Key takeaways from state and local US elections this week

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who will likely run for president, faces setbacks in off-year vote on Tuesday.

Daniel Cameron
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks to supporters following his victory on May 16 in the Republican primary in Louisville, Kentucky, the US [Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo]

This year will not see decisive elections at the national level in the United States, but a few municipal and state contests this week may be a bellwether of where voters stand ahead of the presidential vote in 2024.

Voters in Florida, Kentucky and Pennsylvania headed to the polls on Tuesday to choose local leaders and party nominees for statewide offices.

A popular saying in US public life is that all politics is local. Off-year elections, which fall between presidential contests and midterm votes, can be consequential. Here, Al Jazeera looks at key races from Tuesday’s election.

Trump-backed candidate for governor wins Kentucky primary

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, comfortably won the Republican nomination for governor, fending off two serious opponents, including one who was backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

With nearly all ballots counted, Cameron had around 48 percent of the votes. DeSantis-endorsed Kelly Craft, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, came in third – more than 30 percentage points behind Cameron.

The Florida governor, who has yet to announce a presidential run but is largely seen as Trump’s most serious challenger for the 2024 Republican nomination, came out publicly in support of Craft a day before the election.

It is not clear how that endorsement or Trump’s backing of Cameron affected the race.

But the former president, who is seeking the White House again in 2024, took a victory lap and slammed DeSantis on Wednesday, referring to the Florida governor as “DeSanctimonious”.

“Congratulations to a ‘star’ in Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, who easily won the Republican Nomination for Governor,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

“He had my Complete and Total Endorsement. The DeSanctimonious backed candidate came in a DISTANT third. Ron’s magic is GONE!”

Cameron will take on incumbent Democratic Governor Andy Beshear in November in what is seen as the most important election of the year. If he wins, Cameron would become Kentucky’s first Black governor.

A loss for Republicans in Florida

DeSantis was dealt another blow on Tuesday, this time in his own home state of Florida where he has been touting his proclaimed achievements and conservative credentials.

In Jacksonville, a city of nearly one million people in northeast Florida, Democrat Donna Deegan beat DeSantis-backed Republican Daniel Davis in the mayor’s race.

Jacksonville is now set to lose its status as the largest US city with a Republican mayor. Its current Mayor Lenny Curry was unable to run this year because of term limits.

“Love won tonight, and we made history. We have a new day in Jacksonville because people chose unity over division — creating a broad coalition of people across the political spectrum that want a unified city,” Deegan, a former local news anchor, wrote on Twitter late on Tuesday.

“Together, we will bring change for good to Jacksonville by making good on the decades-long broken promises on infrastructure, building an economy that works for everyone and improving access to healthcare.”

Deegan will become the first woman to lead the city when she takes office on July 1.

Despite the loss for his Republican Party, Trump again took the opportunity to hit out at DeSantis.

“Wow! In a big upset, the DeSanctimonious backed Republican candidate for Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, LOST. This is a shocker. If they would have asked me to Endorse, he would have won, easily,” the former president wrote in a social media post.

Several Democrats in Congress hailed the Jacksonville election results.

Setback for progressives in Philadelphia

Public safety has been the top issue in major city municipal elections in the US in recent years, as crime rates have risen since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Mayoral races in several Democratic-run cities have pitted progressives who advocate more funding for social programmes and education to tackle the root causes of crimes against moderates who advocate bolstering law enforcement.

On Tuesday, the more conservative camp scored a victory in Philadelphia, where former City Council member Cherelle Parker won the Democratic primary for mayor in a crowded pool of candidates.

Parker’s public safety platform called for hiring more law enforcement officers and prioritising filling vacancies in the police department.

With most ballots counted, she earned around 33 percent of the votes on Tuesday, placing first amongst five serious candidates, including progressive favourite Helen Gym, who came in third.

Parker, who is favoured to win in November against Republican nominee David Oh, would become the city’s first female mayor.

“I’m so incredibly honored to have earned the Democratic nomination tonight. It’s been a long road, and to see the tireless work of my campaign team, supporters, and family pay off is humbling,” Parker wrote on Twitter.

Her win comes a day after new Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson took office after winning that election on a progressive platform in a contest that also focused on public safety.

Source: Al Jazeera