On Election Day, Democratic causes and initiatives prevailed in most state contests. While it might be far too simple to interpret the few data points in any off-year election, liberals appeared content. Democrats could argue that in almost every electoral contest, the voting public seemed to recoil from conservative overstretch by governors and state legislators elected in the massively Republican year of 2010.
Consider some outcomes:
In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature witnessed a signature policy, an attempt to roll back collective bargaining powers for public employees (including police and firefighters), be decidedly rejected by voters.
In Mississippi, a highly controversial "personhood” initiative was defeated by a relatively sizable margin. The measure, if passed, would have deemed a fertilized human egg as a human being with access to citizenship rights and other protections. Many in the pro-life movement thought the initiative would alienate some independent voters who feared birth control would be limited or even tempt an intervention by the federal courts.
In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear handily won re-election in a state with 9.7 percent unemployment. Democrats could argue their candidates still can win in conservative-leaning states.
In Arizona, Republican Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of that state's controversial anti-illegal immigration law, was defeated in a recall vote by a Republican challenger who portrayed Pearce as an extremist on immigration policy. Pearce once declared the Arizona state Senate was a "tea party Senate" and called on the other 49 states to pass similar anti-immigration proposals.
In other contests, Democrats were victorious. In Maine, voters rejected the state legislature's attempt to impose certain restrictions on citizens registering to vote on Election Day. In Iowa, Democrats maintained control of the state Senate and seemed to hold Republicans to a tie in the Virginia Senate.
The strong trend certainly was not absolute as conservatives claimed victory in some statewide contests.
Voters in Ohio supported an initiative to ban health care mandates, which was a symbolic rejection of President Barack Obama's health reform law. In Mississippi, Republican Phil Bryant easily won the gubernatorial election and voters in the state supported the use of voter identification in state elections.
Do these election results represent voter rejection of far-right candidates and initiatives in one off-year election or should they be interpreted as a positive sign for Democrats, especially in Ohio, Iowa and Virginia?
Chris Dolan is an assistant professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College (www.lvc.edu) and the author of “Striking First,” “In War We Trust” and “The Presidency and Economic Policy.”