The latest from elections in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and results

By Tori B. Powell, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Shania Shelton, CNN

Updated 4:03 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023
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12:14 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

Romney tells GOP to avoid social issues in 2024 after another election loss

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer

Sen. Mitt Romney is seen at the US Capitol on September 21, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Mitt Romney is seen at the US Capitol on September 21, in Washington, DC. Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Republican candidates in 2024 should focus on the economy and steer clear of social issues, after last night’s disappointing results, GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday.

“I think we perform best when we talk to people about the cost of living, and the fact that under President Biden, the cost of living has gone way up, their incomes have not gone up with it. When we're talking about people's lives, we win,” the Utah Republican told CNN’s Manu Raju. “When we're talking about some social issues, they can become highly divisive and we end up not doing as well as we could have.”

Romney acknowledged there is “no doubt” that abortion will still be a key issue next year, noting that they "each can describe our personal views and what we want to do on issues of significance,” but he still emphasized the economy as the focal point of their messaging.

“I think we're winning when we’re talking about the economy, when we're talking about the cost of living,” he said. “And when we're not talking about that and we're talking about the election and 2020 or talking about other highly divisive issues, it can end up being pretty difficult for us.”

However, Romney doesn’t think that Republicans’ poor showing in this year's elections are a signal of what’s to come in the 2024 presidential election.

“I don't really think that the kinds of election results that we saw last night translate terribly well into President Biden's reelection effort,” he said. “I think President Biden is overwhelmingly going to be judged on the basis of how people feel about their personal economy, about the cost of living, and I think abortion is going to be a big issue in states’ ballot initiatives and so forth, but at the national level, I think it's going to be about the economy.”

Romney added, “I think Trump can absolutely win. I think the polls are showing that if the election were held today, Trump would win.”

12:06 p.m. ET, November 8, 2023

Trump tries to blame Republican Daniel Cameron's Kentucky loss on McConnell

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial on November 6, in New York City.
Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial on November 6, in New York City. Brendan McDermid/Pool/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday tried to blame the defeat of the candidate he backed in the Kentucky governor’s race, Daniel Cameron, on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

“Daniel Cameron lost because he couldn’t alleviate the stench of Mitch McConnell. I told him early that’s a big burden to overcome. McConnell and Romney are Kryptonite for Republican Candidates,” Trump posted on Truth Social. 

Trump continued, “Tate Reeves, on the other hand, surged to a win for Governor in Mississippi after my involvement. Congratulations to Tate!”

Cameron, the state’s Republican attorney general, lost to incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

9:38 a.m. ET, November 8, 2023

Analysis: This geographic shift may have decided last night's elections

From CNN's Ronald Brownstein

The biggest question in Tuesday’s elections was whether Democrats can maintain their advantages in the nation’s biggest population centers – despite all the headwinds buffeting the party.

Geographic polarization has been one of the most powerful trends in American politics for roughly the past two decades, with Democrats gaining ground in the most populous metropolitan areas almost everywhere, and Republicans growing stronger in the smaller places beyond them. That trend notably accelerated after Donald Trump emerged as the GOP’s dominant figure in 2016 and has ratcheted up since the Supreme Court rescinded the constitutional right to abortion last year.

The GOP’s dominance of exurban, small-town and rural areas helped Trump win the White House in 2016 and has allowed the party to solidify its grip up and down the ballot on interior states with large nonurban populations. But Republicans’ retreat from the well-educated inner suburbs around major cities has been the principal reason for their disappointing results in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 elections, as well as the anti-abortion movement’s defeat in a series of ballot initiatives since the 2022 Supreme Court decision.

By traditional measures, the political environment for Tuesday’s election again looked favorable for Republicans, with most voters expressing dissatisfaction about both the economy and President Joe Biden’s job performance. But all of those conditions were present in the 2022 midterms, when Republicans underperformed anyway, mostly because of continued resistance in the major population centers – especially those well-educated inner suburbs where most voters oppose new restrictions on abortion.

The largest urban and suburban areas likely determined whether Democrats could defy political gravity once again this year in Tuesday’s key elections, from Kentucky and Ohio to Virginia and Pennsylvania. If Democrats run well, it will reinforce the message from the 2022 midterms that they can hold a critical swathe of voters who feel the party has not delivered for their interests by portraying Republicans as a threat to their rights and values.

Read Brownstein's full analysis.

