On the ballot in 2023: governors of the South, mayors of large cities

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will ask voters for a second term as leader of one of the nation’s largest cities. The Republicans will try to take full control of the Virginia legislature. Governors’ mansions are up for election in Louisiana and Mississippi, and a Democratic governor from Kentucky, in the red state, will try to hang on for another term.

While much of the political attention in 2023 is on the emerging presidential race, voters in some states will weigh in on less high-profile contests that will nonetheless provide new insight into their priorities and views on the direction of the country.

Republicans should try to tie Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to President Joe Biden and other national Democrats who tend to be more liberal. Beshear, running for re-election in a state that heavily favors Republicans, quietly distanced himself from Biden in a recent interview with The Associated Press, saying, “This race is not about the White House.”

“It’s going to be what happens in the homes of every Kentuckian,” Beshear said. “And I think this last round of elections showed that if you want to be governor, people expect you to have a plan. People expect you to talk to them and not just use national talking points. »

State GOP spokesman Sean Southard said in a statement earlier this month that the party believes “the fundamentals are sound for a Republican candidate to beat him” once the party has a candidate.

About a dozen Republicans have said they are running, including former UN ambassador Kelly Craft, state agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles and attorney general Daniel Cameron, who has already received the endorsement by former President Donald Trump.

The Republican Governors Association did not make anyone available for an interview, but noted in a statement that the only incumbent governor to lose in 2022 was a Democrat, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, “and the RGA is ready. to start again in 2023”.

“Democrat Andy Beshear doesn’t align with Kentucky values, and we know voters are hungry for Republican leadership in Frankfurt,” RGA spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said.

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who will assume the chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2023, said the group’s “highest priority, by far, is to champion and re-elect” Beshear.

The group made a controversial but ultimately successful move in 2022 to boost far-right Republican candidates in multi-state GOP races, allowing Democratic candidates to face easier-to-beat opponents in the general election.

Murphy wouldn’t rule out taking similar action in 2023, saying, “As long as it’s ethical and legal, nothing is ruled out.”

His party faces a tougher battle in conservative Louisiana, where moderate Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited. It’s unclear who will emerge as the Democratic nominee, but a slew of GOP candidates are expected to enter the race. One of the most prominent Republicans considering a candidacy is US Senator John Kennedy.

In Mississippi, Republican Governor Tate Reeves will seek a second term. He recently signed into law the state’s largest-ever tax cut and plans to push for a complete elimination of state income tax in 2023. His re-election bid, however, could be complicated by lingering frustrations over the crumbling water system in Jackson’s capital, which partially failed in August and left the majority-black city of about 150,000 people queuing for water to drink, washing, cooking and flushing the toilet.

In Democratic-leaning Virginia, the politically divided General Assembly’s 140 seats will be on the ballot. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who privately assessed a 2024 presidential bid, has pledged to help his party gain full control of the legislature, though his plan to further limit abortions in the state could galvanize Democratic voters.

Republicans are expected to hold their majority in the House of Delegates and, pending the outcome of January’s special election, win up to three seats for an absolute majority in the Senate.

In New Jersey, a Democratic-led state where Republicans have made steady gains in recent years, all 120 seats in the state legislature will be on the ballot, giving the GOP a chance to regain control for the first time in two decades. Democrats currently control 24 of the state’s 40 Senate seats and 46 of the 80 Assembly seats.

Intra-party differences will be the main feature of the biggest mayoral races of 2023, highlighting the divides between progressives and moderates in Democratic strongholds.

In Chicago, more than half a dozen candidates are trying to oust Lightfoot. A Feb. 28 election will go ahead in April if no candidate wins a majority in the officially nonpartisan elections.

Lightfoot became the city’s first black woman and the first openly gay person to lead Chicago when she was elected in 2019. She initially ran for office as a progressive and outsider who would tackle the corruption at City Hall, but his early years in office also included a global pandemic and protests against police brutality.

Lightfoot’s opponents and other critics say his approach to governance has been too confrontational. She said the criticism was mostly due to sexism and racism, but began to address it in her campaign, saying in her first campaign ad, “I’m just human. And I guess sometimes it shows. But just because someone doesn’t always like my delivery doesn’t mean we don’t deliver.

Crime, which has played a big role in mayoral and gubernatorial elections across the country for the past two years, will be a major problem. While homicides have declined in Chicago in 2022 compared to previous years, the number is still higher than when Lightfoot took office. Concerns have grown about carjackings, shootings and other violence, especially near downtown and other commercial and tourist areas.

Crime issues are also dominating the mayoral race in Philadelphia, another Democratic stronghold. Mayor Jim Kenney has a limited term and a crowded field looms amid a wave of gun violence and a police shortage. So far, the Democratic primary field includes five former council members and the city comptroller, all of whom resigned their seats to run, as well as at least one state lawmaker. No Republican has yet announced.


Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press writers, in Frankfort, Kentucky; Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia; Sara Burnett in Chicago; and Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Michelle L. Price, Associated Press

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