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Abortion debate has dominated this election year. Here are Tuesday’s races to watch

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Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, left, and Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron shake hands at a gubernatorial debate at Northern Kentucky University, in Highland Heights, Ky., Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, left, and Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron shake hands at a gubernatorial debate at Northern Kentucky University, in Highland Heights, Ky., Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. (Joe Simon/LINK nky via AP, Pool) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON (AP) — The most-watched races in Tuesday’s off-year general election have all been dominated by the ongoing debate over abortion rights.

From a reelection bid for governor in Kentucky to a statewide ballot measure in Ohio to state legislative elections in Virginia, access to abortion has been a frequent topic in campaign debates and advertising, as it has since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in June last year overturning Roe vs. Wade.

Here’s a look at three major races and how abortion has shaped each contest.

  • Kentucky governor

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear seeks a second term in a heavily Republican state Donald Trump carried twice. The GOP nominee is Daniel Cameron, who succeeded Beshear as state attorney general.

Beshear has called the state’s restrictive abortion law “extremist” for not allowing exceptions in cases of rape and incest. He also vetoed a proposal banning abortions after 15 weeks. Cameron says he supports the state law and that as governor he would sign a bill amending it to allow rape and incest exceptions. But at times he has had difficulty clarifying what exceptions he favors.

Beshear, the son of former two-term Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, was first elected in 2019 when he defeated GOP incumbent Matt Bevin by less than half a percentage point. Cameron is a former aide to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and endorsed by Trump. If elected, he would become the first Black Republican governor since Reconstruction.

  • Ohio constitutional amendment on abortion

Ohio voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to protect access to abortion services.

The measure would establish the right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” on matters including abortion, contraception and fertility treatment. It would also allow for abortions to be banned once it has been established that the fetus can survive outside of the womb, unless a physician determines that continuing with the pregnancy would endanger the patient’s “life or health.”

In August, voters rejected a measure that would have made it more difficult to approve Tuesday’s abortion proposal. That contest was seen as a proxy fight on reproductive rights and received national attention.

  • Virginia General Assembly

Control of both chambers of Virginia’s state legislature is up for grabs, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the state House and Democrats leading the state Senate. Either or both chambers could flip and possibly give Republicans full control of state government. That would clear the way for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to implement a ban on abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is endangered. Democratic candidates have campaigned heavily on the issue.

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In addition to the three marquee races in Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia, the Associated Press will report vote totals and winners in 346 contested races in 12 states. Here are some other notable races to watch:

  • Mississippi governor

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is running for a second term against Democrat Brandon Presley, a state utility regulator and cousin of rock ’n’ roll legend Elvis Presley. Democrats held the Mississippi governorship for almost all of the 20th century, but Republicans have controlled the office for the last 20 years. With help from a sizable cash infusion from the national party, Presley outraised Reeves this year and essentially matched him in spending, but the incumbent entered the final stretch of the campaign with more money.

Reeves was first elected in 2019 with 52% of the vote. Both chambers of the state legislature are also up for election.

  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Republican Carolyn Carluccio and Democrat Daniel McCaffery are the nominees to fill a vacant state Supreme Court seat that could play a significant role on voting-related cases during the 2024 presidential campaign.

Rhode Island U.S. House District 1

Democrat Gabe Amo and Republican Gerry Leonard face off in a special election to complete the term of former Democratic U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, who resigned in May after seven terms. The district has voted reliably for Democrats. Cicilline was first elected in 2010 and won his last five reelection bids with 60% of the vote or higher. Democrat Patrick Kennedy previously held the seat for 16 years.

  • Mayors

In Houston, 17 candidates are vying to replace term-limited Mayor Sylvester Turner. Notable hopefuls include U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire, both Democrats.

In Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School last year, the candidates for mayor are former news reporter Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, former mayor Cody Smith and elementary school teacher Veronica Martinez.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mayor Joe Ganim is seeking an eighth term, but on Wednesday, a state judge made the unusual move of ordering a re-do of the September Democratic primary after evidence surfaced of possible ballot stuffing. The date for the new primary has not been set but will take place after Tuesday’s general election. AP will tabulate vote results of the Tuesday election but will not declare a winner until the legal challenges have been resolved.

In Derby, Connecticut, incumbent Mayor Richard Dziekan is running as an independent for a fourth term after losing the Republican primary to alderman Gino DiGiovanni, Jr., who was charged by federal prosecutors in August with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

  • New York City Council District 9

Criminal justice reform activist Yusef Salaam, who was one of five men convicted and later exonerated in the “Central Park Jogger” rape case, is running unopposed.

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