Emboldened by a better-than-expected 2022 midterm season, Democrats are now setting their sights on three key gubernatorial races in the American South, hoping that surprise victories in three key states may provide them with momentum going into the 2024 general elections.
This year, gubernatorial elections will be held in three deep red states: Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, all of which are holding elections to determine their respective chief executives this fall. To the surprise of many, all of these races are considered competitive to varying degrees,
Despite President Biden’s widespread and enduring disapproval rating, congressional Democrats exceeded expectations in the 2022, causing them to set their ambitions higher for this year’s gubernatorial races. A variety of explanations for this dynamic have been proposed, including demographic change and COVID-19 deaths, disapproval of Republican anti-abortion laws, political fallout from the January 6 Capitol snafu and widespread ballot harvesting in certain states.
Among the three aforementioned gubernatorial contests, the closest appears to be that of Kentucky, which will see incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, attempt to hold the office against one of several Republican challengers. Currently, the leading candidates in the Republican primary are Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s first African-American attorney general, and Kelly Craft, who served as ambassador to Canada and ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration. While some analysts have given Democrats a slight advantage in this race, the consensus maintains that the election is a toss-up with neither side able to confidently predict victory in November.
Louisiana appears more favorable to Republicans, as the incumbent Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, faces the end of his term limit, bringing both sides to an open primary. Currently, Democrats are backing Shawn Wilson, but many believe that the former state secretary of Transportation and Development will be a harder sell for Louisiana voters than the moderate Edwards. The Republican primary favors Jeff Landry, a U.S. representative who became a congressional gadfly during the Obama administration who has served as attorney general for the state of Louisiana since 2016.
Mississippi appears poised to see a contest between the incumbent Republican governor, Tate Reeves, and Democrat Brandon Presley, a white-haired 45-year-old and second cousin of the King of Rock and Roll. While Democrats are hopeful that a handful of scandals in the Reeves administration will be sufficient to chip away at the incumbent’s advantage in the deep red state, the majority of polling still gives Reeves a decent advantage, suggesting that it may be awhile yet before Mississippians are saying “Let’s go, Brandon Presley” at the ballot box.
In all three cases, Republicans find themselves in an unexpectedly defensive position on what would normally be considered home turf. However each party may perform in each of their respective gubernatorial elections, only one thing is for certain: Pundits will use the results to reify their chosen narratives about any number of issues.
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