Who voted for what and why on Election Day

This election, Ohio voters said no to legalizing marijuana, Houston voters defeated an ordinance to curb LGBT discrimination and San Francisco voters refused to limit how often homeowners can rent out rooms. Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report and Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the Los Angeles Times talk with Gwen Ifill about what the results mean for both parties.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    From a significant win in a key governor's race to a number of ballot initiatives, conservatives had a big day at the polls yesterday.

    It was one of the night's headline issues. Supporters hoped Ohio would be the first Midwestern state to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. But by nearly 2-1, voters gave that a resounding no. The same conservative wave cost Kentucky Democrats their longtime hold on the governor's mansion. Attorney General Jack Conway lost to Republican Matt Bevin, who opposed the federal health care law and gay marriage.

    MATT BEVIN (R), Kentucky Governor-Elect: I'm grateful that you all went to the ballot box. And those that are watching, and those that have collectively decided that we want a fresh start, that we want to turn the page, this is your Kentucky.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Meanwhile, in Houston, an ordinance to curb discrimination against gays and transgender people went down to defeat.

    Outgoing Mayor Annise Parker, the nation's only lesbian mayor, lamented the outcome.

    ANNISE PARKER (D), Mayor of Houston, Texas: I fear that this will have stained Houston's reputation as a tolerant, welcoming global city. And I absolutely fear that there will be a direct economic backlash as a result of this ordinance going into defeat.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But the Family Research Council and other conservative groups praised the result. Council President Tony Perkins called it "a rallying cry for those tired of seeing their freedoms trampled in a politically correct stampede to redefine marriage and sexuality."

    In San Francisco, it was freedom to rent that topped the ballot. Voters handed a victory to the online site Airbnb, which was founded in the city by the bay, refusing to limit how often home owners may rent out rooms.

    For more on last night's results, we turn now to Stu Rothenberg of The Rothenberg-Gonzales Political Report, and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Houston bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times.

    Stu, the Republicans or conservative causes had gains on issues. They had gains on candidates. Let's start in Kentucky. How did Matt Bevin confound the polls?

    STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report: Well, Gwen, you're right. Almost all the pollsters got it wrong, and there are a number of possible explanations.

    To some extent, they always had Jack Conway, the Democrat, running in the mid-40s, but with a two- to five-point lead. He ended up losing, but he also got in the mid-40s, just what they predicted. It could have been that the undecided voters swung, swung dramatically to the Republican.

    On the other hand, I think it's more likely that it was a late break in cultural issues, social issues, issues like Planned Parenthood funding that's — that's been a big issue — same-sex marriage, religious liberty. Cultural issues seem to take hold.

    And, also, there's one other thing I think you have to consider. That is, Kentucky has been moving Republican over the past few decades. And it is now reliably Republican in federal races. State races tend to be different. The minority party, the wrong party, can sometimes win statewide offices.

    But in this case, Republicans did go to the Barack Obama well again and again, and it may well be that these Republicans voters just decided they couldn't vote for a Democrat for governor.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You talk about trends. There was, obviously, a trend towards Republicans in Kentucky. But on social issues like in Ohio, the marijuana legalization vote, there have always been — we have always been headed in the other direction, and Ohio said no resoundingly.

  • STUART ROTHENBERG:

    Well, in Ohio, it might have been just too much, too fast in terms of recreational marijuana usage.

    But it was more than that. It was the ballot measure itself. Sometimes, the actual structure of the measures matter. And in this case, I think that folks in Ohio were unhappy that a select group of growers and investors were going to get, in fact, a monopoly on this in Ohio on marijuana.

    And that was a significant factor. And it's funny. There are people who supported legalization of marijuana who opposed this initiative.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Because of the way it was structured.

  • STUART ROTHENBERG:

    Because of the structure of the measure.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You know, we don't pay enough attention to what happens in statehouses, but in Virginia last night, there had been a big push for Democrats to try to take control of the statehouse, and it didn't work out.

  • STUART ROTHENBERG:

    It didn't because the Republicans held their seats and the Democrats held their seats, and so the Republicans still have a 21-19 advantage in the Virginia State Senate.

