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Why do so many former Confederate states hold odd-year state elections? Why would they insist upon opening the polls every single year, spending millions of additional tax dollars and forcing voters to take yet another day off work, just to keep local and national votes separate? Yeah, it's a MYSTERY! It's almost like the system is deliberately structured to depress turnout and keep the electorate as rich and white as possible to ensure Republicans hold power forever.

AHEM.

Tomorrow Kentucky and Mississippi will hold closely watched gubernatorial elections, and Virginians will go to the polls to determine which party will control the legislature for the all-important redistricting after the 2020 census. Here's what to watch for.


Kentucky: Bevin Versus Beshear

Matt Bevin should not be in trouble. The sitting governor easily beat his Democratic challenger Jack Conway in 2015 by nine points, and Donald Trump took Kentucky by 30 percent in 2016. But instead of cruising to an easy victory, Bevin is locked in a dead heat with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear. What gives?

Well, the problem is that Matt Bevin is such a raging asshole.

He picked stupid fights with Kentucky's teachers, blaming their "thug mentality" for children he imagined getting sexually assaulted or drinking poison during a teacher strike. He derped that kids were getting "soft" when it was 10 degrees and school was cancelled to keep them from freezing to the bus stops. He signed dozens of anti-choice bills and harassed the state's few remaining abortion providers, spread anti-vaccine lies and bragged about exposing his nine kids to chicken pox, cut dental and vision care for thousands of Medicaid recipients (some were later restored), and plans to slash hundreds of thousands more from the rolls completely. With a 33 percent approval rating, Bevin is the least popular governor in the country -- and he earned it.

Bevin's Democratic challenger Andy Beshear is the son of popular former governor Steve Beshear, Bevin's immediate predecessor. As AG, Andy Beshear's been a thorn in Bevin's side, suing to block cuts to teacher pensions and Bevin's illegal mid-cycle budget cuts, and joining the suit to stop the Trump administration from gutting the Affordable Care Act. He's no one's idea of a firebrand liberal, but he's got huge name recognition and won statewide as a Democrat in 2015.

Bevin's strategy is to attach himself to Trump, pretend that Andy Beshear is a member of The Squad, and hope that it's enough to put him over the top. Trump will be in Lexington for a rally tonight, and Pence has been campaigning for Bevin on the ground. Keep an eye on this one. If Beshear pulls it out, you're going to see Mitch McConnell -- coincidentally, the least popular senator in America -- lose his shit and start shoveling cash into his own campaign.

Mississippi: This Could Get UGLY

Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves is probably going to beat Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. This is Mississippi, after all. But they are only about three points apart in the polls, and if by some miracle Hood pulls it out, all hell is going to break loose. Because Mississippi's constitution says that the winner must carry a majority of the state's House districts, and if the popular vote winner doesn't get the House votes, the state House of Representatives selects the governor from the two highest popular vote winners. And if that seems to you like a recipe for allowing white Republicans to hold power forever in a state that's 38 percent African American, then you are in agreement with US District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, who held on Friday that Mississippi's peculiar constitutional institution violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

But Judge Jordan refused to preliminarily enjoin the law, cryptically implying that the court might step in if it winds up affecting the outcome on Tuesday, i.e. if Jim Hood wins the popular vote but doesn't get a majority of House districts.

Which, is pretty unlikely, but if it does happen, you'll see a maelstrom of litigation that will only be resolved by the Supreme Court. Remember Bush v. Gore? Wasn't that fun? Let's do it again, this time in Mississippi!

Virginia: Won't Get Fooled Again

We fucked up in 2010. We didn't pay enough attention to local elections across the country, which left the GOP in control of state legislatures when it came time to draw congressional districts after the last census. But no more! Politico reports that major Democratic groups have dumped $10 million into Virginia's legislative races this cycle, boosting total Democratic fundraising to $31.8 million, compared to the GOP's $21 million.

Cash-flush Democratic power players have flooded the commonwealth with upwards of $10 million, according to an analysis of outside spending. Among the top spenders: Everytown for Gun Safety, a Michael Bloomberg-aligned group, with $2.5 million; the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the party's state-level campaign arm, with $1.3 million; the League of Conservation Voters with $1.5 million; and EMILY's List with $2.1 million, its single largest investment ever in a state's legislative races.

If we can flip two seats in Virginia's House of Delegates and one in the Senate, we'll be the ones holding the pen when that map gets redrawn. In 2017, House District 94's election was literally decided by pulling names out of a bowl, which is no way to run a railroad. But in 2018, Democrats flipped three congressional seats, and recent polling shows Democrats fired up and beating the GOP by 13 points on a generic ballot.

Oh, look! Here's Donald Trump yammering incoherently about a state that has had a Democratic governor for six straight years. Who could've predicted this?

You can do it, Virginia! And Kentucky! And Mississippi -- you know, if the stars all align just right. See you Wednesday morning to discuss!

[Vox / McLemore v. Hosemann / Politico]

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