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7 takeaways from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida elections

By Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg and Fredreka Schouten, CNN

(CNN) — Republicans have their candidate in Kentucky, Democrats have their majority in Pennsylvania and the 2024 GOP presidential primary has another clash between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the books.

Voters threw DeSantis a pair of brushbacks on Tuesday, most notably in Kentucky where the Florida governor’s eleventh hour endorsement in the GOP governor primary flopped. Back home in Jacksonville, Democrats knocked off another DeSantis ally, electing the city’s first female mayor.

Philadelphia is now likely poised to do the same. Former city council member Cherelle Parker emerged from a deep field of Democratic candidates to claim the party’s mayoral nod – defeating a pair of leading liberals in the process. Progressives did better in western Pennsylvania, but the whole party was able to celebrate a special election result that, with Heather Boyd’s victory, preserved Democrats’ narrow control of the state legislature.

Here are 7 takeaways from the elections in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Kentucky voters set stage for biggest governor’s race of 2023

Cameron’s victory sets up one of 2023’s most important elections, and one with implications for 2024.

Beshear’s bid for a second term could be an important bellwether for next year, when his party is defending Senate seats in other red states – Montana, Ohio and West Virginia.

Beshear, whose father was a two-term governor, defeated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin – an unpopular incumbent who had angered many in his own party – in 2019. As expected, he fended off nominal Democratic opposition in Tuesday’s primary. Republicans, though, argue that despite Beshear’s popularity, November’s general election is likely to be competitive in the deep-red state.

Cameron on Tuesday said the Republican-controlled legislature deserves most of the credit for Beshear’s accomplishments.

“The governor cannot pretend to have hit a triple when everybody else knows that he was born on third base,” Cameron said.

He also previewed his lines of attack on Beshear in the election to come, blaming the first-term Democrat for crime, low workforce participation rates, fentanyl and schools that he said are “on the verge of becoming breeding grounds for liberal and progressive ideals.”

Trump wins proxy battle with DeSantis

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Cameron early, offering the 37-year-old attorney general his support last June.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is poised to take Trump on for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, made an eleventh-hour entry into the Kentucky race, backing Craft – who then fell flat on Tuesday.

Trump won the day and demonstrated his enduring influence with Republican primary voters – a reality Cameron acknowledged when he offered “a big thank you” to Trump at his election night party.

“Let me just say, the Trump culture of winning is alive and well in Kentucky,” Cameron said.

Cameron could make history

If he defeats Beshear in November, Cameron could make history in two ways: as Kentucky’s first Black governor, and as the first Black Republican to be elected governor in the United States.

He nodded at that potential history-making status on stage Tuesday night.

“To anyone who looks like me, know that you can achieve anything. Know that in this country and in Kentucky, all that matters are your values,” Cameron said.

The attorney general’s national star turn came in a speech at the 2020 GOP convention. But Cameron, once an aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, proved his mettle in Kentucky by defeating Greg Stumbo, a Democratic former state attorney general and House speaker who had long frustrated Republicans in the state, in the 2019 attorney general’s race.

Democrat wins Jacksonville mayor’s office

Florida might have shifted right in recent elections – but a Democrat won the mayor’s race Tuesday in Jacksonville, which had been the largest city in the United States with a Republican mayor.

Democratic former journalist Donna Deegan defeated Republican former state Rep. Daniel Davis in Tuesday’s runoff election, CNN projected. She will become the city’s first female mayor after campaigning on a pledge to increase transparency in city hall.

Republicans had held the Jacksonville mayor’s office since term-limited Mayor Lenny Curry narrowly defeated Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown in 2015.

Jacksonville is consolidated with Duval County, Florida – which means rural portions of the county and red-leaning suburban areas also vote in the mayoral race. That in part is how Republicans held the mayor’s office from former Mayor Ed Austin’s party switch in 1993 until now, with Brown’s lone four-year term as the only exception.

The Jacksonville outcome is another loss for DeSantis, who endorsed Davis in March and called him “the proven law and order conservative Jacksonville needs to tackle the city’s greatest challenges and seize its biggest opportunities.”

Progressives make a split decision in Pennsylvania

Progressive Democrats hit a snag in Philadelphia on Tuesday, when movement champion Helen Gym failed to capture the party’s mayoral nomination in a crowded race that CNN projects will be won by former city council member Cherelle Parker.

Coming just a few weeks after Brandon Johnson’s victory in Chicago, progressives hoped the Philadelphia contest would continue their winning streak in big city races, which began last year with the election of Michelle Wu in Boston and Karen Bass in Los Angeles.

Parker, a moderate Democrat who is on track now to become the first Black woman to lead Philadelphia, had the support of the city’s Black establishment and a number of influential unions. She also appears to have benefitted from Gym and former city controller Rebecca Rhynhart splitting the more liberal vote.

But it wasn’t all bad news for the left in the Commonwealth.

Democrats in western Pennsylvania are poised to nominate state Rep. Sara Innamorato to be the next Allegheny County executive. Her win follows the election of longtime ally US Rep. Summer Lee to Congress last year and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s unseating of then-incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto a year earlier.

Pennsylvania Republicans go with establishment-backed candidate in Supreme Court race

Republican voters in Pennsylvania made a candidate supported by the GOP establishment their nominee for an open state Supreme Court seat, rejecting another Republican contender more closely aligned with former President Donald Trump’s wing of the party.

CNN projected the victory of Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Carluccio in Tuesday’s primary, which marks a rebound for the more traditional elements of the GOP in this presidential battleground state. She will defeat Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, who briefly halted the certification of the state’s election results in 2020, and had the backing of a key Trump ally, Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the election denier who lost the state’s gubernatorial race last year, in this election.

Carluccio now will face Democrat Superior Court Judge Daniel McCaffery, who won his primary on Tuesday, in the fall.

The nominees are vying for an open seat on Pennsylvania’s high court, following the death of former Chief Justice Max Baer, a Democrat, last year.

Election denier falls flat in secretary of state race

Kentucky’s Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams – who worked with Beshear and the GOP-led legislature to expand mail-in and early voting, and has drawn bipartisan praise for his four years in office – easily fended off an election-denying challenger Tuesday.

Adams defeated Stephen Knipper, an information technology project manager who has made false claims of fraud in the Bluegrass State’s elections, as well as former state lawmaker Allen Maricle.

It won’t be enough to stop false claims about how elections are conducted from proliferating. Kari Lake, the election denying Republican who lost Arizona’s 2022 governor’s race, tweeted Tuesday without offering any evidence that she was “hearing reports of trouble out of Kentucky during today’s elections.”

Adams will be the heavy favorite as he takes on Democratic former state Rep. Buddy Wheatley, who was unopposed for his party’s nomination, in November.

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