Democrats show signs of life, but Republicans win too, as results from 2011 elections are tallied

The Takeaway

Story from The Takeaway. Listen to the above audio for a complete report.

Tuesday was Election Day across the country and voters in several states cast ballots on issues with national dimensions.

Ohio voters struck down a law that restricts the collective bargaining rights of public workers, a major setback for Republican Governor John Kasich, who implemented the law as a budget-cutting measure. Mississippi voters rejected the so-called “Personhood Amendment,” which sought to outlaw abortions. In Arizona, voters recalled the architect of that state’s controversial immigration law.

Bill Cohen, statehouse reporter for Ohio Public Radio, said the collective bargaining law, which banned strikes by public employees, required they pay at least 15 percent of the costs of their health insurance and gave management the final say in contract disputes, rallied unions in a way that had previously been impossible.

“In this instance, the voters, by a whopping margin, said they thought this new collective bargaining law went way too far,” Cohen said. “It’s a big defeat for Gov. Kasich. This was one of his premier issues.”

Kasich said this was necessary for cities, school districts and even the state to survive massive state budget cuts without wholesale layoffs. In the wake of the law’s defeat, Kasich said he was concerned about the state budget.

In Mississippi, the personhood amendment had bipartisan support, but wound up losing fairly handily. Jordan Fabian, political editor at Univision, said despite the local support, national Democrats are viewing this as a victory. It points to the influence of progressive and pro-choice activists who worked hard to defeat the legislation in Mississippi.

And in Arizona, Russell Pearce, the state senate president and author of the controversial, tough immigration law, was thrown out of office. Fabian said, however, that it’s hard to draw a straight line from Pearce’s defeat to the immigration law.

Pearce has also been tainted by a scandal at the Fiesta Bowl, as well as for encouraging a Mexican immigrant to get on the ballot to try to siphon votes from his opponent.

Still, Fabian said, Latino voters and pro-immigration advocates were energized by Pearce’s defeat.

“This was taken as a rejection of that sort of policy, the sort of policy that’s been adopted in other states.”

And if these three items were all encouraging for Democrats, who have been seen as particularly vulnerable in the 2012 elections, there are signs of trouble. The State Senate in Virginia is one undecided race away from flipping from Democratic control over to Republicans.

“The fact … that Democrats controlled the chamber before and now it’s up in the air should give Democrats some pause…President Obama won that state back in 2008,” Fabian said.


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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