Gubernatorial elections were held in Virginia and New Jersey today. In Virginia, there is a one-term limit for governors, so incumbent Democrat governor Terry McAuliffe was unable to seek re-election. Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by a 53.9-45.0 margin, larger than expected by most polls, with only Quinnipiac getting it right.
Democrats also comfortably won the other two statewide elected offices for lieutenant-governor and attorney-general. Despite Virginia’s Republican gerrymander for the legislature, Democrats appear to have gained 16 seats in the state House, turning a Republican 66-34 House majority into a 50-50 tie. Recounts and provisional votes will decide a few close seats. The Republican-controlled state Senate was not up for election this year.
Update Thursday morning 9 November: Rechecks of the votes have given a Republican the lead in a seat where the Democrat led on election night. If current results hold up, Republicans will win the Virginia House 51-49, winning four seats by less than 0.5 percentage points.
Gillespie had run a Trump-type campaign, focusing on cultural issues such as Confederate statues and immigration. In comparing Trump’s Virginia 2016 vote with Gillespie’s, there were swings against Gillespie in most of Virginia, with Gillespie underperforming Trump with both rural and suburban voters. Trump lost Virginia by five points in 2016.
In New Jersey, incumbent Republican governor Chris Christie had served two terms, and was not eligible to run for a third. Democrat Philip Murphy defeated Republican Kim Guadagno by a 55.4-42.5 margin, and Democrats easily retained control of both chambers of the New Jersey legislature. Neither Christie nor Trump are popular in New Jersey.
Republicans retained a US House seat at a by-election in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Republican John Curtis defeated Democrat Kathie Allen 58-27, with 9% for a United Utah candidate. Although Trump only won this district 47-23 with many third party votes, Romney had crushed Obama 78-20.
In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings are 37.6% approve, 56.8% disapprove, for a net of -19.2. His ratings have been little changed over the last few months.
Democrats lead Republicans by 47.8-38.1 in the race for Congress. Midterm elections will be held in November 2018, in which all of the House, 1/3 of the Senate, and governors of many populous states, are up for election.
The results in Virginia and New Jersey are consistent with Trump’s low ratings and Democrats holding a large lead over Republicans in the race for Congress. The most encouraging result for Democrats was the Virginia state House, showing that Democrats can overcome Republican gerrymandering.
Left takes control of Tas upper house after Labor wins Pembroke
There are 15 single-member seats in the Tasmanian upper house. These seats normally use a rotating six-year cycle, with two or three up for election every May. A by-election in Pembroke was caused by the resignation of Liberal Vanessa Goodwin due to cancer, and was held on 4 November. The next regular election for Pembroke is in May 2019.
After preferences, Labor’s Jo Siejka defeated Liberal James Walker by an emphatic 57.4-42.6. The electoral commission conducted an alternative count for Siejka vs Independent conservative local mayor Doug Chipman, with Siejka winning 52.4-47.6. Chipman was 200 votes behind Walker at the point where one was excluded. With less than 400 votes remaining, Chipman will be excluded.
Labor’s Pembroke victory gives it four seats in the upper house. According to Kevin Bonham, there are four left-wing Independents, so the left now has 8 of the 15 seats, a majority. If Labor wins the next Tasmanian election, likely in March 2018, the left will have a majority in both chambers of the Tasmanian legislature.
There will be a by-election in the Victorian state seat of Northcote on 18 November, following the death of Labor incumbent Fiona Richardson. This by-election is very likely to be a Labor/Greens contest.
SSM plebiscite turnout and polling
Yesterday was the last day for envelopes to be received by the ABS. As at Friday 3 November, the ABS estimated it had received 12.6 million same sex marriage forms (78.5% of the electorate). Turnout was up from 77.0% on 27 October. This is the final turnout report, but it does not include any forms received 6-7 November. Official results will be published at 10am Melbourne time on 15 November.
In Essential, 86% (clearly too high) said they had voted, up from 75% a fortnight ago. Among those 86%, Yes led by 64-31 (60-34 last fortnight from the 75% who had then voted). Unless the polling on the plebiscite is very wrong, Yes will win easily.
Essential 53-47 to Federal Labor
This week’s Essential, conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1790, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, with the Coalition up a point since last week, but Labor up one since last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Coalition, 37% Labor, 10% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team.
Attributes of the major parties were assessed. Since June 2016, the biggest changes for the Liberals are on divided (up 17), moderate (up 6) and clear about what they stand for (down 6). The biggest changes for Labor are on extreme (up 11), too close to the big corporate interests (up 7) and out of touch (up 6).
The Liberals have a double digit lead over Labor on the negative attributes of being too close to the big corporate interests, divided and out of touch, while Labor has a 22 point lead on looking after the interests of working people.
41-47% supported four measures relating to the Uluru Statement, and 16-19% were opposed.
In an additional Newspoll question last week, voters supported putting welfare recipients who test positive to drugs on an income management program by 73-19, showing that the public has little sympathy for perceived “dole bludgers”.