    On one level, that's so — what else is new? Nothing's new, really. But this was a bit of a black eye for the governor, Terry McAuliffe, known as a great fund-raiser and a savvy political operative, a friend of the Clintons, all the Clintons. He could not work his magic and flip a seat, so that the Democrats control the Senate.

    It doesn't — I don't think it fundamentally changes the dynamic of the politics there. But it is an embarrassment for the governor.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Molly Hennessy-Fiske, how did the Houston discrimination ordinance, or anti-discrimination ordinance, how did it rise and how did it fall?

  • MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE, Los Angeles Times:

    Well, it lost pretty resoundingly 61 to 39 percent.

    Both sides had thought that it was going to be a very close race. The mayor had championed it, made it a personal cause of hers, Mayor Annise Parker. The city council had already voted for it and approved it, and then there was this protracted legal battle and political battle that led to it being placed on the ballot.

    So it was a pretty big victory for the conservatives who had petitioned and sued to get it put on the ballot, put to a vote, and now they'd like to have it all put to rest, but some folks are still vowing to fight for it.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now, let's be clear. This was an ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination against gays and — LGBT individuals…

  • MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE:

    That's right.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    … which had passed in other cities around Texas, but this became defined differently.

    And let's listen to a little bit of one ad that we heard. It was Houston Astros star Lance Berkman. Let's listen.

  • LANCE BERKMAN, Houston Astros:

    I'm Lance Berkman. I played professional baseball for 15 years, but my family is more important. My wife and I have four daughters. Proposition 1 would allow troubled men who claim to be women to enter women's bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms. It's better to prevent this danger by closing women's restrooms to men, rather than waiting for a crime to happen.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, Molly, this was about transgender issues, not really about anti-discrimination in the end. It was redefined.

  • MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE:

    Well, it depends who is talking about it.

    I would say both sides would probably say it's more complicated than that. This measure did end up getting dubbed the bathroom ordinance, like you heard in that ad by a former Houston Astro. But even the conservatives who scored a victory with this said it means more to them than that. They felt like the other thing that was at issue was religious liberty, that if, for instance, a florist was asked by a same-sex couple to do the, you know, flowers for their wedding, that if they said no, under this ordinance, they could face penalties or be sued.

    And the pro-ordinance campaign has said it was about way more than bathrooms. In fact, the mayor repeatedly said that the ordinance didn't specifically talk about bathrooms, and she felt like that was a lot of fear-mongering and a scare tactic that spread a lot of misinformation, and that today she even said at a press conference that she felt like the voters weren't really voting about what the ordinance was really about.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But in the end, that's what redefinition — redefining things does. But in the end, they also were able to appeal to black churches, for instance, to take the side against the ordinance, which you would think an anti-discrimination ordinance would be appealing to African-Americans.

  • MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE:

    That's right. And I talked to some of those pastors as the campaign was going on who were very upset, not just because of the ordinance and what it says and what they feared it might do, but also because, in the process of the legal battle, the city had subpoenaed some of their sermons.

    And they really got their backs up about that, felt like that was an infringement on freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, and even though the city backed off, they felt like they were under attack and they had to work to lobby against this.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And there is a mayoral runoff which is also — this may get played out against in Houston.

    Stu, it's always possible to overreach and overinterpret these from a national point of view, but I wonder what the parties, the individual parties and the wings of those parties are taking from all these results yesterday.

  • STUART ROTHENBERG:

    Well, the Republicans, at least in their P.R. releases, are saying something big happened, a string of Republican victories in Virginia. They're predicting that this shows the turnaround, Virginia's coming back the Republican column.

    I'm hesitant to read very much outside of Kentucky, the particular circumstances in Ohio and Houston, example. Look, next year, we're going to have a different kind of election with a different kind of electorate, where the election will be about — I'm not sure what it's going to be about, but it could be about Hillary Clinton or the Republican nominee or the Middle East or health care.

    And once we know that, then we will have a better sense on the ebb and flow of the campaigns and the general lay of the land of the election.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg-Gonzales Political Report, and Molly Hennessy-Fiske of The L.A. Times, thank you both very much.

  • MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE:

    Thanks.

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