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Although odd-numbered years don’t have presidential or midterm elections, they’re still important times for voters to make their voices heard. Two days ago, citizens across the country did just that, often to unexpected outcomes. Here’s a recap of four especially surprising 2019 election results, some of which are historic.
1. In Kentucky, a Democrat won the gubernatorial election
Kentucky has long been a deep red state, its history of voting Republican about as certain as cities in the Northeast going Democrat. Thus, when Kentucky also went Democrat in its gubernatorial election, residents and political commentators alike were shocked. However, nobody was more caught off guard than the Republican incumbent.
Governor Matt Bevin, who began serving in 2015, has refused to concede the election to Democratic challenger Andy Beshear. The race is indeed close, as Beshear earned just 5,000 more votes than Bevin. The incumbent has demanded a recanvass, a technique similar to a recount that historically has not altered election results.
Bevin’s loss may be the result of a statewide backlash to the widely covered Kentucky teachers strikes. Even prior to these strikes, though, Bevin’s approval rates polled among the lowest in the state’s history.
2. In Philadelphia, an independent candidate won a city council seat
Although Philadelphia is an overwhelmingly blue city, no independent candidate had won a city council seat before this year’s elections. And with Philadelphia’s council seats structured so that two of its seven seats must go to politicians from a non-majority party, the council has long comprised five Democrats and two Republicans.
On Tuesday, Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks changed that. Brooks became the first independent candidate ever elected to Philadelphia’s city council, and her election limits the number of Republicans on Philadelphia’s city council to one while not reducing the typical number of Democrats in office – exactly the outcome on which she successfully campaigned. Brooks received nearly 6,000 more votes than incumbent Republican Councilman David Oh, who will remain the one Republican on the council.
Despite the premise and effectiveness of Brooks’ campaign strategy, the Democratic party has attempted to stop her rise. The party’s blockades may have worked to some extent: both David Oh and Republican candidate Al Taubenberger received more votes than Brooks’ Working Families Party running mate Nicholas O’Rourke, who will not join Brooks on the council.
3. In suburban Pennsylvania, a longtime Republican county flipped
Despite Philadelphia, one of the country’s most populous cities, lying within its borders, Pennsylvania has long been a red state. On Tuesday, though, election results in Philadelphia-bordering Delaware County foreshadowed a potential statewide sea change. For the first time since the Civil War, Delaware County elected a majority-Democrat (in this case, entirely Democratic) county council. Some political commentators have said that this result should worry President Trump, who easily won Pennsylvania in the 2016 election, for 2020.
4. In Virginia, Democrats now control the state legislature
For the past 20 years, Republicans have controlled the state legislature in Virginia, long known to be a swing state. On Tuesday’s election, the entire state legislature swung back to the Democratic party. This result can be credited to gun control advocates outspending the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the state. Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has long pushed for gun control, but earlier this year, the Republican legislature stonewalled his efforts. Given Tuesday’s election, Northam may face far fewer obstacles toward his goal.
Which 2019 election results surprised you the most? Sound off in the comments!