Voters in Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia are heading to the polls Tuesday as Republicans look to complete a trifecta of victories in crucial governor races, as well as grow their majorities in the Virginia state legislature in hopes of building momentum for the party ahead of the 2024 elections where control of the White House and both chambers of Congress will be up for grabs.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron is vying to unseat incumbent Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear in Kentucky while Democrat Brandon Presley, the second cousin to famed rock-n-roll legend Elvis Presley, is hoping to do the same to incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in Mississippi.
Virginia Republicans are aiming to build on the slim majority they hold in the House of Delegates (51-46) and win control of the state Senate where Democrats hold the upper hand (22-17) to show the party remains competitive in the battleground state that has increasingly leaned left in recent presidential elections and other statewide offices.
Wins for Republicans in Kentucky and Mississippi would mark three major victories for the party after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry flipped the state’s governor seat red last month when he defeated his opponent who was endorsed by term-limited Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The Kentucky gubernatorial race appears to be the most competitive with neither candidate showing a clear advantage over the other. Beshear has sought to keep the race focused on local issues and has pushed back on the notion that President Biden’s unpopularity, coupled with his expressed support for the administration, could tip the scale in Cameron’s favor.
At the same time, Cameron has leaned into former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his campaign as he hopes to capitalize on Trump’s popularity across the state. However, Beshear has maintained his status as one of the most popular governors in the country despite being one of the few remaining Democrat governors to lead a red state – a popularity that is greater than Trump’s among Kentuckians.
In deep-red Mississippi, Republicans are fending off a surge of unexpected amounts of national Democrat money into the race despite no Democrat governor being elected there since 1999.
So far, the Washington-based Democratic Governors Association has donated nearly $6 million to Presley’s campaign. In 2019, the group gave just over $2 million to Jim Hood, the then-Democrat candidate for governor who lost to Reeves.
Presley’s big push is for Medicaid expansion and he calls himself a tax-cutting Democrat. On the campaign trail, he tells the story of his difficult childhood, being raised by a single mom after his father was murdered.
Reeves was first elected governor in 2019, but previously served two terms as lieutenant governor and two terms as state treasurer. Like Cameron, he has also leaned heavily into Trump’s endorsement of his campaign, which came last week.
With Republicans holding an advantage in the state, Presley hopes turnout among Democrats, especially Black voters, might propel him past Reeves, who won his first term by little more than 5%.
In Virginia, national Democrats and Republicans have spent millions on races for control of both houses of the state legislature with the election also being viewed in political circles as a key barometer ahead of the 2024 elections for president, control of Congress and other key governorships.
Virginia Republicans won elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general two years ago – their first statewide victories in a dozen years – and they flipped the House of Delegates.
Now, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin aims to hold the GOP’s narrow majority in the state House and recapture control of the state Senate to give Republicans nationwide another boost ahead of next year’s elections.
Polls close at 6 p.m. local time in Kentucky and 7 p.m. local time in Mississippi and Virginia.
Fox News’ Clare O’Connor and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.