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Democrats Are Celebrating Big Victories In Tuesday's Election


This morning, Democrats are celebrating some major victories in yesterday's midterm elections. In Virginia, Democrats have taken full control of the state legislature for the first time in more than two decades. This is Governor Ralph Northam last night.


RALPH NORTHAM: I have one question for you. Do you all like the color blue?


NORTHAM: I said, do you like the color blue?


NORTHAM: Because I'm here to officially declare today, November 5, 2019, that Virginia is officially blue. Congratulations.


GREENE: That's Virginia. In Kentucky, the Democratic candidate for governor is declaring victory, though that one is a bit more complicated. And to explain all of this, I'm joined by NPR's Sarah McCammon. Hi, Sarah.


GREENE: So let's start with Kentucky, the gubernatorial race. This is a race where President Trump invested some capital. He went there. He stumped for the incumbent, Republican Matt Bevin. But the results, sounds like, still in limbo?

MCCAMMON: Right. I mean, President Trump won in Kentucky in 2016 by about 30 points. So I think the hope among Republicans was that he would help push Bevin over the edge. But as we heard, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear is claiming victory over the incumbent, Bevin.

Bevin hasn't conceded yet. But Beshear made a victory speech last night, where he repeatedly thanked teachers who've supported him a lot. And he sounded a lot like a Democrat in a conservative state.


ANDY BESHEAR: And tonight, I think we showed this country that in Kentucky, we can disagree with each other while still respecting one another.


MATT BEVIN: This is a close, close race. We are not conceding this race by any stretch...


MCCAMMON: And that second voice, David, of course, was Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who went on to say that there's been, quote, "more than a few irregularities" in the election but didn't give specifics. Now, if Beshear's lead holds, this would be a big loss for him in the state that, again, Trump won by close to 30 points. But Bevin has been very unpopular.

He's known for his clashes with teachers' unions, which is why teachers had supported Beshear so much. But we should add, it's not totally unusual - especially in a year without a big Republican at the top of the national ticket - for a Democrat to win in Kentucky like this. In fact, Beshear's own father, also a Democrat, was the governor just before Bevin.

GREENE: And we should say, there was a governor's race in Mississippi as well, right?

MCCAMMON: Yeah. And there was good news there for Republicans. Mississippi is, of course, a deeply red state. The previous governor had been a Republican but was term-limited out. And Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves has won that one, keeping that state in the Republican column.

GREENE: OK. And let's move to where you are. You're in Richmond, Va...


GREENE: ...Where Democrats - it sounds like - are celebrating what seems like a significant victory.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. I was at the Democratic watch party here in Richmond last night. There was a lot of excitement about taking over the statehouse here, which has been a goal for a long time. They're portraying this as a big win for Democrats nationally, too, heading into 2020. And, David, you know, Virginia's off-year elections tend to get a lot of attention just because they're kind of the only game in town - or one of the few games in town. And that was especially true this year because just two years ago, Democrats made some big gains in the state House - didn't quite take that chamber over.

This year, the entire legislature was up for election. So flipping Virginia was a big goal for Democrats. Nationally, there's been a lot of investment in these races and a lot of celebration after last night. And it comes at the end of what - I'm sure you remember - was a tough year for Virginia Democrats. Remember the blackface scandal...


MCCAMMON: ...Involving Governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook and just a cascading series of scandals from the executive branch there. So that prompted a lot of concern among Democrats about what that might mean for this election. But they pulled out a big victory.

And meanwhile, the Republican House speaker, Kirk Cox, who narrowly held on to his seat but will not be speaker anymore, released a statement congratulating Democrats, calling on members to treat each other with respect.

GREENE: I mean, the big question - is there anything we can read from these elections yesterday that would tell us something about 2020?

MCCAMMON: I mean, overall, this is really good news for Democrats, of course. But you can only read so much from off-year elections when turnout is lower. You know, it's a state-by-state kind of - you have to look at each state individually. And of course, there's a long way to go between now and Election Day 2020.

GREENE: A long way to go, but it's going to come quickly (laughter).


GREENE: NPR's Sarah McCammon from Richmond, Va. Sarah, Thanks.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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