By: Rachel Spears—Political Editor
America’s most contested political races for governor and the Senate are heating up as November 8th quickly approaches.
All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 36 Governor seats, and 35 seats in the Senate are up for re-election, setting up for a contentious election season. Primary elections in 49 out of the 50 states wrapped up on September 13th, cementing which candidates will be on the ballot in November. Tensions between the Republican and Democratic parties continue to build as issues such as inflation, abortion, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 election results remain.
In Wisconsin, Republican Senator Ron Johnson’s lead over Democratic opponent Mandela Barnes is slipping. Polls show that Johnson is leading by just one point – 49 percent to 48 percent- within the margin of error.
Johnson has made claims that the 2020 Presidential election was “stolen” and was accused of attempting to send fake electors to former Vice President, Mike Pence. Johnson has since denied these accusations multiple times. “My involvement in that attempt to deliver spanned the course of a couple seconds. I got — I think I fielded three texts and sent two,” he stated.
When asked about Johnson, Sarah Motiff, a political independent who has always voted for Johnson, described what changed her mind this year. “I’m not going to lie when I say I’ve had some concerns about some of the reports that have come out,” she said.
According to a poll completed by the Marquette University Law School, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor, Mandela Barnes, is more favorably viewed amongst voters- 41% to Johnson’s 37%.
As election day approaches, Barnes has turned his focus towards family farmers. During a recent rally, he sympathized with his supporters. “Working people are experiencing some of the most difficult challenges they’ve ever had in their entire lives,” he said
Barnes expresses his optimism regarding the election. “We’re going to exceed…we’re going to do even better than we did four years ago,” he said.
In the race for governor, Brian Kemp the incumbent still leads Stacey Abram but the race for Senate is still projected to end in a tie. “This race will be close,” said Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate, when asked about the fluctuating polls.
Former Professional football player Hershal Walker is running against Warnock. The two are expected to debate before election day but many Republicans are concerned about Walker’s potential performance. Walker has been known to make mistakes when speaking and has no previous political experience. When he was asked about the school shooting that happened in Uvalde, Texas in June he said, “what I like to do is see it and everything and stuff.”
It was reported that in 2009, Walker paid for his girlfriend’s abortion. The woman claimed that Walker encouraged her to get an abortion. This comes after Walker has called abortion “a woman killing her baby.” He has called these accusations “a flat-out lie.” “I give money to people all the time because I’m always helping people. I believe in being generous. God has blessed me. I want to bless others,” he said.
Warnock beat Republican opponent Kelly Loeffler in a January 2021 runoff election leading to a 50/50 party split in the Senate. Mr. Sean O’Reilly, an AP US Government and Politics teacher, emphasized the importance of this race. “The party that wins this seat is very likely to win control of the Senate,” he said.
Candidates and changes in voter laws have some Georgia voters concerned. Varana King, a Georgia voter, expressed her unhappiness stating, “in my mind, if we’re still having these types of problems, it’s intentional.”
In 2021, the Georgia legislature passed a new law restricting mail in voting. The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the state of Georgia because of this law. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland says that this law intentionally discriminates against certain races. “This lawsuit is the first step of many we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote; that all lawful votes are counted; and that every voter has access to accurate information,” he said.
Endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Dr. Mehmet Oz is taking on Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman in the race for Senate. That seat is currently being filled by Republican Senator Pat Toomey. The candidates are expected to debate on October 12th.
In the purple state, Fetterman has a slight edge over Oz in the polls. But O’Reilly has explained that many political “junkies” have “become more skeptical of polling and poll aggregation.”
Fetterman suffered a stroke in May, only a few days before the Pennsylvania primary, but still won the Democratic nomination. He has maintained that he is in good health. “I’m running a perfectly normal campaign,” Fetterman said. Despite this, he has suffered from minor speech issues and occasionally relies on his staff to speak to potential voters.
Oz has claimed that Fetterman’s health renders him unable to run for Senate. His ads feature some of Fetterman’s most recent gaffes. At one of his campaign events Fetterman confused Jersey with Washington D.C. saying “I can champion the union way of life in Jersey. Excuse me… In DC.”
In the Pennsylvania primary, Oz narrowly beat his primary competitor, businessman Dave McCormick despite the claims that he lives in New Jersey, not Pennsylvania. In an interview with the Associated Press, he responded to these accusations saying, “people don’t really care where I’m from. They care what I stand for.”
Oz blames Democratic leaders in Philadelphia for increases in violence. “Lawlessness that all of us are witnessing [is] like a cancer.” He has earned the endorsement from the city’s police union which has also endorsed Democratic candidate for governor, Josh Shapiro.
In the race for Pennsylvania Governor, Republican candidate Doug Mastriano has fallen behind. 53% of voters preferred Shapiro, 40% preferred Mastriano and 6% of voters remain undecided.
O’Reilly described each party’s approach on the campaign trail. “Democrats want to make the election about abortion and Trump. Republicans want to make the election about inflation/economy and crime/criminal justice reform,” he explained.
Shapiro has expressed that he will protect a woman’s right to abortion “I will fight to protect them and their doctors from extreme politicians attempting to illegally interfere,” he said. Mastriano has called the issue a “distraction” but has previously said that he “look[s] forward to signing into law either [a] heartbeat bill or the fetal pain bill.”
Other Races to Watch
The race for U.S. Senate in Nevada has been “flying a bit under the radar” said O’Reilly. Polls have shown the Democratic lead weakening over the past week. Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican candidate Adam Laxalt are currently polling a mere 0.7% apart after an increase in GOP spending.
Voters are still divided in Ohio and North Carolina. Trump endorsed J.D. Vance and Democratic congressman Tim Ryan remain in a toss-up in Ohio. North Carolina Republican Ted Budd has described himself as a “conservative warrior” and “liberal agenda crusher,” but he and his opponent Cheri Beasley remain even in the polls. Republican strategists have pointed to Budd’s failure to court independent voters, a large portion of voters in the politically competitive state as an explanation for the current polls.
In New Hampshire and Arizona, Democratic candidates have taken the lead in the races for Senate. In both states, the Republican primary produced a candidate that was vocal about their beliefs that the 2020 Presidential election was “stolen.” Since the primary, New Hampshire Republican Don Bouloc has since completely reversed his position to win independent voters, explained O’Reilly.
In Florida Marco Rubio will take on Val Demings in the race for Senate. Rubio is polling ahead of his democratic opponent but by less than 4% – 47.7% to 43.9%. This is expected to be the closest race of Rubio’s career.
Democratic candidate for governor, Maura Healey remains ahead of Republican Candidate Geoff Diehl. If she were to win in November, she would make history as Massachusetts’ first woman and openly LGBTQ+ governor. Healey would also be the nation’s first openly lesbian governor. “I am certainly proud of it; it’s my identity and who I am,” Healey said.