10:25 a.m. ET, November 8, 2023

Democrats had a big night as abortion rights take center stage. Catch up on Tuesday's elections

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

People cheer as they watch election results come in on November 7, in Columbus, Ohio. 
People cheer as they watch election results come in on November 7, in Columbus, Ohio.  Sue Ogrocki/AP

States and cities across America held elections on Tuesday in the last major election day until the presidential primaries begin in January.

For all the sound and fury around yesterday's elections, there was one clear signal: Abortion rights are politically popular, no matter where or when they are on the ballot.

And that — no matter how you slice it — is good news for Democrats as the parties plot their strategies ahead of the 2024 elections.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin – the Virginia Republican who believed he could crack one of the most intractable issues in American politics with the promise of “reasonable” abortion restrictions – will not lead a GOP-controlled legislature in the Commonwealth, which denied the party control of the state Senate and put a swift end to both his plan for a 15-week abortion ban and rumors he might pursue a 2024 presidential bid.

Meanwhile, voters in Ohio decisively said they wanted a constitutionally protected right to abortion with the passage of a ballot measure – only a few months after they rejected another measure that would have made it harder for them to shield abortion rights.

And in Kentucky, the Democratic governor defeated his Republican challenger, a state attorney general with close ties to former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after a campaign in which abortion became a flashpoint.

Here are the key election night takeaways on a strong night for Democrats:

As Ohio goes, so goes the nation? Tuesday night’s election results probably won’t change the equation for Biden in 2024, given Ohio’s recent presidential electoral history. But how about Sen. Sherrod Brown? The Ohio Democrat faces a difficult reelection run next year, but outcomes from the Buckeye State may give him a boost.

Already a proven political winner for Democrats, abortion rights further solidified their place as a driving force in next year’s elections when voters in Ohio, an increasingly conservative state that voted twice for Trump, passed a ballot measure on Tuesday enshrining them in the state constitution. Red, blue and purple states alike have green-lit similar proposals, solidifying a trend that defies partisan expectations and could have an outsized influence on next year’s federal elections. In the end, though, Ohio Republicans might have gotten off easy. Their referendum took place now, during an off-year with no voting for statewide office or president. Other state Republican parties might not be so lucky.

Glenn Younkin and Virginia hit a wall: The Youngkin 2024 bandwagon ran off the road on Tuesday, when Virginia voters denied the governor and his party the legislative majorities they craved. That means no 15-week abortion ban, which Youngkin backed as a “reasonable” solution that, in his telling, was going to douse the rage of Americans who disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year. It also likely puts to bed rumors that Youngkin, who has always insisted he had no ambitions to move north of Virginia, will attempt a late entry into the 2024 GOP presidential primary. The logic there turned on the governor’s ability to craft a coalition that included the far-right, the center-right and the pure centrist swing voter – or something akin to what won him the governor’s mansion in 2021.

Democrat Andy Beshear won reelection in Kentucky. But who lost? Andy Beshear won a second term on Tuesday in a state that Trump carried by more than 25 points in 2020. Now the real fight begins. Endorsed by Trump but often described as McConnell’s protégé, Daniel Cameron’s defeat will stir a lot of finger-pointing within the Republican Party. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was directing his at the former president shortly after the polls closed, calling the result “another loss for Trump.”

History-making wins in Rhode Island and Philadelphia Government will look a little more like the governed after Tuesday night’s results are all in. To start, Democrat Gabe Amo is the projected winner of Rhode Island’s special congressional election. He will be the first Black person to represent the state in Congress. And in Philadelphia, former city councilmember Cherelle Parker will become the first woman to lead the City of Brotherly Love.

Read more election takeaways.

1:33 a.m. ET, November 8, 2023

CNN Projection: Democrats sweep control of Virginia legislature in major blow to GOP Gov. Youngkin

From CNN's Gregory Krieg, and Jack Forrest

Gov. Glenn Youngkin during a campaign stop at a polling location in Bristow, Virginia, on Tuesday.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin during a campaign stop at a polling location in Bristow, Virginia, on Tuesday. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Democrats will win full control of the Virginia legislature, CNN projects, effectively ending Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s hopes of governing with Republican majorities and enacting his conservative agenda. 

Virginia Democrats will flip the state House while retaining their majority in the state Senate.  

Control of the state legislature was at stake in this year’s election, with Republicans defending their narrow majority in the state House. Youngkin, who has been touted as a potential late entrant into the 2024 Republican presidential race currently dominated by Donald Trump, spent much of the past few months rallying GOP voters toward a hoped-for governing trifecta.  

The elections were also seen, for better or for worse, as a referendum on Youngkin’s non-MAGA brand of conservative politics and the state House of delegates and state Senate candidates who subscribe to it. 

