If social issues are dead, you could have fooled U.S. voters. In yesterday’s election, Houston wasn’t the only region to feel the enormous impact of issues like marriage and religious liberty. From Ohio to Virginia, the movement so often eulogized was once again the deciding factor in key votes on everything from marijuana to parental involvement.
Nowhere was the potency of social issues more evident than in the Kentucky governor’s race, where a trailing Matt Bevin (R) pulled off a surprise upset over Democrat Jack Conway, who paid mightily for refusing to defend the state’s marriage amendment as attorney general last year. Bevin, who was down in the polls as recently as last week, surged ahead on Tuesday’s ballots after making a point to highlight social issues. In Kentucky, home to the Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis controversy, the turning point for Bevin came when he made an intentional effort to defend the conscience rights of government officials.
In early September, reporters started picking up on the change in tone, noting that “Bevin fired off a series of tweets Tuesday attacking Conway for not standing up for religious freedom, and he held a rare conference call with reporters later that day to vigorously defend Davis. Bevin reiterated his support for a plan that would absolve clerks from having their names appear on marriage licenses — a plan Conway said he could support.” On the campaign trail, both men said the issues people kept returning to were social — a deep concern for marriage and religious liberty, which outgoing Governor Steve Beshear (D) clearly didn’t share. When Bevin appeared to, voters rewarded him with a 52-44% victory.
In Virginia, a place that the president’s party hoped to make significant gains before 2016, voters rebuffed change and kept the state assembly and senate in GOP control — dealing a serious blow to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) hopes of a radical new Commonwealth. Unfortunately for Fairfax County, where the school board is trying desperately to cover its tracks on a controversial new transgender policy, the movement to oust members made a couple of gains, but not enough to halt the district’s march.
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The news was better in Ohio, where, to the surprise of most Buckeyes, a referendum to legalize recreational and medical marijuana failed miserably. By a 2-1 margin, Ohioans turned out to drub the pro-pot crowd, which spent upwards of $25 million on advertising. In the words of conservative Curt Steiner, “Never underestimate the wisdom of Ohio voters” — or any voters with the courage and the facts to make a difference.
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