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Election Watch

Election Results: Off-year Democratic Wins See Seed Change in KY, VA

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, along with lieutenant governor candidate Jacqueline Coleman, acknowledge supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Photo: Bryan Woolston/AP Photo

Heading into Tuesday’s off-year elections in a handful of Appalachian states– Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi notably among them– important races for governor and state legislative seats were being posited as an early referendum on the White House. 

President Trump spent the days leading up to the race rallying in Kentucky and Mississippi for Republican gubernatorial candidates in tight races, but avoided purple Virginia. But in the end, his support, or lack thereof, resulted in a mixed bag of results. 

In Kentucky, voters elected a new governor in a close race between the Republican incumbent Matt Bevin and Democrat Andy Beshear, the state’s attorney general. Beshear took the win with 49.2 percent of the votes. 

Mississippi picked a new governor as well. With the Republican Governor Phil Bryant out of the race due to term limits in his state, the current Republican lieutenant governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves run against the Democrat Jim Hood, a current attorney general of the state.

Reeves won decisively with 52.3 percent of the votes against Hood’s 46.5 percent. 

All of the seats in Virginia’s bi-camerral legislature were on the ballot Tuesday and for the first time in 20 years, the governing body will be led by Democrats. Democrats are projected to have 54 delegates out of 100 in the House and 21 senators out of 40. 

With the executive branch already in their hands, the results leave Democrats in complete control of the state.

The visible absence of the presidential support on the ground in Virginia could be a sign of the national Republican Party noticing a decline in suburban support for the current administration. 

It is a widely held Democratic belief that it’s in the suburbs of traditionally red or purple states where the Democrats have the best chance of stealing votes away from Republican candidates in 2020, including President Trump himself. 

Election Watch

Where the Vote Shifted in Kentucky from 2015 to 2019

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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, right, with his wife Glenna, speaks to supporters gathered at the republican party celebration event in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Photo: Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo

Andy Beshear’s lead in the Kentucky gubernatorial race came largely from cities and suburbs. But a shift toward the Democratic candidate occurred across the state, compared to the 2015 governor’s election.

This time, it really was the cities and suburbs.

The television maps of Kentucky’s vote Tuesday night appeared to show that a shift in rural areas was a decisive factor in Democrat Steve Beshear’s apparent victory in the governor’s race. And there was a movement in that direction, especially in parts of Eastern Kentucky.

But the areas that gave the Democrat a lead over incumbent Governor Matt Bevin were in the state’s major cities and close-in suburbs.

The map above shows the shift in the percent of people voting for Democrats from the 2015 governor’s race (won by Republican Bevin) to this week’s contest. Only 39 of Kentucky’s 120 counties were more Republican this week than four years earlier. Almost all counties were rural or exurban (the remotest suburbs) and they are concentrated in the western portion of the state.

The counties that moved most strongly toward the Democrats were central city counties of the major metro regions of the state and their suburbs (including those neighboring Cincinnati, Ohio). Of the seven counties where Democrats increased their share by 10 percentage points from 2015, five were attached to major metro areas.

There was a strong Democratic trend in a number of Eastern Kentucky counties. Magoffin, Knott and Perry counties (all once dependent on the coal industry) had some of the strongest Democratic shifts in the state.

But since the urban and suburban counties have much larger populations than rural counties, most of the surge in Democratic votes was tied to the cities. Democrats increased their total vote by 283,000 from 2015 to 2019. Nearly two-thirds of that increase (177,000 votes) came from the state’s major cities or suburbs.

In fact, nearly 40 percent of that increase came from just two counties, the central parts of Louisville (Jefferson County) and Lexington (Fayette County).

Explore an interactive map of Kentucky’s election results here.

The increase in voter turnout was massive in Kentucky, compared to 2015. The Democratic vote increased by 66 percent from 2015 to 2019. The Republican turnout increased by 37.7 percent – a huge gain but not enough to offset the Democratic surge.

The Democratic vote in downtown Lexington nearly doubled.

The Washington Post has a sophisticated analysis of the urban, suburban and rural shifts in Kentucky’s elections. It finds that the split between central cities and counties farther from city centers has widened since 2015.

The Yonder finds the same widening gap. For example, there was a 22.5 percentage point difference in the Democratic vote between Louisville (Jefferson County) and the state’s most rural counties in 2015. This week, the gap was 29.6 points.

