Tag Archives: Elections

Election Surprise: Health Care Galvanizes Voters

A voter casts his ballot at Hillsboro Old Stone School on November 7, 2017 in Purcellivlle, Va. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Health care appears to have played an unexpectedly robust role in Tuesday’s off-year elections, as Democrats swept statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey and voters told pollsters it was a top concern.

The health headline of the night came in Maine, where voters by a large margin rebuked Republican Gov. Paul LePage and approved a referendum  expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Maine is one of 19 states that has not expanded the program to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,600 for an individual. An estimated 70,000 to 90,000 Mainers could gain insurance under the expansion.

The Legislature has passed similar bills five times, but LePage vetoed each one. And despite Tuesday’s outcome, he held firm in his opposition. The governor announced Wednesday that he would not implement the expansion, which he said would be “ruinous” for the state’s budget, unless it is fully funded by the Legislature.

Medicaid expansion might also be back in play in Virginia. Voters there not only elevated Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam to the governorship, they may have steered Democrats to a takeover of the state House of Delegates, which has been the primary source of opposition to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s efforts to expand Medicaid. As of Wednesday morning, Democrats had picked up 15 of the 17 seats they would need to take over the majority with several races too close to call or requiring a recount.

And while it was not a headline issue in the governor’s race, health care proved decisive to Virginia voters, according to exit polls funded by a pool of media organizations.

Health care was by far the top issue for voters, according to the poll, which asked voters which of five issues mattered most to them. Nearly 4 in 10 said health care was the issue most important to their vote, followed by gun policy at 17 percent, taxes at 15 percent, immigration at 12 percent and abortion at 8 percent. Among those voters who cited health care, 77 percent voted for Democrat Northam, making it his strongest issue by a wide margin.

The fallout will depend on who holds which views, said Rodney Whitlock, a former GOP Senate staffer. If health care is a top concern for Democrats, “that doesn’t have a lot of meaning for Republicans,” he said. But if independents are the ones who see health as a salient voting issue, “that means much more.”

But Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard University, said the election results suggest that health care has again become a positive for Democrats. “You don’t have to say you love the ACA, but that you don’t want to drop millions of people” from coverage, he explained.

In New Jersey, voters said they were more concerned with state issues, with property taxes and corruption topping the list of topics they told exit pollsters drove their votes. But health care was third.

Still, the election results likely hinged on a host of concerns, warned Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health issues are still strongly viewed through partisan lenses, he said, and the voting probably was more of a referendum on President Donald Trump than on health care. But the results in the Maine referendum could have repercussions beyond that state, showing that Medicaid expansion is “far more popular” than Republicans have acknowledged. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

In Ohio, voters defeated what some called a confusing ballot measure aimed at limiting prescription drug prices to no more than the amount paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs. A similar measure was voted down in California last year.

A Republican state representative who needs your help

I don’t usually go around supporting members of the local or national GOP, even so-called moderate Republicans, since I don’t see how anyone with a functioning heart and brain could possibly be part of the GOP as it is now constituted: small-minded, mean-spirited, bigoted, xenophobic and anti-intellectual. All Republican elected officials will eventually be called upon to support their party in some way, and that support contributes to keeping bad Republicans in office.

However, if you live in a place like Downers Grove, IL — a suburb of about 48,000 people 30 miles west of Chicago — you live in a place that keeps electing Republicans, no matter how much I might wish otherwise.  And as long as the good people of Downers Grove want to elect Republicans, the rest of us will have to pay attention to what kind of Republicans are running for office.

Downers Grove, it turns out, is the electoral home of one of only three Illinois House Republicans who had the courage to support same-sex marriage last November, which helped propel that legislation toward an eventual victory that put Illinois on the map as another state where same-sex marriage is now legal.

GOP State Rep. Ron Sandack is being targeted for that support, as this article from the Chicago Tribune makes clear:

A Republican who broke party lines to support same-sex marriage faces a primary challenge in the race for a state House seat representing the western suburbs.

State Rep. Ron Sandack was one of only three House Republicans to endorse the gay marriage bill in November, flip-flopping on the issue since voting against civil unions when he was in the Illinois Senate in 2011. He said he now believes same-sex marriage promotes rather than undermines conservative values.

Illnois State Rep Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove)
Illnois State Rep Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove)

“I changed my mind, but so did many people in the country, so did many people in my district,” Sandack said. “All I did was permit same-sex couples to have the same civil rights to a civil or secular marriage, but it does not impinge on the faith-based organizations.”

Keith Matune, also running for the 81st District House seat, called out Sandack for the votes and for accepting donations from both sides of the issue.

“His record is not Republican, it’s not conservative, and it doesn’t serve the people of the district,” said Matune, a member of Downers Grove-based District 99 high school district board. “We just don’t know who the real Ron Sandack is because he says one thing and he does another.”

Matune is clearly a wingnut, so part of me wants to see him win the GOP primary and go on to face a Democrat in the general election. If Matune is doctrinaire enough to turn off moderate voters, a Democrat might pick up the seat from the Republicans. (Although no Democrat has filed to run for the seat as of this posting.)

That being said, Matune has decided to make same-sex civil marriage a defining issue in the race. It would be bad for the right-wing in Illinois to be able to say that same-sex marriage cost a Republican his seat in the Legislature — particularly if he is just one of three GOP members to have supported equality. Also, Springfield (the state capital) is home to Thomas Paprocki, the looney tunes Catholic bishop who staged an exorcism ceremony against same-sex marriage Nov. 20 in that city’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We definitely don’t want that guy to be able to claim he warded off the evil gay spirits and caused Sandack’s defeat. Because you just know someone that screwy will take credit for anything anti-marriage that happens in the state.

(Sandack didn’t just put his own office in jeopardy, it should be noted. He also ended up having to abandon his bid to be state GOP chairperson after his vote for same-sex civil marriage made him politically untenable with more conservative Republicans in the state.)

So if you live in Bolingbrook, Downers Grove, Naperville, Lisle, Darien, Westmont and Woodridge — parts of which are all represented by the 81st District House seat — you might want to start paying attention to this race. If you are so inclined, you also might also shoot a few dollars in the direction of state Rep. Sandack’s campaign at Ron4Illinois.com.

The primary is March 18. According to the state Board of Elections:

The pamphlet, Registering to Vote in Illinois, describes the rules and procedures surrounding the voter registration process in Illinois. An individual may register to vote in Illinois if he/she is 18 years or older on the next election day, resides in the jurisdiction for 30 days prior to the election, and is a U.S. citizen.

Illinois’ residents may register in person at the office of the election authority, at Driver’s license facilities, with deputy registrars who are appointed in each jurisdiction, or via mail using the Illinois Voter Registration Application available in English and Spanish.

Information specific to voter registration in DuPage County and Downers Grove can be obtained from the village of Downer’s Grove voting information page.