By Karen Cross, Political Director
Voters in three states—Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi—will go to the polls this November to determine who will lead their states as governor. Results of the elections could have a direct impact on the pro-life movement’s efforts to protect unborn children and their mothers in each of these states.
Here is an overview of the 2023 gubernatorial races:
In Kentucky, pro-abortion Governor Andy Beshear (D) is up for re-election. Beshear, the son of former Governor Steve Beshear, narrowly won the gubernatorial race in 2019 unseating pro-life incumbent Governor Matt Bevin (R) by just over 5,000 votes. Beshear was endorsed by pro-abortion lobby groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and the nation’s largest chain of abortion clinics. And it should come as no surprise. Throughout his term as governor and previously while serving as the state’s attorney general, Beshear has opposed key measures to protect unborn children and their mothers.
As attorney general, Beshear refused to defend a measure passed by the Kentucky General Assembly to protect unborn babies 20 weeks and older from painful late abortions. As governor, he vetoed a similar bill to protect unborn babies at 15 weeks, the point that science now shows unborn babies can experience pain.
Last year, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs granted greater latitude to states to enact protective measures for unborn children. But in Kentucky, Gov. Beshear denounced efforts to extend legal protections to unborn children and their mothers.
There are currently over a dozen Republican candidates vying for the chance to unseat Beshear. The candidates garnering the most support according to early polling are Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN and Canada Kelly Craft, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, and State Auditor Mike Harmon. The Republican Primary will be held on May 16th.
A January 2023 poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy found Cameron leading the GOP pack with 39%. Craft, his next closest rival, stood at 13%. If elected, Cameron would make history as the first Black governor of Kentucky.
The Cook Political Report rates the Kentucky governor’s race as Leans Democrat. Mason-Dixon Polling also found that 61% of Kentucky voters approved of Governor Beshear’s job performance. Their results showed the incumbent leading Cameron, his closest Republican challenger.
In 2020, Kentucky went for pro-life President Donald Trump by a margin of 62% to 36% over pro-abortion Joe Biden. Similarly, in 2022, the state re-elected pro-life Senator Rand Paul by a margin of 61% to 38% over a pro-abortion Democrat challenger. For a pro-life Republican to be successful in this year’s gubernatorial race, they should call out Governor Beshear for his extreme abortion record, which even includes support for late abortions, and contrast it with their stance in support of life-affirming solutions that safeguard the lives of both unborn babies and their mothers.
In Louisiana, Governor Jon Bel Edwards (D) is term-limited and unable to run for a third term as governor. Thanks in part to Governor Edwards and his pro-life predecessors, Louisiana has some of the nation’s most protective measures for unborn children and their mothers. Defending and building upon that progress will require electing a pro-life governor in 2023.
On the Republican side, four major candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. These include Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, State Treasurer John Schroder, State Senator Sharon Hewitt, and State Representative Richard Nelson. All four oppose abortion on demand and support pro-life measures to protect unborn children and their mothers.
Candidates have until August 10 to file the necessary paperwork to run. Their primary will be held on October 14. Because Louisiana uses the “majority-vote” system, all primary candidates will be listed on the same ballot. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates—regardless of their party affiliation—will compete on November 18.
The Cook Political Report rates the Louisiana governor’s race as Leans Republican.
Thanks to Mississippi, the state where the Dobbs case originated, we saw the end of Roe v. Wade. Mississippi continues to march forward in protecting life under the leadership of Governor Tate Reeves (R) who is up for re-election this fall.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, Governor Reeves worked diligently to make sure Mississippi’s trigger law, which extends legal protection to unborn children throughout pregnancy, was able to go into effect. Undoubtedly, lives have been saved as a result of his actions.
Governor Reeves is also pursuing a series of legislative goals he has termed the New Pro-Life Agenda, which according to his website is “aimed at making adoption easier, strengthening families, reducing the costs of raising children, and continuing to build a culture of life throughout the state.” In an appearance on Fox News after Dobbs, he stressed, “The fact of the matter is this entire court battle was never about winning a court case. It was always about creating a culture of life. That’s exactly what we’re doing here in Mississippi, and that’s what we as pro-life Mississippians and pro-life Americans have to continue to do.”
The Cook Political Report rates the Mississippi governor’s race as Solid Republican. But Democrats are hoping for an upset following the entry of Brandon Presley, a distant relative of Elvis Presley, into the race. Polls taken in January and February 2023 found Reeves leading Presley by just a slim margin. Party primaries will be held on August 8th.
In addition to these three states holding gubernatorial elections in 2023, eleven states will hold elections for governor in 2024. Stay tuned, as the governors play a more important role than ever in passing life-affirming legislation.