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Democrats Overperform in Recent Elections

While 2023 is considered an “off-year” for elections, with no regularly scheduled federal elections taking place, November 7th was nonetheless a big election day, and Democrats racked up wins across the country. Virginia Democrats kept control of the state senate while winning control of the State House; Ohio voters enshrined abortion in their state constitution and legalized cannabis; Andy Beshear won a second term as Kentucky Governor; Pennsylvania voters elected a Democrat to their state Supreme Court; Rhode Island sent its first POC representative to Congress; and New Jersey Democrats expanded their majority in the state assembly. Even in Mississippi, where Brandon Presley fell short in the race for the governor’s mansion, he made significant gains in the state. Presley only ran 3% behind the incumbent governor Tate Reeves (R) once all votes were tallied, despite ballot issues in heavily Democratic precincts.

Races in off-year and special elections are often used as crystal balls in the polling world to gauge voter interests. This is largely due to their ability to display voter enthusiasm and voting trends before “big” races take place. The recent elections point towards a highly favorable environment for Democrats going into 2024. While Republicans had hoped that Joe Biden’s weak polling numbers and ‘culture war’ issues like LGBTQ+ rights would get voters to swing their way, Democrats nonetheless saw resounding victories. Especially clear is that voters are still motivated by abortion: the measure to add abortion access into the Ohio state constitution passed with flying colors, and other races indirectly related to abortion went the Democrats’ way. In school board elections, where parents’ rights were thought to be a hot button topic, the conservative Mothers for Liberty group saw the majority of their endorsed candidates lose

This news is great for democracy and Democrats across the nation, but what does this mean for Georgia? Let’s take a look.

Democrats in the South had an especially surprising showing. Virginia Democrats kept their majority in the state senate and retook the state house, denying Governor Glenn Youngkin the trifecta he needed to pass abortion restrictions. In fact, it was such a crushing defeat for Virginia Republicans that Youngkin’s presidential aspirations might be permanently crushed. Even in Kentucky, which went to Donald Trump by a 26 point margin in 2020, Democrat Andy Beshear won by over 5%. Prominently featured in headlines was Letcher County, which swung almost 60 points to the left from 2020 to narrowly vote for Beshear this year. 

And it’s not just these most recent elections. Ever since the Dobbs case overturned Roe v Wade, Democrats have been outperforming throughout the country. Special elections post-Dobbs showed a large swing leftwards, and the 2022 Midterms also displayed a strong Democratic overperformance compared to expectations. The latest November wins continue to add to signs that the political environment for Democrats, especially at the state and local level, will be promising. 

Here in Georgia, with new maps soon to be instituted after Judge Jones determined that the current ones violate the Voting Rights Amendment, Democrats have a big opportunity in 2024. If we can harness the current favorable environment and encourage high turnout in the new districts, the Georgia house could flip blue as soon as the next election. Competitive races could also drive high-quality candidates to try their hand at running in Georgia, reducing the number of uncontested races and driving large amounts of attention to the state. Coupled with Americans from all over the country moving into the state, and the left-leaning Generation Z aging into politics, Georgia Democrats have a lot to look forward to in the coming elections.

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