July 12, 2023

The 2023 election is now 4 months away, with governor elections in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi. If Republicans sweep all three it will be an ominous omen for Democrats. The 2024 presidential caucuses/primaries are 6 months away, beginning in January. The election is 16 months away.

A lot can transpire. More problems can surface for the Bidens.  Trump could be convicted of a felony. Kamala Harris could be president. Gavin Newsom could emerge as the Democratic nominee. Abortion rights could vanish as a motivating issue. The U.S. could be in an economic recession.  But politics moves onward.

Here are the “Top Seven” developing political races for the 2023-24 election cycle:

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR: There are a lot of moving parts here, the most important occurring in the Nov. 7 governor election. The candidates are incumbent Andy Beshear (D), who won his first term with 49.2 percent in 2019, and Trump-backed state attorney general Daniel Cameron (R)

The slowest-moving part is 81-year old Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who eagerly wants to retire and hand-off the Republican leadership to Senate majority whip John Thune (R-SD) this Congress before his party gets a majority in the 2025-26 Congress. But he cannot, because Beshear would appoint a Democrat to the seat, making the majority 52D-48R.

McConnell’s term expires in 2026, so he must stay. KY has realigned massively toward the Republicans in the past 20 years. Trump won the state with 62.6 percent in 2020 and 62.5 in 2016. The legislature is 30R-6D/Senate and 80R-20D/House and the congressional delegation 5R-1D. The state is 87 percent White, there is no Democratic party outside Louisville and Frankfort, and Beshear IS the party. But in the 56 years since 1967, or 14 terms, the Democrats have held governorship for 44 years, the Republicans just 12.

Republicans have groomed west KY congressman James Comer for the seat. He chairs the House Oversight Committee which is investigating foreign nationals’  $5 million-plus payments to Biden family members for dubious “work.”  If Cameron wins he can appoint Comer if McConnell quits. A May 28 Cygnal poll had Beshear-Cameron tied at 44-44 and a May 18 co/efficient poll had it at 45-43. Beating Beshear is Republicans’ top priority.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Much like KY, NC has a propensity to elect Democratic governors and Republican senators. In the 51 years since 1972, a Republican has been governor for just 16 years, or 4 of 13 terms.  In that same period,  Republicans have won 14 of 17 Senate elections – but never by huge margins. The intensely conservative and Republican rural, East Carolina, western Smokey Mountain and suburban areas slightly out-vote the Democratic urban areas of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, with its concentration of financial services (banking and insurance) and academia (UNC) plus Charlotte, Asheville, Fayetteville and Greenville, with a sizable Leftist and minority vote.

Trump won NC by 74,483 votes in 2020 and by 173,315 In 2016. Term-limited governor Roy Cooper (D) is out in 2024 and the two presumptive successors are state attorney general Josh Stein (D), a Cooper protégé, and lieutenant governor Mark Robinson (R), aligned with the Trump wing of the state party.  A June 7 Opinion Diagnostics poll had Robinson up 41-39 and a May 23 Cygnal poll had Robinson up 42-41.

WEST VIRGINIA SENATOR: Andy Warhol once said everybody will get “15 minutes of fame” and then disappear. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) had his 2 years (2021-22) when he was number 50 in the 50D-50R U.S. Senate and blocked parts of the Biden/Pelosi/Schumer agenda. But the body is now 51D-49R and the 76-year old Manchin has become irrelevant because his vote is inconsequential. Besides, there is no tangible 2023-24 Democratic agenda anyway. Manchin will disclose his 2024 re-election plans in December. He has $9,537,510 on-hand.

Jim Justice is reputed to be the richest man in WV, have amassed his fortune as a coal mining baron. The Democrats’ War on Coal and fossil fuels has made them very unpopular and unplentiful in WV, whose economy is blue-collar, with 72.2 percent having only a high school education, a median family income of $50,884 and demographic of 93 percent White. Justice is the state’s outgoing 2-term governor, a Republican, is age 72, can self-fund and is running for senator.

 A May 23 ECU poll had Justice beating Manchin 54-32 and An April 25 co/efficient poll had Justice up by 43-29. He would the next Senate’s oldest freshman, and among its oldest senators. Why run? Because West Virginia has massively realigned in the past 15 years. It’s gone Republican beyond belief. Trump won the state by 310,388 votes in 2020, getting 68.6 percent, up from 2016, when he got 68.5 percent.

