In winning a governor’s seat in Virginia and delivering a too-close-to-call experience to the incumbent Democratic governor in New Jersey, Republicans are plainly energized ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
In Pennsylvania, the GOP also appeared to be on the verge of possibly sweeping all four Pennsylvania statewide judicial elections in voting that tellingly reflected a surge in Republicans turnout. From Bucks County to Erie, Republicans also won big in local elections.
All together, the election results pointed to trouble for President Joe Biden and Democrats in Washington as they prepare to defend their narrow majorities in Congress next year.
And while Murphy appeared poised to win a close reelection bid, the tougher than expected challenge from Republican Jack Ciattarelli underscored a wave of GOP enthusiasm that may be a warning sign for Pennsylvania Democrats as they look ahead to high-profile races next year for U.S. Senate and governor.
“Knowing how tough the judge races have historically been for us, the fact we swept the entire slate is a huge, huge alarm bell for Democrats, said Matt Beynon, a Pennsylvania Republican consultant.
“It should be a siren to Democrats that they are overreaching,” he said. “This portends potentially a bloodbath next year for them.”
State Sen. Sharif Street, vice chair of the state Democratic Party, saw political headwinds from Washington.
“Our core voters expect us to be able to govern at the federal level,” said Street (D., Philadelphia). “Democrats need to focus less on a failed ex-president and more on how to deliver for the people that have given us some modicum of power.”
Pa.’s election was sleepy compared with 2020. Some voters still saw high stakes: ‘The country’s just in such a state.’
As of Wednesday morning, Republicans had been projected to win at least three of four statewide appellate judgeships, including the marquee race for state Supreme Court. The GOP was also ahead in the race for the fourth seat.
And the judicial elections weren’t particularly close. Republican Kevin Brobson had a 5-point lead over Democrat Maria McLaughlin in the Supreme Court race, while Republican Megan Sullivan had a double-digit lead in the Superior Court election.
That’s not because Democratic voters didn’t show up: Democrats at the top of the ticket actually got more votes this year than did the party’s largely successful judicial candidates in 2017. The difference this time is that Republican turnout surged: Brobson had more than 1.3 million votes as of Wednesday morning, up from just over 1 million ballots cast for the GOP Supreme Court nominee four years ago.
In the Philadelphia suburbs, Republicans clawed back some of the local offices they lost during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, a Republican and the last one to hold a row office in the Philly suburbs, cruised to reelection. The GOP also won races for sheriff and prothonotary, which Democrats had won four years ago for the first time in decades.
In Delaware County, Democrats appeared likely to narrowly hold onto county council seats they had wrested from Republicans for the first time four years ago. Local countywide elections in Chester County were too close to call, with thousands of mail ballots yet to be counted.
There were signs outside the region of more GOP momentum.
In northwestern Pennsylvania, Erie, a bellwether, voters elected a Republican county executive to the seat, which has overwhelming been held by Democrats since the 1970s. In Northampton, the Democrat incumbent held onto the county executive seat but Republicans took control of the county council.
Two Pa. swing counties’ elections could offer clues for the year ahead
And in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where former Democratic strongholds outside Pittsburgh have been trending Republican for years, the GOP made further gains. Westmoreland County’s longtime Democratic district attorney, John Peck, had a large deficit to Republican Nicole Ziccarelli.
Democrats on Wednesday were taking stock of the damage. The most prominent loss was in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
Democratic consultant Mustafa Rashed said Democrats also failed to give voters a coherent message to vote on, whereas Republicans were fired up over social issues.
“I don’t think your average person understands [budget] reconciliation. Your average person does not understand the filibuster,” Rashed said. “What they know is Democrats are in control of the White House, the House and the Senate and things are not getting done. You’ve been there for a year and people are like, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ And if you’re not able to use that to fire people up it makes it really hard…for people to get excited.”
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