The Thinker: Rich Galen


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An American Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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An American Cyber-Column

Off-Off Year Elections

Rich Galen

Friday October 22, 2021

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  • Most states hold their state and local elections in even-numbered years along with elections for U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators and every other cycle an election for President layered on top.

  • Most states except for these five: Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. Of those five, two: Virginia and New Jersey, hold their state elections in the year following the Presidential cycle.

  • That is the ONLY thing Virginia and New Jersey have in common. Ok, Amtrak goes through both states.

  • I live in Virginia, and we are being inundated with cable ads and internet pop-ups for all manner of people running for offices I rarely think about.

  • As to why Virginia holds its elections in odd-numbered years, a piece on the website of one of our local public radio stations - - holds that it is pure accident.

  • Quoting a retired historian at the Library of Virginia, Brent Tarter, it seems that the post-Civil War constitution was supposed to be ratified in 1868 but didn't quite get done until 1869 and so
    "At that time, voters ratified the constitution and elected a governor, and that set in train the four-year cycle for Virginia governors. And ever since then, we've elected the governor on the year after a presidential election."

  • States that hold there statewide elections in rhythm with Presidential cycles often find their election is at least influenced, if not overwhelmed, by Presidential politics.

  • It certainly has an effect on turnout. When the current Democratic nominee for Governor, Terry McAuliffe last ran (and won) in 2013 turnout was 43 percent. In the 2020 Presidential election here, turnout was 74.6 percent.


    In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Governors may not succeed themselves. One and done.

    They can, as McAuliffe is doing this year, run for a second term, just not consecutively.


  • I don't know who is running for Governor of New Jersey. Ok, I looked it up. The Democrat is Phil Murphy who is the sitting Governor. The Republican is Jack Ciattarelli.

  • Just to close the loop, the GOP candidate in Virginia is Glenn Youngkin.

  • Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 percentage points 54-44.

  • McAuliffe is ahead by a fingernail in Five-Thirty-Eight's poll summary, 48% - 46%. That includes polls which show the race tied and polls, like last weeks Fox poll, showing McAuliffe with a 10-point lead.

  • As we know all too well, polls are not predictive. Every political reporter on the planet knows this, but they can't resist reporting polling results as if they are.

  • In the recent California recall, the polls showed a margin of only 1.2 percent of Californians wanted to keep Governor Gavin Newsome in office about three weeks out. By the time election day rolled around, Newsome kept his office by a blowout margin of 24 percentage points, 62-38.

  • I don't know who is going to win this election. After my brilliant showing in the 2016 election, I retired from the prediction game.

  • As late as mid-afternoon on election day I was lecturing a group of Swedish business people in front of a map of the U.S. With the confidence borne of many decades in national politics I pointed to the states that Trump HAD to win and why that was not going to happen.

  • A trip to Sweden has been erased from my bucket list.

  • It is also incorrect to use the results here as a guide to try and tease out what will happen in the midterm elections for U.S. House and Senate next year.

  • Midterm elections are fraught with danger for Presidents. In the Gingrich Revolution election of 1994, Bill Clinton suffered a loss of 54 seats in the House and 8 seats in the Senate. (Richard Shelby switched parties from D to R the day after election day so the GOP picked up a ninth seat).

  • On the other hand in George W. Bush's first midterm, 2002, Republicans picked up 8 seats in the House and one in the Senate.

  • But the gravitational pull is for the party of the President to lose seats in Congress as the result of midterm elections.

  • That will be true in November 2022 no matter who wins the off-off years elections in Virginia and New Jersey.

  • See you next week.

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