Bill Bishop is a contributing editor and co-founder of the Daily Yonder.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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Election Watch

Early Presidential Primary States Have Stronger Job Growth

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From left, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro are introduced for the Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC on the campus of Texas Southern University Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in Houston. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay

While Democrat candidates criticize Trump on the economy, the states that hold their presidential nomination contests first (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) are doing better than the rest of nation with jobs.

Job growth in the first four Democratic primary states was far stronger than the national average over the last year, according to the latest federal reports.

Moreover, unemployment rates in these states were also at or well below that of the nation as a whole. And the good employment reports came from both urban and rural counties.

Democratic candidates have uniformly criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy. That message is being delivered in states that have had good job growth, and low unemployment rates, in the last year.

Credit: Daily Yonder graphic/Bureau of Labor Statistics

The first four Democratic primaries will be in Iowa (caucuses Feb. 3), New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (caucuses Feb. 22) and South Carolina (Feb. 29). The chart above shows the job growth in those states from July 2018 to July 2019. The figures are broken down between rural and urban counties.

The job growth rate in urban Iowa is more than three times that of the U.S. total. In rural Iowa, jobs have been growing at a little less than twice the national average. Des Moines has had the sixth fastest rate of job growth since last July of all U.S. metro counties at 5.3 percent.

The same is true across the first four Democratic primary states. Not one state has job growth rates lower than the national average. The closest is New Hampshire, which clocks in with job growth at just a bit above the national figures. Every other state has job growth rates at two to three times the national figures, in both rural and urban counties.

The only state of these four with a higher unemployment rate than the national average in July of this year is Nevada. It had a statewide unemployment rate of 4.5 percent compared to the national rate of 4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Iowa had an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent in July. South Carolina’s rate was 3.2 percent, and New Hampshire’s rate was 2.2 percent.

What does this do to the rhetoric coming from Democratic candidates – or its reception by voters? The Daily Yonder has no idea.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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Fact-checking Donald Trump’s rally in Charleston, W.Va.

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Just hours after courtroom setbacks for two once-close allies, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump held a rally in Charleston, W.Va., a state he won by 42 points in the 2016 election.

Trump’s remarks, lasting about an hour and 15 minutes, did not directly address Manafort, who was found guilty by a federal jury in Virginia, and Cohen, who pled guilty to charges in a New York courtroom.

Instead, his speech covered a range of topics he frequently brings up, including his administration’s economic accomplishments, immigration and the military.

Here is a rundown of some of the statements from the rally.

“United States Steel announced a massive infusion of cash. They are opening seven different plants.”

Trump has repeatedly exaggerated the scale of U.S. Steel’s expansion.

Between restarts, new mills and expansions, the steel industry has seen significant investment this year. But Trump is wrong: U.S. Steel is restarting two shuttered mills. Other companies are re-opening or building a few other mills. We have rated similar claims by Trump False.

The tax bill Trump championed represented “the biggest tax cuts in our history.”

There’s no question that the tax bill Trump signed is a significant piece of legislation. But even by estimates most favorable to the president, we found the Trump tax cut is exceeded in size by other historical examples.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the recent tax bill is the fourth-largest since 1940. And as a percentage of GDP, it ranks seventh.

“Canada charges us close to 300 percent tariffs for dairy products going to Canada.”

In a tweet earlier this year, Trump used the figure 270 percent. At the rally, he used the somewhat larger figure of 300 percent, but either is a broadly reasonable estimate of Canada’s dairy tariffs, which are high by any standard.

It’s worth noting, however, that the United States has recently run a sizable trade surplus with Canada in dairy products, driven by a strong business in a milk product that was unaffected by the high tariffs. Trump also glossed over the fact that the United States imposes its own trade barriers on certain American-made products. On balance, we gave Trump a Mostly True.

“When we make a car, we sell it to China, … there is a 25 percent tariff.”
American and Chinese government trade data support the numbers in Trump’s statement.

However, China makes up a relatively small share of U.S. auto imports overall. In addition, some experts say Trump’s own trade policies have contributed to the disparity in car import tariffs. We have rated a similar claim Mostly True.

“We have secured $6 billion dollars to fight the opioid crisis.”

