Last Tuesday night people throughout the country went to the polls to weigh in on numerous local initiatives and representation. Giving voters their last chance to directly express their views before next year’s presidential elections, many of the contests could very well be viewed as referendums on Democrats, President Obama and those elected in the 2010 Republican resurgent wave.
At stake were many high profile pieces of legislation ranging from a ban on collective bargaining rights to a constitutional amendment defining when life begins to voters’ rights. Other contests were to determine control of a state legislature and who would occupy states’ governor seats. The outcomes would surely define many issues next year and may well require many politicians to reassess certain positions.
By now many already know the results of these elections but here’s a rundown. In Mississippi, the proposed personhood amendment, supported by anti-abortion groups, sought to define the beginning of human life at conception was defeated 58% to 42% . Ohio voters soundly rejected the Governor Kasich supported ban on public-employee collective bargaining with 61% of the vote. Voter’s there also, symbolically, denounced the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by 65%. Maine voters reinstated same-day voter registration, a long-held measure Republicans in that state attempted to abolish.
There were also a number of state representation races decided Tuesday. Kentucky saw the re-election of the Democratic Governor Beshear while Mississippi voters placed another Republican in their governor’s office, replacing Haley Barbour with Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant. It appears the Virginia senate races have stripped Democrats of control of that chamber resulting in a 20-20 split. And in Arizona, the architect of that state’s controversial immigration law, state senate president Russell Pearce lost his recall election, stating in his concession speech that, “if being recalled is the price for keeping one’s promises, so be it.” Pearce is the nation’s first sitting senate president and the first Arizona legislator to lose a recall election.
What does it all mean?
Was Tuesday night’s elections a rejection of Tea Party policy? Voters in 3 states, 2 solidly red states and one swing state, sent a resounding rebuke to their legislators, saying they will not support highly partisan agendas. Anti-union, anti-abortion and illegal immigration are core Tea Party issues. Those along with promises to cut government spending swept ideologically far-right politicians into power and control of many state legislatures. In pursuit of campaign promises these newly invigorated leaders sought to limit abortion practices by circumventing Roe v. Wade through such peripheral strategies as eliminating funding for health clinics that provide abortion services or in this week’s case, redefining legal definitions of life. They implemented constitutionally questionable illegal immigration laws and attempted to curtail collective bargaining rights through the demonization of unions and even public school teachers. In each state where voters had a chance to express themselves, these policies were sent asunder. The results will call into question similarly proposed laws in other states. And the Ohio vote will undoubtedly embolden recall efforts to unseat Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker whose state legislature colleagues are now attempting to pass a bill requiring notarized affidavits to accompany all pages of submitted recall petitions.
While the election results reflected a general discontent with far-right partisan policies, voters in Ohio also expressed their dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. A message the President and Democrats will have to heed as they move into the 2012 campaign season. Additionally, barring any changes during the recount, Democrats will lose control the Virginia state senate. Was this a referendum on the President? Cable news is already assessing it as such.
In both the gubernatorial races, in Mississippi and Kentucky, the incumbent parties held onto power. As opposed to the 2010 elections, this reflects a lack of a “throw the bums out” mentality.
So were these elections a rejection of Tea Party and far-right Republican policies or did they just send mixed messages? Both. Voters did not give either side a free pass. They have grievances against both parties. Now, the results will be spun in a multitude of directions depending on the perspectives of the speculators but one thing is quite clear, these elections have essentially mandated policymakers from both sides to reassess their views and strategies as the 2012 general election campaigns draw ever closer. What they do between now and then will depend on how closely they listened.