With a year to go ahead of the 2020 presidential election, President Trump’s effort to make off-year elections in Kentucky, Virginia and Mississippi a referendum on impeachment may have backfired with Democratic victories in Kentucky and Virginia. In heavily Democratic New Jersey, Democrats maintained control of the Legislature.

The next test will come in just 10 days in Mississippi when Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards faces businessman Eddie Rispone.

In recent weeks, Trump traveled to Kentucky and Mississippi to campaign with the gubernatorial contenders, decrying the House impeachment investigation as a sham, hoax and witch hunt, and exhorting rally-goers to show their support for him by voting Republican.

Instead, Virginia turned a solid blue for the first time in more than two decades and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear claimed victory over incumbent Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, although Bevin refused to concede early Wednesday. Republicans did manage to carve out a victory in the Mississippi governor’s race, with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves scoring a 6-point victory over Democrat Jim Hood.

Trump spent Tuesday repeatedly pushing supporters to get out and vote, even linking to sites that provide information on polling places.


Virginia Democrats Wednesday found themselves in control of the entire Legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1993. The vote gives Gov. Ralph Northam, who weathered a blackface scandal earlier this year, and lawmakers the power to pursue a progressive agenda including legislation on gun control and a higher minimum wage, things Republican lawmakers had blocked.

Virginia was considered a swing state in recent presidential elections, but the state’s GOP has been collapsing for years. The state went for George W. Bush in 2004 but since 2012 has gone Democratic. Northam handily won the election in 2017 as Democrats started chipping away at the Republican majority in the Legislature, narrowing the GOP margin to two seats in each house.

Democrats built their victory by linking Republican incumbents to Trump, who lost the state in 2016, and building their strength in suburban areas.

Democrat Ghazala Hashmi became the first Muslim woman elected in Virginia, ousting Republican state Sen. Glen Sturtevant. Her campaign focused on gun violence and education while attacking Sturtevant for his position on Medicaid reform.


The vote count early Wednesday showed Beshear, whose father preceded Bevin in the governor’s mansion, leading Bevin 49.2% to 48.8%, a difference of 5,150 votes, a margin narrow enough to likely trigger a recount. Beshear focused his campaign on Bevin’s efforts to cut Medicaid and overhaul the state’s pension system. Much of Beshear’s support was centered in Louisville and Lexington, with the rest of the state leaning red.

“Tonight, voters in Kentucky sent a message loud and clear for everyone to hear,” Beshear said. “It’s a message that says our elections don’t have to be about right versus left, they are still about right versus wrong.”

Bevin, whose personality is much like Trump’s, had the backing of national Republicans, with the Republican Governors’ Association pouring millions into ad buys backing him.

Trump Wednesday reacted by focusing on the down-ticket races.

Trump made an 11th-hour trip Monday to rally support, and Vice President Mike Pence spent last week on a bus tour of the state. Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale issued a statement saying Trump “just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line.”

"If you lose, they're going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest. You can't let that happen to me," Trump told Bevin at their Monday night rally. He claimed the rally was the reason the race was so close.

Trump won Kentucky, home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, by 30 points in 2016.


Reeves scored a solid victory in this fiercely Republican state and also benefited from support from Trump and Pence, who campaigned with him. Trump said the race was dead until he jumped into it.

“I can’t believe this is a competitive race,” Trump told a Friday rally in Tupelo. He said it was “embarrassing” that the race was so close.

Reeves thanked Trump and Pence for their support in his victory statement but then urged unity.

"I will try to do what is right for the future of Mississippi," Reeves said. "And I mean all the people of Mississippi."

Reeves, a second-term lieutenant governor and former state treasurer, spent twice as much as Hood on the contest ($10.8 million vs. $5.2 million) and was considered the heir apparent to Gov. Phil Bryant, who is stepping down as a result of term limits.

Hood, an anti-abortion, pro-gun Democrat, courted moderate Republicans and distanced himself from other Democrats.

New Jersey

Democrats preserved their firm control of the State Assembly with the Republican leader, Jon Bramnick, in the fight of his political life. Bramnick has been in Trenton politics for two decades and was closely allied with former Gov. Chris Christie. His congressional district flipped from red to blue last year, part of the suburban revolt. Early Wednesday vote totals showed him leading by a scant third of a point.