Trump is correct. An appropriations bill signed by the president at the end of Marchprovided $6 billion to federal, state and local agencies to turn back the opioid crisis.

“Almost 3.9 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, which runs the program commonly called food stamps, there were 42.7 million Americans on food stamps when Donald Trump took office in Jan. 2017. That number had decreased to 39.3 million persons by May 2018, which is a difference of 3.4 million. So Trump is close on this statistic.

Members of NATO “weren’t paying their bills. … When someone does not pay rent, I say, you are delinquent. … No one was paying their bills.”

Members of NATO — the North Atlantic military alliance that includes the United States and a variety of European countries — agreed to contribute at least 2 percent of their country’s GDP toward defense by 2024. However, that defense spending does not take the form of payments to the United States or the alliance as a whole. We have rated this statement False.

“The United States is paying close to 90 percent of the costs of protecting Europe.”

This is not accurate. The United States pays for 22 percent of NATO’s common fund. Beyond that relatively small amount, the cost of NATO is undefined.

The organization does total the defense budgets of its members, and based on that, U.S. defense spending equals about 70 percent. But the United States spends as much as it does because it is a global military power, which by and large, the European members are not.

Trump has repeatedly pushed this flawed comparison even further by saying that the United States paid for as much as 90 percent of NATO’s costs. That goes beyond the exaggeration of this statistic that we’ve seen before. We have rated it Mostly False.

“We secured a record $700 billion for our military this year — $716 billion, with a ‘b’.”

Trump is correct. Congress gave the military a $61 billion increase from fiscal year 2017 to 2018, making the 2018 military budget total $700 billion. (That includes the Defense Department and elements of other agencies, chiefly Energy Department programs pertaining to nuclear weapons.) The 2019 spending level rises even higher, to $716 billion.

“Last week, 62 people were shot and 12 died in Chicago…”

Trump was off slightly on the number of casualties and the timing, but he was close to accurate. On Aug. 8, CNN reported that during the previous weekend in Chicago, 66 people were shot, 12 of them fatally, according to police.

The wall between the United States and Mexico “is coming along. … It will be up before we know it.”

Trump has said this before, but it is misleading and something we’ve rated Mostly False.

Congress appropriated $1.6 billion to replace existing border fencing and to add some new barriers. But that money was not for the border wall Trump had been promising. Even though wall prototypes were built, the Department of Homeland Security told us it does not anticipate that a single prototype will be selected as the design standard for future border wall construction. “Rather, the eight different prototypes are each anticipated to inform future border wall design standards in some capacity,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Carlos Diaz told PolitiFact in April.

Trump is still actively advocating for funds for his border wall, even though he promised Mexico would pay for it.

“I have almost 400 (nominees) that haven’t been approved. (Senate Democrats) are slow-walking them.”

This is partly accurate, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. As the minority party, Democrats are allowed 30 additional hours of debate after Republicans break a filibuster on a Trump nominee. Democrats have used this procedural maneuver to run down the clock and bog down the confirmation process.

But laying the blame solely at the feet of Democrats oversimplifies things. Senate Republicans and the Trump White House bear responsibility, too.

Because the Senate generally operates on the principle of unanimous consent, a single senator may seek to hold up an executive nominee by withholding consent. Republicans in the Senate have used more than a dozen such “holds” to extract concessions from the executive branch. For instance, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., has held up Justice Department nominees over differences with the Trump administration on marijuana policy.

Finally, Trump himself shares the blame for the slimmed down federal workforce. The Partnership for Public Service, which tracks political appointees, has noted that more than 160 key positions out of nearly 700 don’t have nominees. And some of the delay is the result of legitimate concerns about Trump nominee qualifications and conflicts of interest, which in some cases have prompted heightened scrutiny and dragged out the process.

We also checked one statement by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who Trump called to the stage to address the crowd.

Republican Senate candidate “Patrick Morrisey is a little behind now” in his bid to oust Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin

This fits with recent polls. If anything, Morrisey is more than a little behind.

The most recent poll, taken in July by the Trafalgar Group, a Republican firm, found Manchin leading Morrisey 50 percent to 40 percent. A poll in June, by the nonpartisan survey outfit from Monmouth University, found Manchin ahead, 50 percent to 43 percent.

This story was originally published by Politifact.

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