In case you haven’t heard, Virginia is electing a new governor today. But that high-profile, very tight race isn’t the only critical, or even interesting, vote drawing people to the polls.
A ballot initiative could test a new way of holding down prescription drug costs. Special elections could help switch party control of state legislatures. And the results could give some important clues about where things stand going into 2018.
Here’s a last-minute guide to a few lesser-known ballot initiatives and state and local elections across the country that don’t involve Ralph Northam or Ed Gillespie but are still worth watching.
Ohio is mulling a ballot measure on prescription drug prices
In Ohio, Issue 2, a ballot initiative, would require the state to pay no more for prescription drugs than the federal Department of Veteran’s Affairs, which typically gets discounted drugs. It will affect the approximately 4 million Ohioans who receive Medicaid or some other state-funded insurance.
Proponents of the measure — which includes Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — say it’s a rejection of rising prescription drug costs and it will save Ohioans $400 million if approved.
Opponents, on the other hand, say the law would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce because the state already negotiates lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and it can’t compare costs with the VA because negotiations are confidential. They also say the cost-savings estimates are overblown, or could potentially raise prices on people who have private insurance to offset the Medicaid losses. (The state budget office also couldn’t say for sure the measure would save money.)
Ohio voters have been hit with an ad blitz in support and against the initiative, with pharmaceutical companies pouring nearly $50 million into the state to defeat the measure. The industry spent double the money to defeat a similar initiative in California last year, but if this passes in Ohio, it could be a test case tackling rising cost of prescription drugs.
The New York City DA’s race gets a jolt after the Weinstein scandal
Democratic District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is running unopposed, but civil rights attorney Marc Fliedner has gotten some buzz as a write-in candidate after questions emerged about Vance’s handling of two recent high-profile cases: one involving Trump SoHo and the other involving Harvey Weinstein.
The DA declined to prosecute a case against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for allegedly misleading investors in the Trump SoHo property, and he declined pursue charges against Weinstein for alleged sexual assault in 2015.
In both cases, Vance received campaign donations from attorneys associated with the parties under investigation. At worst, the outcome suggests the donations could influence him. At best, it calls attention to the strange dynamic of prosecutors receiving campaign donations.
Vance has denied any improprieties and is likely to win on Tuesday, despite Fliedner dressing up as a No.2 pencil on Halloween to promote his last-minute candidacy. And on Tuesday, with fortuitous timing, reports broke that the Manhattan DA is now preparing an indictment against Weinstein to be detailed next week.
One seat in Seattle could flip the Washington state Senate to the Dems
A contested state Senate seat in Seattle has pulled in millions of dollars for a special election because a victory for the Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra could end Republican control of the legislature and put the entire state under Democratic rule. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias explained:
Flipping Washington’s state Senate from a one-vote GOP majority to a one-vote Democratic majority will also create a Democratic trifecta; a narrow legislative margin but one that creates new opportunities when combined with Washington state’s stronger fiscal position.
It will be, like seemingly many of these 2017 elections, a bellwether for Democrats in 2018.
GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s old seat is up for grabs in Utah
Utah is voting in a special election to fill the House seat in the state’s third district, left vacant by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who stepped down from Congress in June and landed at Fox News.
Utah is solidly Republican — but it’s been unfriendly territory for Trump. The president won the state last year without a majority of the vote. Third-party candidate Evan McMullin was the choice of about 20 percent of voters.
The Republican in the race, Provo Mayor John Curtis, won a primary where he was seen as the more moderate among his GOP rivals. But in the general, as the Salt Lake Tribune reports, he walked a fine line between supporting the Trump agenda — tax reform and strong national defense — while separating himself from what he called the president’s “distractions.”
It seems to have worked: He ended up with a 27-point lead, which means he is almost definitely going to win. However, if the well-funded Democratic candidate Kathryn Allen or third-party candidate Jim Bennett of the centrist United Utah Party (and son of former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett) can eat into Curtis’s lead, it could be a hopeful sign for anti-Trumpers in 2018 and 2020.
Georgia could chip away at Republicans’ grip on state legislature
Georgia Republicans have a veto-proof supermajority in the state Senate, but that might change after Tuesday. Democrats are focusing on a special election in Georgia’s Sixth Senate district, which includes part of Atlanta.
The Republican state Sen. Hunter Hill, who stepped down to run for governor, narrowly won the district in 2016, so the Democratic candidate Jen Jordan has a real shot to win and give the GOP just a regular old supermajority. And, as the Atlantic-Journal Constitution notes, Democrats have put challengers in all nine Georgia legislature specials — even in deep, deep red districts they’d normally skip. How they fare is another indicator to watch heading into next year’s midterm elections.
And a few others to watch…
- New Yorkers are deciding on whether the state wants to hold a statewide Constitutional Convention, a vote the state constitution says it has to hold every 20 years. It looks like voters will vote “no,” again.
- In Virginia, 32-year-old Danica Roem could be the first openly transgender candidate elected in the state; she’s also leading the Dems’ push to make critical gains in the House of Delegates.
- Larry Krasner, a progressive civil rights attorney who has sued the Philly police department has a chance to win the district attorney seat in Philadelphia.
- In New York, the race for the Westchester County executive is giving some voters 2016 flashbacks: Hillary Clinton has endorsed Democratic challenger state Sen. George Latimer, while Rob Astorino, the incumbent Republican, has reportedly gotten some help from a Super PAC backed by hedge-fund billionaire and Trump fundraiser Robert Mercer. A victory for Latimer would take some pressure off New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo heading into 2018.
- And Democrats are expected to consolidate power in New Jersey with victory for Phil Murphy, which might explain Chris Christie’s Election Day mood.