anti-abortion groups are backing the Republican candidate, Carolyn Carluccio. Democrats have a 4-2 majority in the partisan state court, with one vacant seat to be filled in this election.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Alistair Bell)
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