The Key Elections Taking Place in 2023


It might be tempting to focus on the 2024 presidential election now that the midterms are in the rearview mirror, but don’t sleep on 2023: key races for governor, mayor and other offices will be decided.

Their outcomes will be closely watched for signs of whether Democrats or Republicans have momentum going into next year’s presidential election and congressional races — and for what they signal about the influence of former President Donald J. Trump.

Virginia and New Jersey have noteworthy state house elections, and in Wisconsin, a state Supreme Court race will determine the balance of power in a body whose conservative majority routinely sides with Republicans. Here’s what to watch:

Of the three governors’ races this year, only Kentucky features an incumbent Democrat seeking re-election in a state that Mr. Trump won in 2020. The race also appears packed with the most intrigue.

Gov. Andy Beshear won by less than 6,000 votes in 2019, ousting Matt Bevin, the Trump-backed Republican incumbent in the cherry-red state that is home to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate G.O.P. leader.

Shawn Wilson, the state’s transportation secretary under Mr. Edwards, is one of the few Democrats who have indicated interest in running in deep-red Louisiana.

Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, is running for a second term. But the advantage of incumbency and a substantial campaign fund may not be enough to stop a primary challenge, especially with his job approval numbers among the lowest of the nation’s governors.

Philip Gunn, Mississippi’s House speaker, has been coy about possible plans to enter the race after announcing in November that he would not seek re-election to the Legislature. Among the other Republicans whose names have been bandied about is Michael Watson, the secretary of state. But Mr. Reeves is the only Republican to have filed so far; the deadline is Feb. 1.

A Democrat hasn’t been elected governor of Mississippi in two decades, since a contest was decided by the Legislature because the winning candidate did not receive a majority of votes. Not surprisingly, few Democrats have stepped forward to run. One name to watch is Brandon Presley, a public service commissioner. Mr. Presley is a relative of Elvis Presley, who was from Tupelo, Miss., according to Mississippi Today, a nonprofit news website.

The death in late November of Representative A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat from Virginia, prompted Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, to schedule a special election for Feb. 21.

In December, Democrats resoundingly nominated Jennifer McClellan, a state senator, to represent the party in the contest for Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Richmond and leans heavily Democratic. She could become the first Black woman elected to Congress in Virginia, where she would complete the two-year term that Mr. McEachin won by 30 percentage points just weeks before his death.

Republicans tapped Leon Benjamin, a Navy veteran and pastor who lost to Mr. McEachin in November and in 2020.

The field also includes Rebecca Rhynhart, the city’s controller, who has likewise resigned in order to run; Amen Brown, a state legislator; Jeff Brown, a supermarket chain founder; and James DeLeon; a retired judge.

Conservatives are clinging to a one-seat majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, but a retirement within the court’s conservative ranks could shift the balance of power this year. The court’s justices have increasingly been called on to settle landmark lawsuits involving elections, gerrymandering, abortion and other contentious issues.

Two conservative and two liberal candidates have entered what is technically a nonpartisan election to succeed Judge Patience D. Roggensack on the seven-member court.

Daniel Kelly, a conservative former justice on the state Supreme Court who lost his seat in the 2020 election, is seeking a comeback. Running against him in the conservative lane is Jennifer Dorow, a circuit court judge in Waukesha County who drew widespread attention when she presided over the trial of Darrell E. Brooks, the man convicted in the killing of six people he struck with his car during a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., in 2021.

Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell, judges from Milwaukee County and Dane County, which includes Madison, the capital, are seeking to give liberals a majority on the court.

The two candidates who receive the most votes in the nonpartisan primary on Feb. 21 — regardless of their leanings — will face each other in the general election on April 4.

Virginia is emerging as a potential tempest in 2023, with its divided legislature up for re-election and elected officials squarely focused on the issue of abortion — not to mention a Republican governor who is flirting with a run for president.



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