On Saturday, November 16, Democrat John Bel Edwards won re-election in deep-red Louisiana, a state carried by Republican President Trump by almost 20 points. Democrats and the mainstream media went on to blame President Trump for Eddie Rispone’s loss in the Louisiana Gubernatorial election. Yet, Governor Bel Edwards won by less than 3%, as opposed to the 12% difference he had carried in the 2015 election, where he was first elected.
Louisiana, of course, remains a GOP stronghold when it comes to national politics; however, what makes Governor Bel Edwards’s victory unsurprising is his track record. Specifically, Governor Bel Edwards is one of the few pro-life Democrats. In May 2019, the Governor signed a heartbeat bill into law, which bans abortions after the baby’s heartbeat is detected in the womb, through the ultrasound. Also, Governor Bel Edwards has been characterized as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and has described the impeachment efforts against President Trump as a “distraction.”
However, this success is not just limited to moderate Democrats, but can also be applied to moderate Republicans as well. Charlie Baker, the moderate GOP governor of Massachusetts, won re-election in 2018 by a whopping 33 percentage points, in 2018, a year that was supposed to be an uphill battle for the GOP. This is a 31 point increase from his first victory in 2014 in the deep-blue Bay State. Charlie Baker is currently the most popular governor in the nation with a 73% approval rating.
Governor Baker has been a proponent of LGBT rights and supported same-sex marriage, even before the Obergefell decision. In addition, Governor Baker identifies as pro-choice and supports early-term abortion. Similarly, Republican Governors, Phil Scott, and Chris Sununu and Larry Hogan, of Vermont and New Hampshire and Maryland, respectively, all won re-election in 2018, partially due to their moderate stances on issues.
In two-party systems, like in the United States, we often observe something called the Median Voter Theorem (MVT). The MVT states that a majority rule voting system, something which usually encourages only two choices in a given election, will select the outcome preferred by the median voter. If this theory holds, we would expect Republicans to win in red states and Democrats in blue states and perhaps moderates in purple states. Indeed, the median voters in red states are perceived to be “more on the right” than the median voter in blue. However, ideology and in the incumbents track record often trump party affiliation.
To reference another off-year election, Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin narrowly lost re-election to moderate Andy Beshear. Governor Bevin was the most unpopular governor in the country, with an approval rating of only 33%. Bevin has made several controversial statements. For instance, he directly blamed teachers, who were striking for pensions and public education funding, for children being “sexually assaulted and poisoned.” And of course, it is important to remember that Governor-elect, Beshear is not a radical, far-left, Democrat similar to those in many deep-blue areas.
Of course, when Democrats nominate leftists candidates in red and even purple states, they are more likely to lose. Even though Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is seen as “graphic” (for instance, in a campaign ad he claimed that he would round up illegal aliens in a truck and deport them himself), he still managed to win the 2018 gubernatorial race, without having to go to a run-off. Partially, Kemp’s victory can be attributed to the fact that he was running against Stacey Abrams.
Abrams, an advocate of identity politics, had advocated on expanding access to abortion, criticized tax cuts, and often attacked ICE. Similarly, Democrats had the opportunity to flip the governor’s mansion in neighboring Florida as well, yet Democrats nominated “far-left” Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum who lost to “trumpian” Ron DeSantis (though Ron DeSantis currently shares a high approval rating). If Democrats had nominated a “blue dog,” moderate candidate things could have turned out differently. For instance, in Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly, a moderate, beat immigration hawk Kris Kobach by 5% in deep-red Kansas.
Party affiliation can be important, but it is not a “make or break” issue. If both Democrats and Republicans want to seek power, especially on a state level, they ought to run candidates that are good fits for the districts they’re supposed to represent.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.