8 Important — or Amusing — Things to Watch on Election Night 2015

By
US-POLITICS-PROPOSITION F
Signs showing support for Proposition F are posted on a shop window in San Francisco. Photo: JOSH EDELSON

The first Tuesday in November 2015 is a somewhat understated version of Election Day. No one is voting for a president — which isn’t to say that Donald Trump won’t be written on a lot ballots as a write-in — but there are still plenty of interesting things to keep an eye on when the returns come in from state and local contests around the country.

Thanks to corruption, New York has a handful of special elections.
New Yorkers aren’t supposed to vote for state-level candidates in odd-numbered years, but this tradition depends on elected officials not doing things they aren’t supposed to, which appears to be very difficult for the state’s leaders. Three legislative seats are up for grabs in scandal-sponsored special elections. As one consultant told The Wall Street Journal, “This is the jailbird election.”

San Francisco goes to war with Airbnb.
Proposition F would introduce new regulations to the “sharing economy”; it would let Airbnb hosts rent out short-term rentals only 75 nights a year and require hosts to submit new quarterly reports. Airbnb is not happy about this challenge to its growing supremacy — in the place it calls home, no less — and has spent $8 million trying to drum up “no” votes. Those in favor of the new rules have raised about $1 million. 

Airbnb has sometimes been unable to hide its utter antipathy for its city opponents in this battle. The significant amount of money it spent on writing the ad-equivalent of passive-aggressive Post-it notes was perhaps wasted.

This ’90s boy-band star thinks Ohio needs more weed.
Ohio voters will get to decide if the conservative state is ready for legalized pot today — and former reality star and teen heartthrob Nick Lachey has been busy telling everyone that he thinks this ballot initiative is just the greatest idea. 

Lachey and a handful of other people, including descendants of William Howard Taft, could also become the greatest weed barons in Ohio if this initiative passes.

Voters cast their vote at the athletic wing of Orange High School. Photo: Tony Dejak/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

The initiative would require the state’s approved marijuana retail shops to buy from one of ten approved pot farms in the state — which happen to be owned by the people who helped underwrite the Issue 3 campaign. The Washington Post writes that “[w]ithin four years, according to one study, it is estimated that those 10 farms would be selling $1.1 billion worth of pot every year.”

The Issue 3 backers are also telling voters to vote against Issue 2, an anti-monopoly initiative that would nullify Issue 3 if approved. 

A University of Akron poll from a few weeks ago showed that 46 percent of voters planned on supporting Issue 3, while 46 percent said they planned on voting against it.

Does Kentucky care enough about Obamacare to keep voting Democratic?
Right now, Democratic attorney general Jack Conway has an ever-so-small lead in the Kentucky gubernatorial race, where voters will have to sort out their priorities: Is it better to elect an outsider or someone who cares about Obamacare?

Nearly 10 percent of the state signed up for Medicaid after current Democratic governor Steve Beshear accepted the federal government’s expansion money; Republican candidate and self-proclaimed outsider businessman Matt Bevin has said he wants to halt the expansion and get rid of Kynect, the state’s health-insurance exchange. 

Conway, who has been in Kentucky politics for ages, has run far more TV ads than Bevin — who lost a GOP Senate primary against Mitch McConnell last year — but has failed to inspire much excitement in his party. Turnout won’t be high, and it will be a close election where few people will get to decide whether Kentucky keeps on doing what it’s doing — or decides it’s ready for a massive change. 

Bloomberg’s group drops millions into state races in Virginia.
In Virginia, Michael Bloomberg’s gun-violence-prevention group, Everytown for Gun Safety, has spent more than $2 million on ads supporting two Democratic state Senate candidates. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans and would switch if a Democrat won either of these contests. The National Rifle Association, based in Virginia, has spent about $110,000 on those two races, according to Reuters.

Seattle considers giving voters “democracy vouchers” to take power away from big-money donors.
Meanwhile, in a few other states, voters are considering getting rogue money out of elections. Initiative 122 in Seattle would give residents four $25 coupons or “democracy vouchers” every election, which they could then “donate” to the candidates of their choice. Candidates who took part in this system would face stiff spending caps in city races, and donors and companies would face new spending caps and restrictions. Microsoft and other companies and donors that have enjoyed the perks that come along with being robust election spenders do not like this ballot initiative. In Maine, residents will consider Question 1, which would open up more public campaign financing by getting rid of a few “low-performing, unaccountable” business tax breaks and force outside groups to list their top three donors on ads. 

These former state legislators are begging voters for forgiveness.
Remember that tea-party state legislator who made up a fake rumor accusing himself of being “a bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant!” in order to cover up the colleague he was sharing an office — and having an affair — with? Well, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat are running for their seats again, despite having respectively resigned or been kicked out of office only a few weeks ago. 

And there’s a chance they could both boomerang right back into politics. Turnout is supposed to be dismally low — this is an off-off-year election — and many, many candidates have jumped at the opportunity to fill the scandal-ridden seats. There are 11 candidates on the ballot in Courser’s primary, and 8 in Gamrat’s. Name recognition will be a boon — perhaps even if the recognition doesn’t bring fuzzy feelings to mind. 

Courser posted a 19-minute selfie video this week to finish off his campaign and try to win over his district’s very conservative voters. Gamrat told the Detroit News, ““People have actually have been very kind and understanding … I even had someone who said ‘I voted for Whiteford last time, but I’m voting for you now because of what they did to you in Lansing.’”

Will Mississippi elect a truck driver?
Probably not. 

After shocking everyone — including his family, which was unaware he was running — by winning a Democratic primary earlier this year, it seems unwise to completely discount Robert Gray’s campaign. However, most observers seem quite confident that Phil Bryant, who has spent nearly $3 million this year, will win reelection in a landslide. Gray has spent about $3,000 while touring the state and talking about Medicaid and education spending. 

Reuters reports that “the main unknown is how quickly media outlets will declare the victors after polls close. ‘Will they call it at 7 or 7:01?’”

In Louisiana, voters have a few more weeks until their gubernatorial runoff election, a long, strange contest that has included mentions of “a very serious sin,” a love child, videos alleging secret affairs, and a newspaper article featuring the quote, “The stupid son of a bitch was supposed to find Santa Claus in the cafe; that’s the guy with the white beard. But you can tell David Vitter that he doesn’t get anything for Christmas. He’s been naughty.”

Here Are 8 Election Day Things to Watch