Democrats are outnumbered in the legislature by 31R-3D/Senate and 88R-12D/House. From the 1920s to the 1990s WV was a heavily unionized, heavily Democratic coal-mining state.  That began shifting in 2008. Now WV is a Republican state with a Democratic senator whose vote keeps the Democrats and Chuck Schumer in the majority. Justice is running to get rid of Manchin and thus Schumer.

A Republican dynasty originating 65 years ago has finally ripened. Patriarch Arch Moore was elected to Congress in 1956 and governor in 1968, 1972 and 1984, but lost for senator in 1978. Daughter Shelley Moore Capito was elected to Congress in 2000 and senator in 2014 and 2000. Capito’s son Moore Capito, a state rep, is running for governor against the state attorney general, auditor and secretary of state. He will win. And Capito’s nephew, state treasurer Riley Moore, grandson of the late governor, is running for an open U.S. House seat. He, too, will win.

OHIO SENATOR: Sherrod Brown (D) has morphed from populist to elitist. The 3-term senator, first elected in 2006, has become a Biden-supporting Washington while Ohio has embraced Trump-style Republicanism. Trump won by 475,659 votes 2020 and by 446,841 votes in 2016. Governor Mike DeWine (R), no Trumpster, won with 62.4 percent in 2022, a margin of 1,034,035 votes.

Ohio was once rife with class warfare, pitting unionized workers in Akron, Youngstown, and      Toledo plus minorities in Cleveland and Columbus rural, small-town and suburban Republicans.

Brown voted for the $400B student loan forgiveness plan, not smart in a state where 78.2 percent of the voters are non-college educated. Brown is primed to lose. 

MONTANA SENATOR: Trump won the state with 56.2 percent in 2016 and 56.9 percent in 2020. Jon Tester (D) was re-elected senator with 50.3 percent in 2018. No strong Republican has yet emerged.

CALIFORNIA SENATOR: Republicans detest U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) at least as much as Democrats loathe Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Schiff oversaw Trump’s first impeachment trial and foremost proponent of the Russian collusion hoax. He was recently censured by the House on a party-line vote for spreading those falsehoods. And that surely got him a bunch of Left Democratic votes.

A decade ago CA enacted a Top Two/Runoff system whereby all candidates (with party designation) run in an open primary with the top two finishers facing each other in a November runoff. Trump got a desultory 34.3 percent in 2020, losing CA by 5,104,061 votes. Republicans may be irrelevant there but they can nab a Nov. ballot spot if too many Democrats run in the primary.

In addition to Schiff, U.S. Representatives Katie Porter (D) and Barbara Lee (D) are in the race for the seat of retiring 90-year old Dianne Feinstein (D). Schiff and Porter are from southern CA while Lee is from Oakland. Lee, elected in 1992, is age 78, and says she will be a “transitional” senator, handing-off the seat to another Democrat in 2030. Race and gender will aid Lee and Porter, respectively. CA had 2 female senators for 28 years.

A June 7 Emerson poll put it at 15/14/6 for Schiff/Porter/Lee with 47 percent undecided. A May 21 Berkeley poll put it at 14/17/9 with 32 percent undecided. Schiff has $30 million on-hand, Porter $10 million and Lee under $1 million. Will facing two Whites help Lee? Will facing two women help Schiff? Expect a Schiff-Lee runoff in Nov. 2024, which will give progressive/Woke/Leftists a guilt trip however they choose.

TEXAS SENATOR: Ted Cruz (R) is despised on the Left and by the media. But he’s a senator from TX, where the Left and the media are despised and beloved by Republicans, who are still a solid majority in the state. Trump won TX by 767,179 votes in 2016, and by 631,221 votes in 2020.  Governor Greg Abbott (R) won his third term in 2022 by 883,443 votes over Beto O’Rourke (D). There has been movement of rural Latinos toward Republicans.

The Democrats’ TX Red-to-Blue plan is behind schedule. Republicans hold every statewide office, have a 19R-12D/Senate and 86R-64D/House legislative edge and 25R-13D in Congress. Cruz is viewed as the Republicans’ “weak link.” He won by 214,931 votes in 2018 over O’Rourke. The 2024 nominee will be Dallas congressman Colin Allred. Expect Cruz to win.

Read more Analysis & Opinion from Russ Stewart at Russstewart.com

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