2017 Election Recap

By Danny Restivo and Brett Goldman (Posted 11/8/17)

Virginia

Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie with 53.9% of the vote to win the Virginia Governor’s seat Tuesday night. The Virginia race remained tight until Election Day. Several polls showed Gillespie and the Lieutenant Governor tied or within the margin of error days before the election.

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Northam led in a RealClearPolitics poll by six points less than a month ago; it dropped to two points a week before the election. While both candidates refrained from personal attacks for the majority of the race, television advertisements with race-baiting and fear-mongering messages flooded the airwaves weeks before the election. Gillespie, a former Republican Party Chairman, ran advertisements blaming Northam for an increase in violence from MS-13 street gangs. Another television advertisement insinuated Northam would pass legislation to help restore gun rights for pedophiles. Meanwhile, Northam’s team tried to connect Gillespie to white nationalists who turned violent in Charlottesville, Va., over the summer.

On the policy side, Northam pledged to make community college and apprenticeships free for high demand fields like cyber security and early childhood education if they commit to a year of paid public service. In addition, Northam said he would create a $15 minimum wage and create a tax credit for small businesses that offer paid family leave. Northam said he wants to reinvest in traditional public schools. As a former Army doctor and a pediatric neurologist, he made healthcare a critical part of his campaign. He wants to expand Medicaid coverage to 400,000, but doesn’t want a universal system. However, he’s made comments suggesting a public option in the Commonwealth.

Northam intends to allow state agencies to create plans that limit carbon emissions, as well as joining state alliances with others states. Gillespie said he would provide a 10-percent state income tax to help grow business. The Republican placed immigration and public safety at the center of his campaign. Republican state legislators pledged to provide Gillespie with $1.5 million to support the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force against gangs such as MS-13. Instead of expanding Medicaid in Virginia, Gillespie wanted to create interstate compacts that allow insurance companies to sell across state lines, a plan lobbied for by Republicans in Congress.

Both Northam and Gillespie said they would raise teacher pay, but Gillespie wanted to increase the number of publicly funded and privately-operated charter schools. Gillespie’s plan included an education savings account that allowed parents to transfer their children from public schools and receive 90-percent of the funding, something that did not appear to resonate with voters in VA.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won Virginia by five points in 2016, forcing Gillespie to distance himself from President Trump, who did not make campaign appearances in nearby Virginia. While Gillespie hinged his campaign on cultural issues like the preservation of Confederate monuments, Northam made the election a repudiation of Trump.

Governor-Elect Northam will now inherit a Republican-dominated state legislature.

In the Lieutenant Governor’s race, Democrat Justin Fairfax defeated Republican Jill Vogel. The Virginia’s Governor’s race overshadowed the Lt. Governor’s race, which runs on a separate ticket. Fairfax is a white collar attorney from Fairfax County, while Vogel has served as a lawyer from Fauquier County who’s worked on a number of GOP projects.

The lieutenant governor is a part-time office, which presides over the Senate and breaks ties when needed. The lieutenant governor also sits on various state boards and commissions, and can advocate for various causes.

New Jersey

Democrat Phil Murphy, a former ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, defeated Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno to win the 2017 New Jersey Gubernatorial election. 5114477740001_5638281926001_5638240949001-vs

Governor-Elect Murphy defeated Guadagno with 56% of the vote. This margin lined up with Murphy’s 14% lead a week prior to the election. Historically low approval ratings for Republican Governor Chris Christie hamstrung Guadagno’s campaign. Murphy tried to connect Guadagno to Christie while repeatedly characterizing the election as a repudiation of President Trump. Meanwhile, Guadagno tried to distance herself from the current Governor and the President. Guadagno tried to portray Murphy as an out-of-touch Wall Street liberal who only wants to tax middle income earners. The Lieutenant Governor said she would cut property taxes to help the middle class in New Jersey, who face some of the highest taxes in the country.

“Anybody who knows me, knows I’m not Chris Christie,” Guadagno said during an October debate. “I’m running on my own record.”

Murphy raised $13.3 million during the campaign, compared to Guadagno’s $3.9 million.

Governor-Elect Murphy seeks to increase taxes on wealthy individuals and companies to help pay for education programs, government retirement funds and transportation infrastructure. Governor-Elect Murphy’s progressive platform also included a public bank of New Jersey to help spark small business growth. He says his plan will not increase taxes on the middle class.

Serving as Murphy’s Lieutenant Governor is Sheila Oliver, the former Democratic Assembly Speaker. The Essex County native is the first African-American woman to ever hold the post in New Jersey and only the second African-American woman in America to become Speaker of a State House. In 2013, she ran in the Democratic primary to fill U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s seat. She finished fourth in a primary that ultimately went to Corey Booker.