Democratic candidate for Virginia House of Delegates Rodney Willett and Democratic candidate for Virginia State Senate Schuyler VanValkenburg greet supporters at an election party on Tuesday in Richmond, Virginia.
Democratic candidate for Virginia House of Delegates Rodney Willett and Democratic candidate for Virginia State Senate Schuyler VanValkenburg greet supporters at an election party on Tuesday in Richmond, Virginia. Steve Helber/AP

But with Democrats projected to control the state legislature, Youngkin may have lost the opportunity to portray himself as the rare GOP leader with some distance from the MAGA brand and a record of winning over some Democrats. 

The results also underscore the power of abortion politics after yet another campaign waged with reproductive rights as a central issue broke in Democrats’ favor. Youngkin had vowed that if Republicans won full control of the Virginia legislature, they would pass and he would sign legislation to outlaw abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.  

Going into the election, Virginia Democrats held a 22-17 majority in the state Senate, with one vacancy. Republicans controlled the state House 48-46 with six vacancies. 

The post has been updated with the results from the House of Delegates races.

CNN’s Ethan Cohen, Molly Gahagen and Melissa Holzberg DePalo contributed reporting to this post.

1:35 a.m. ET, November 8, 2023

CNN Projection: Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves will win reelection  

From CNN staff  

Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves greets supporters at his gubernatorial reelection watch party in Flowood, Mississippi on November 7.
Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves greets supporters at his gubernatorial reelection watch party in Flowood, Mississippi on November 7. Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves will win a second term as governor of Mississippi, CNN projects, winning a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff.

Reeves will defeat Democrat Brandon Presley, a member of the state Public Service Commission and a second cousin of Elvis Presley, who conceded the race in the deep-red state Tuesday night.

The Republican governor is a longtime fixture in Mississippi politics, serving in statewide office for nearly two decades. He was first elected state treasurer as a 29-year-old in 2003. After two terms as treasurer and another two as state lieutenant governor, he was elected to the state’s top executive office in 2019.

In television ads, Reeves linked Presley to President Joe Biden on issues such as gender-affirming care and immigration and attacked his opponent for receiving campaign contributions from out-of-state donors. A closing ad from the Reeves campaign featured former President Donald Trump touting his endorsement of the governor.

Reeves campaigned on Mississippi’s education improvement, as the so-called “Mississippi miracle” has seen the state rise more than any other on fourth grade reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress from 2011-2022, according to the state department of education.

Presley sought to make an economic appeal to working-class voters by pledging to cut taxes and expand Medicaid. While Reeves opposes expanding Medicaid, he proposed a nearly $700 million plan to support the state’s struggling hospitals.

Presley also tried to link Reeves to the state’s wide-ranging welfare fraud scandal, which took place when the Republican was lieutenant governor. While Reeves’ name is frequently mentioned in legal proceedings, he has never been officially accused of any wrongdoing and has denied any involvement.

This year’s governor’s race in Mississippi was determined by only the popular vote. Under the old system, candidates needed to win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of state House districts. And if no candidate managed to meet both requirements, the Mississippi House, which Republicans have controlled for more than a decade, would determine the winner.

In 2020, Mississippi voters amended their state constitution to change the way statewide officials, including governors, are elected. Under the new system, a runoff would take place if no one candidate receives a majority of the popular vote.

Voting rights groups had long argued that the old system diluted the Black vote in a state with the highest percentage of Black residents in the nation.

CNN’s Dianne Gallagher contributed reporting to this post.

1:44 a.m. ET, November 8, 2023

CNN Projection: Mother of Uvalde school shooting victim will lose special mayoral election

From CNN's Kaanita Iyer

Kimberly Mata-Rubio speaks at an event in Austin, Texas, on March 9, 2023, about the day her daughter was killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Kimberly Mata-Rubio speaks at an event in Austin, Texas, on March 9, 2023, about the day her daughter was killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman/USA Today Network

Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the mother of an Uvalde school shooting victim, will lose her bid to become the Texas city’s next mayor, CNN projects. 

Former Uvalde Mayor Cody Smith will win the special election to succeed incumbent Don McLaughlin, who is stepping down after nearly 10 years leading the city — about 80 miles west of San Antonio — to pursue a Texas state House seat.

Smith will finish out the rest of McLaughlin’s term, and the office will be up for grabs for a full term next year. 

Mata-Rubio ran on a platform focused on “boosting our economy, protecting our history and culture, and improving city services so they work for you,” according to a September campaign video posted on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.  

