Abortion tops agenda in US polls a year before presidential contest

People gather in the car park of the Hamilton County Board of Elections as people arrive for early in-person voting in Cincinnati, Ohio (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
People gather in the car park of the Hamilton County Board of Elections as people arrive for early in-person voting in Cincinnati, Ohio (Carolyn Kaster/AP) People gather in the car park of the Hamilton County Board of Elections as people arrive for early in-person voting in Cincinnati, Ohio (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The most-watched races in Tuesday’s US election have all been dominated by the ongoing debate over abortion rights.

Americans are voting again a year before they choose the next president and a year after mid-term polls gave Republicans slender control of the House of Representatives although a predicted Red Wave elsewhere did not materialise.

From a re-election bid for governor in Kentucky to a 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 US Supreme Court issued its decision in June last year overturning Roe vs. Wade.

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

Kentucky governor

Democratic governor Andy Beshear seeks a second term in a heavily Republican state Donald Trump carried twice.

The Republican nominee is Daniel Cameron, who succeeded Mr Beshear as state attorney general.

Mr 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.

Mr 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 favours.

Mr Beshear, the son of former two-term Democratic governor Steve Beshear, was first elected in 2019 when he defeated Republican incumbent Matt Bevin by less than half a percentage point.

Mr Cameron is a former aide to US Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and endorsed by Mr 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.

Election 2023 Ohio Abortion
Election 2023 Ohio Abortion Signs for and against a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in Ohio (Julie Carr Smyth/AP)

It would also allow for abortions to be banned once it has been established that the foetus 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 governor 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.

There are other notable races on Tuesday.

Mississippi governor

Republican governor 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 sizeable cash infusion from the national party, Mr Presley outraised Reeves this year and essentially matched him in spending, but the incumbent entered the final stretch of the campaign with more money.

Mr 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 US House District 1

Democrat Gabe Amo and Republican Gerry Leonard face off in a special election to complete the term of former Democratic US Representative David Cicilline, who resigned in May after seven terms.

The district has voted reliably for Democrats.

Mr Cicilline was first elected in 2010 and won his last five re-election bids with 60% of the vote or higher.

Democrat Patrick Kennedy previously held the seat for 16 years.


In Houston, 17 candidates are vying to replace term-limited mayor Sylvester Turner.

Notable hopefuls include US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and state Senator 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 primary 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.

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 US Capitol during the riot on January 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.