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Five races to watch in 2023

All eyes might be shifting to the Senate and presidential races in 2024, but there are a host of other contests taking place up and down the ballot in 2023’s off-year elections.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) is slated to defend the governor’s mansion in the red state, while Democrats will seek to keep the governor’s mansion blue in deep-red Louisiana as incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is term-limited. 

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, the ideological balance of power on the state Supreme Court will be determined in a race for a seat on the court. And out east in Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans and Democrats are set to race for control for the state legislatures. 

Here are five races to watch in 2023: 

Kentucky governor’s race

Democrats will face a test in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race as Beshear defends his seat against a growing field of Republican challengers. So far, 12 Republicans have filed to run for the state’s highest office, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, state Rep. Savannah Maddox, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck and state Auditor Mike Harmon. 

While Beshear has the backing of Kentucky Democrats and national Democrats, the incumbent governor will need to put up a strong fight in the red state. Republicans currently hold solid majorities in both the state House and Senate. There’s also been a recent surge of GOP voter registration in the state. Beshear defeated former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin by only 0.4 percentage points in 2019. 

The governor is also facing a Democratic challenger in former Republican Peppy Martin. Additionally, retired state engineer Geoff Young, who lost his congressional bid against Rep. Andy Barr (R) in the state’s 6th Congressional District, has announced his intent to run in the Democratic primary as well. 

But Beshear, who officially filed for reelection on Monday, is slated to be a formidable incumbent to beat, raising more than $4.5 million in the latest fundraising quarter. The governor’s approval rating is also 59 percent, according to an October Morning Consult poll. 

“This race isn’t going be about anything national, and it’s not gonna be about some drama between candidates; it’s gonna be about who can fulfill the needs of our families and having a pretty special family myself,” Beshear said on Monday, according to WKYT.  “I think the voters of Kentucky, who know me pretty well by now, know that I will work for them tirelessly each and every day.” 

Louisiana governor’s race

With Edwards unable to run for reelection in Louisiana, Republicans are looking to the state’s governor’s mansion as another potential pickup opportunity in 2023. 

Louisiana’s Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson is the only well-known Democrat in the state to say they are considering a run, but much of the attention seems to be on the potential GOP primary field. 

State Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) has announced his candidacy for the governor’s mansion and received the backing of Louisiana’s Republican Party. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R), state Treasurer John Schroder and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt are also considered potential Republican candidates. The four hopefuls have all slammed the state party’s decision to endorse before the primary field has solidified. 

But Sen. John Kennedy is perhaps the most well-known GOP figure to be mulling a potential run for governor. Early this month, Kennedy confirmed that he was considering launching a bid. 

“Over the last year, Louisianans have asked me time and time again to come home to serve as governor during these difficult times. Becky and I love the people of Louisiana. We’ve always listened to them, so I am giving serious consideration to entering the governor’s race. I’ll be announcing my decision soon,” Kennedy said in a statement. 

Last month, Kennedy released a poll showing him leading potential opponents with 21 percent support, followed by Landry at 12.8 percent support. Wilson clocked in at 18.2 percent support, according to Kennedy’s internal poll. 

Wisconsin Supreme Court

Wisconsin will also be home to another high-profile election battle, this time in its Supreme Court. 

Supreme Court elections in the state are officially nonpartisan, but the election, which is set for April 4, could determine the makeup of the state’s highest court for the next two years. The race is to replace conservative Justice Patience Roggensack, who is retiring from the court in the summer. 

So far, four candidates have thrown their hats in the ring, including liberals Judges Everett Mitchell of the Dane County Circuit Court and Janet Protasiewicz of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. On the conservative side, former state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly has announced his candidacy, along with Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow. Dorow presided over the trial of an attacker who ran an SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha last year. 

Conservatives presently hold a 4-3 majority on the state’s Supreme Court and have presided over a number of contentious cases recently, including prohibiting absentee ballot drop boxes in the state and defending legislative maps drawn by Republicans. The court also could rule on abortion access. 

The candidates will run in a Feb. 21 primary, and only two will advance to April’s general election. 

Virginia General Assembly

Both of Virginia’s legislative chambers are up for election in the commonwealth in 2023, two years after Republicans flipped the House of Delegates and won the governor’s mansion. 

In the state Senate, Democrats will defend their narrow 21 to 18 majority, while Republicans in the House of Delegates will seek to defend their 52 to 47 majority. If Republicans flip the state Senate, the party will hold control of the governor’s mansion and the legislature. However, if Democrats manage to retain their majority in the Senate and win back the House of Delegates, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will be forced to contend with Democratic majorities in the legislature. 

Democrats say they feel optimistic about their chances next year in Virginia, citing their gains in other state legislatures during the 2022 midterms. Additionally, Democrats plan to continue to make abortion access a key issue in the elections; a new political action committee, Roe Your Vote Virginia, has pledged to spend $1 million in competitive House of Delegates and state Senate races next year. 

New Jersey Legislature 

Both of New Jersey’s legislative chambers are up for reelection next year, with Democrats looking to defend their majorities. Democrats presently hold a 24 to 16 majority in the state Senate and a 46 to 34 majority in its General Assembly. 

The state’s Republicans have expressed optimism about 2023, pointing to their gains in 2021. However, they will likely face an uphill climb in the state, where congressional Democrats performed relatively well in 2022. 

Like in Virginia’s state legislature elections next year, Democrats are seeking to make abortion a major campaign issue in New Jersey. However, unlike in Virginia, New Jersey Democrats are expected to put the question of abortion access on the ballot next year. Last month, Politico reported that New Jersey Democrats are expected to move ahead with the process. 

Tags 2023 elections Andy Beshear Daniel Cameron John Bel Edwards John Kennedy Kentucky Louisiana New Jersey Virginia Wisconsin

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