“The tragedy at Robb Elementary will always be part of our story but we can choose how history remembers Uvalde — as a small town that banded together, overcame and grew to new heights,” Mata-Rubio said in the video.  

Her daughter, Lexi, was among 19 fourth graders and two teachers who were fatally shot inside Robb Elementary School in May 2022. 

When announcing her campaign in July on X, Mata-Rubio addressed her daughter, vowing she would “honor your life with action.” 

Since the mass shooting, officials have given shifting and contradicting narratives about the police response to the incident. Mata-Rubio has demanded answers from officials and has been a vocal proponent of tougher gun laws, including calling for a ban on assault rifles. 

During a congressional hearing on gun violence last year, Mata-Rubio remembered her daughter as “intelligent, compassionate and athletic.”  

“We don’t want you to think of Lexi as just a number,” she said.  

12:09 a.m. ET, November 8, 2023

CNN Projection: Democrats will expand their majority on Pennsylvania Supreme Court

From CNN's Fredreka Schouten

Daniel McCaffery arrives at his polling place to vote in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 7.
Daniel McCaffery arrives at his polling place to vote in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 7. Matt Rourke/AP

Democrat Dan McCaffery will win a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, CNN projects, expanding his party’s majority on a court likely to issue consequential rulings on abortion and election procedures. 

McCaffery – who currently sits on a statewide appellate court known as the Superior Court – will defeat Republican Carolyn Carluccio in what became an expensive and hotly contested race this year. 

He will fill an open seat, vacant since the death last year of Chief Justice Max Baer, a Democrat. 

The outcome does not change the partisan balance on the seven-seat court, where Democrats currently hold a 4-2 majority. But justices have deadlocked 3-3 on several key cases – including on whether to count mail-in ballots that were missing a date on their return envelope in last year’s midterm elections. 

And his victory in Tuesday’s election could help his party retain its majority on the court in future election cycles. Retention elections for three of the four current Democrats on the high court are slated for 2025. 

(Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that directly elect state Supreme Court judges in partisan contests. Justices serve a 10-year term before voters decide whether to retain them.) 

The future of abortion dominated the race. 

Carluccio, a Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas judge and a former prosecutor, faced opposition from Planned Parenthood Votes, an abortion rights group. The group’s advertising highlighted reporting that a line on Carluccio’s campaign website about her being a “defender … of all life under the law” had been removed after she won the GOP primary earlier this year

Carluccio downplayed the abortion issue during the campaign and, in an op-ed about her candidacy, wrote that she puts loyalty to the law above any ideology.  

For his part, McCaffery, a former Philadelphia prosecutor, emphasized protecting abortion access – a strategy Democrats have used in elections across the country since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. And he touted his endorsements from abortion rights organizations, along with those from Democratic groups and labor unions. 

Abortion is currently legal in the Keystone State up to 24 weeks, but the state’s justices are weighing a case about the use of public funds to help women obtain the procedure. 

11:44 p.m. ET, November 7, 2023

CNN Projection: Houston mayor race will head to runoff between 2 Democrats

From CNN's Jack Forrest

From left, Sheila Jackson Lee and John Whitmire.
From left, Sheila Jackson Lee and John Whitmire. AP

The race to be the next mayor of Houston will advance to a runoff between Democrats John Whitmire and Sheila Jackson Lee, CNN projects, with no candidate taking a majority of the vote in Tuesday’s first round.  

Whitmire, a longtime state legislator, and Jackson Lee, a longtime congresswoman, were the top two vote-getters in the crowded nonpartisan contest to lead the country’s fourth-largest city. They will next face off in a December 9 runoff. 

Incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner, a former Democratic state lawmaker, is term-limited. 

Jackson Lee, 73, who represents Texas’s 18th Congressional district, was first elected to the US House in 1994 after earlier stints on the Houston City Council and as a Houston municipal judge. If she wins the runoff, she would become the first Black woman elected mayor of Houston and the city’s third female mayor. She has been endorsed by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.  

Whitmire, 74, has served in the Texas legislature for more than 50 years. He was first elected to the state House in 1972 and won election 10 years later to the state Senate, where he is currently the chamber’s longest-serving member. He had endorsements from Houston-area US Rep. Sylvia Garcia, former Houston Mayor Lee Brown, who was the first Black man to lead the city, and several local police organizations. 

Whitmire also earned the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle editorial board, which touted his experience and pragmatism in the state legislature, writing, “What he lacks in youthful pep or pigment he makes up in connections and know-how.” 

CNN's Ethan Cohen, Molly Gahagen and Melissa Holzberg DePalo contributed to this post.