Key Legislative Races in NJ

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Republican Assemblyman Chris Brownousted Democratic incumbent Colin Bell, who had been appointed to fill the final few months of the late Senator Jim Whelan’s term after Whelan died unexpectedly.
The candidates and outside special interest groups spent more than $4.6 million on the race — the second-most of any legislative election this year.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D) retained his seat, and Democrat John Armato filled the open seat vacated by Brown.
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State Senate President Stephen Sweeney,considered to be the most powerful lawmaker in the state, stood up to non-stop attacks from the state’s largest teachers union to hold on to the seat he’s held in this rural south Jersey district since 2002. Senate President Sweeney defeated Challenger Republican Fran Grenier.
The New Jersey Education Association spent more than $5 million in an effort to unseat Sweeney, helping the race become the most expensive legislative contest in New Jersey history.
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In the 7th district, Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton won the state Senate seat being vacated by Republican incumbent Diane Allen, who is retiring. Singleton was highly favored to win over Republican John Browne
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Democrat Vin Gopal, the former Monmouth County Democratic Party chairman, ousted Republican Senator Jennifer Beck, a veteran lawmaker, to win the Senate seat in this Monmouth County district.
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Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon defeated Sean Byrnes in the race to replace retiring State Senator Joe Kyrillos. As O’Scanlon moves up to the Senate, Monmouth County Freeholder Serena DiMaso (R) will fill the open Assembly seat. Incumbent Assemblywoman Amy Handlin will also retain her seat in the coming term.
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Incumbent Republican State Sen. Kip Bateman repelled Democratic challenger Laurie Poppe.
In the race for the district’s two Assembly seats, incumbent Democrat Andrew Zwicker and his running mate, Roy Freiman, defeated Republicans Donna Simon and Mark Caliguire in one of the most hotly contested races in New Jersey. Assemblyman Zwicker ended up with 27% of the vote with nearly all 182 precincts reporting in.

Georgia

In Georgia’s of Representatives, Democrats gained three legislative seats following Tuesday’s special elections. 

Deborah Gonzalez beat Houston Gaines to represent the 117th Legislative District, representing the Athens area. Gonzalez replacing former Athens Republican Rep. Regina Quick, who resigned her post after being appointed to a judgeship in August.

In Georgia’s 119th Legislative District, also in the Athens area, a four-way race to replace retiring Republican Chuck Williams went to first-time Democratic candidate Jonathan Wallace. Wallace, a software engineer, fought off three Republicans to win the seat outright in the traditionally conservative district. Williams was appointed in August to head the Georgia Forestry Commission.

In Atlanta’s 6th Senate District, Democrats Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan topped a field of eight candidates in the race to replace former Sen. Hunter Hill. Hill, a Republican from Smyrna resigned from the Senate to run for governor. Democrats Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan will now face off in a runoff election on December 5th, 2017. Regardless of the outcome, the seat will fall into control of the Democrats, propping the party up for what will no doubt be an eventful 2018 in Georgia.

Philadelphia Municipal Elections

In 2017, Philadelphia saw some of the highest turnout for an off year municipal election in recent memory.

In a heavily contested race to replace disgraced former District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Progressive Democrat Larry Krasner came out as the victor against Republican Beth Grossman with nearly 75% of the vote. Krasner made headlines during the 2017 primary with his agenda focusing on reducing the prison population and focus on bail reform (among other issues). Couple with a large infusion of cash from Billionaire George Soros, Krasner managed to handily win the 7 way primary. Many political insiders believe that even with a mandate, Krasner will have an uphill battle moving his agenda forward especially with a currently adversarial relationship with the City’s police union.  

In addition to the Office of the District Attorney. Philadelphia saw a major change during the 2017 Democratic Primary when Rebecca Rhynhart ousted City Controller Alan Butkovitz. Rhynhart’s unprecedented and unexpected victory was seen as a major blow to the City’s already reeling democratic machine.  During the general election, Rhynhart, a former member of the City’s Finance Department, easily beat Republican Mike Tomlinson.

Ohio Ballot Measure Fails

79% of Ohio voters rejected a ballot measure that sought to curb prescription drug prices paid by the state for prisoners, injured workers and poor people. An estimated $70 million was spent by in opposition of Issue 2, the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act.

Opponents led by the Pharmaceutical industry said it would reduce access to medicines and raise prices for veterans and others. Supporters led by the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, spent close to $17 million, arguing that it would save the state millions of dollars and could force the industry to reduce prices elsewhere.

Maine Medicaid Expansion Passes

59% of voters in Maine decided on Tuesday to expand access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, making the state the first in the nation to settle the issue by referendum.

Maine is among 19 states whose Republican governors or legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. States such as Utah and Idaho that have been staunch hold outs are watching this initiative closely, as newly formed groups are working actively to get a Medicaid expansion question on next year’s ballot in both states. This outcome may offer insight about how this issue resonates for votes in next year’s midterm congressional elections.

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