WASHINGTON – Ohio voters overturned a controversial law that would have weakened public employee unions, and Mississippians rejected a “personhood” anti-abortion initiative, in elections Tuesday that suggested at least a pause in the strong conservative Republican trend that swept Democrats from office in 2010.
In the marquee fight of the day, a successful push by organized labor resulted in repeal of Ohio’s new law that would have sharply curbed collective bargaining rights for 350,000 government workers. The restrictive labor measure was passed by the Republican Legislature and signed by newly elected Republican Gov. John Kasich, who led the unsuccessful effort to defend the law.
One year after getting shellacked by Republicans, President Barack Obama, whose poll ratings continue to languish, maintained a low profile. The only reaction from the White House Tuesday night was a brief statement from Vice President Joe Biden celebrating labor’s victory in Ohio.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in Columbus to cheer a badly needed victory for organized labor and its Democratic allies, called the results a defeat for “those who spend their time scapegoating workers and pushing a partisan agenda.”
In the Phoenix suburbs, state Senate President Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona’s contentious immigration law, was defeated by fellow Republican Jerry Lewis in the state’s first recall election of a sitting lawmaker.
“I’m grateful for the battles that we’ve won,” Pearce said, according to the Associated Press. “If being recalled is being the price for keeping these promises, then so be it.”
In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, won re-election over Republican David Williams, the state Senate president, and third-party candidate Gatewood Galbraith. A year ago, the election of Republican Rand Paul to a Senate seat from Kentucky was one of the nation’s biggest tea party-inspired victories.
In Mississippi, voters chose another Republican, Phil Bryant, to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Haley Barbour. Democratic nominee Johnny DuPree had sought to become the state’s first African American governor of the modern era.
At the same time, Mississippi voters firmly rejected Initiative 26, which would have effectively defined birth control methods like IUDs and the morning-after pill as murder. Barbour supported the measure, as did both major party gubernatorial candidates. Bryant, the state’s lieutenant governor, was quoted as telling supporters in Tupelo this week that “Satan wins” if the amendment was defeated, describing the statewide campaign over the measure as “a battle of good and evil of biblical proportions.”
But the measure split the anti-abortion movement, and similar initiatives have failed in recent years, including in Colorado, where the “personhood” movement is based.