Larry Ceisler: 4 Key Takeaways From Election Day 2023 

Roll of "I voted" circular stickers on a gray background for the November elections in the United States.
The disability pride flag.

Our 2023 election results might be most important for what they tell us about 2024. While we didn’t see any major surprises in Pennsylvania, we can learn a lot about where the commonwealth is headed as we head into an election year in which no less than the future of our democracy will be on the ballot.

So what have we learned?

It was a really good day for Pennsylvania Democrats.

Cherelle Parker’s victory was impressive. She built a strong coalition that delivered. No surprise there.

Democrats swept the judicial races, including the marquee State Supreme Court race, where Dan McCaffery beat Carolyn Carluccio by almost 200,000 votes. Gender tends to play a big role in judicial races, and the GOP should have benefited from the fact that they had a woman from Montgomery County on the ballot. But that — along with the more than $20 million spent on the race — didn’t play as significantly as the twin issues of abortion and democracy being on the ballot.

On the down-ballot judicial races, the Democrats were smart: While their ads usually highlight each judge separately, this year they showed all the judges on the Democratic ticket together. It showed the diversity and strength of the ticket, and the proof was in the results.

It was a really good day for one Pennsylvania Democrat in particular: Josh Shapiro.

The governor worked hard to get Democratic judges elected statewide, and he succeeded. He’s willing to go into rural counties to pick up a few votes here and there. He’s had such a strong nine months, so Republicans weren’t able to run against him in the same way they tried to run against Biden.

Most of all, Shapiro appeared in an ad that probably saved Sara Innamorato, who barely won her race for Allegheny County executive. The GOP put up a very good, very well-financed candidate who ran an effective campaign, while she allowed herself to be defined by her opponent as far-left and out of touch. Consequently, that election was much closer than any election in Allegheny County should be. Now, she’s in a position where you have to build and manage a government by pragmatism, not ideology. I know she wants to do a good job in a very difficult position, so hopefully she’s willing to reach out beyond a small circle for help.

When it comes to organization, you can’t beat the Working Families Party in Philly.

Just like four years ago, their campaign was sophisticated. They had great TV ads and an effective message: “We don’t want Republicans in Philly.” But it was ground game too: They were at every polling place, and in a low-information campaign, tactics like that are important.

Now Philadelphia has to figure out more ways to work with a divided state legislature when there’s just one Republican left on Philly’s City Council. Luckily, Cherelle Parker has good Republican contacts in Harrisburg to help make the case for the city. She already has a transition up and running, and will have to attract people from Philadelphia and around the country who want to work in this government. She’s a very good salesperson for Philadelphia, so I think we’ll see a sea change, at least in attitude.

In the bellwether of Bucks County, there was more good news for Democrats.

In Bucks County, the Democratic county commissioners were all reelected. And in Central Bucks West School District, which was mired in controversy and got a lot of national attention for its policies on book banning and how they treated LGBTQ+ students, Democrats won the school board back. The campaign got expensive, but parents are largely looking for their kids to have a good education and for people to want to move to the district. That’s what motivates people.

In battleground counties and states, Republicans will have to find a way to deal with these twin issues of abortion and democracy, which will again be on the ballot in 2024. President Biden may not be the strongest candidate, but at the end of the day, voters will vote on issues instead of people

Larry Ceisler in a suit and button-down shirt smiling at the camera.

Larry Ceisler is the founder of Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy. 


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