Guest: Former Delegate Mark Levine on VA Assembly, Youngkin's future up for grabs; Also: OH GOP lying about abortion rights ballot initiative...
By Brad Friedman on 10/31/2023, 6:17pm PT  

With everything else going on both here in the U.S. and around the world you can be forgiven for losing track of the fact that next Tuesday is an important off-year Election Day in a number of states, including Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia and elsewhere. On today's BradCast, we try to get you caught up on a number of key contests and the stakes for what will be seen next week --- correctly or not --- as bellwether elections in advance of next year's critical 2024 Presidential contest. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

There are some interesting Gubernatorial races next week. In "deep red" Kentucky, the state's popular Democratic Governor Andy Beshear will be running for a second term. And in even "deeper red" Mississippi, dysfunctional infighting among state Republicans could translate into what would be a surprise, long-shot victory for Democratic candidate Brandon Presley. But, as our guest suggests today, elections tend to be won by the voters who show up.

In Ohio, as you may recall, back in August, Republicans attempted to use a last minute, single-issue Special Election to adopt a ballot initiative that would mandate all future amendments to the state Constitution require a 60% majority for passage, instead of a simple majority, as has been the case for over a hundred years in the Buckeye State. That measure, Issue 1, failed. It wasn't even close. Voters understood that it was clearly a scheme meant to derail a popular state Constitutional initiative to protect abortion rights scheduled for the November 7 ballot in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme court last year and state GOP lawmakers adoption of a 6-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Ohio's popular Republican Governor, Mike DeWine, has been lying to voters about next week's ballot initiative to protect reproductive freedoms by calling Issue 1 (yes, confusingly, it has the same name as the GOP's failed measure in August!) "too extreme" for Ohio. Of course, there is nothing extreme about it. Which is why state Republicans are lying to voters and even succeeded in convincing the state's GOP-leaning Supreme Court to allow them to use a "summary" of the measure on the ballot, rather than the actual text of the initiative (which was shorter!), to replace the word "fetus" with "unborn child". Hopefully Buckeye Staters don't fall for that scam either.

In Virginia, every seat in the General Assembly is up for grabs this year, as Democrats need to flip just a handful of seats to retake the majority in the state's House of Delegates and Republicans need to flip just two seats to take back the state Senate. At the same time, all new legislative maps this year have completely shaken up the Commonwealth, with the political future of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin apparently hanging in the balance. Whatever happens next week could well decide whether the termed-out Governor jumps into the 2024 GOP Presidential contest and/or adopts a 15-week abortion ban, which has been prevented to date by Democrats in the Assembly.

Those stakes may also help explain why Youngkin has worked so hard during his two years in office to prevent new voters from registering and to suppress the votes of certain types of voters.

We're joined today by VA's longtime progressive radio host and three-term Democratic former state Delegate MARK LEVINE to discuss what next week's elections mean for VA, for the nation, and for Youngkin's political future.

"I've long argued that Virginia is an 'indigo' state, which means it's mostly purple with a tinge of blue. I think, on average, we're going to very very closely vote Democratic," he tells me today regarding next week's contests. "Unfortunately --- or fortunately, depending on the year --- Virginia really is a very good bellwether for the United States. The same year we lost our House [of Delegates] in 2021, barely, the Republicans gained the [U.S.] House of Representatives, barely. Virginia really is an excellent bellwether. I would argue the nation is an indigo nation --- purple but ever-so-slightly blue --- and that's where we are. It really could go either way."

Levine explains that VA voter turnout in Presidential years is usually about 75% in the Commonwealth. In mid-term elections and off-year elections with a Governor's race, it's about 45%. Next week's race, he says, "is called the 'off-off elections'" when usually "only about 23% of Virginians show up. So what that means is whoever is angrier, that's who shows up. Are the MAGA Republicans angrier? Or are progressive Democrats angrier? I don't know. I would think abortion is very motivating. It will be a real test, because that's mostly what Democrats are running on."

"We had an election in 2017 that was a tie vote. They flipped a coin, and that's why we didn't control the legislature in 2017," he says. "The point is, one vote really can make a difference, particularly in these local races that decide the legislature. So I just want to urge anyone in Virginia, or anyone who knows someone who you think may still live in Virginia, please call them, remind them to vote. We've made it really easy. We have early voting now. You can go vote today, tomorrow, next day. The polls are open. They're close to your house. Get out and vote!"

Will the Democrats' focus on protecting reproductive freedoms in an ostensibly "blue" state, currently headed up by a Republican, work as well as it has over the past year in so many "red" states? Will the re-shuffling of legislative maps hurt or help Democrats? And will the results next week really help determine whether Youngkin decides to jump into the 2024 GOP Presidential contest? Levine has a lot of thoughts on all of those topics and many others, in our VERY lively discussion today!

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report with a suspiciously larger-than-usual amount of not-terrible-news, including even some good environmental news out of the, yes, so-called "deep red" state of Kentucky...


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