2023 Election Highlights

Lily Smith

With a national election occurring next year, there is increased media attention on local candidates’ economic, social and foreign policy platforms. This fall, the Southeast held four key elections in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia, which highlighted the tension between federally funded clean energy initiatives and traditional gas, oil and coal industries. A recurrent theme throughout the 2023 gubernatorial and public service commission campaigns was emphasis on an “all-of-the-above” energy generation and supply strategy. The stance was supported by the winning gubernatorial candidates from Southeast states with large coal, oil and natural gas industries.


Incumbent Democratic Governor Andy Beshear sought and won reelection against opponent Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron on November 7.  Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman was also reelected. One of the most popular governors in the United States, Beshear favors an “all-of-the-above” strategy for generating and supplying energy to Kentucky residents. In a state with a historically prominent coal industry, Governor Beshear’s policy supports integrating a range of renewables and more reliance on natural gas while slowing down the transition from coal. The hesitancy to move away from coal was apparent in a bill passed in the state Senate and House in March 2023, which requires utilities to prove to the Kentucky Public Service Commission that the retirement of a coal plant would not negatively impact customer rates or the grid’s reliability. Despite public comments opposing the bill from Kentucky Utilities, Louisville Gas and Electric, and Duke Energy Kentucky, the bill became law without a signature or veto from the governor.

Energy and climate highlights of Beshear’s career include KYE3: Designs for a Resilient Economy, published in 2021, which ties together the economy, energy and the environment as priorities in ensuring a resilient economy for the state. Additionally, under Beshear’s leadership, the state has seen significant clean manufacturing investments, including a $5.8 billion deal in 2021 with Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation to create 5,000 jobs at two new electric battery plants, a $2 billion deal in 2022 with Envision AESC to create 2,000 jobs at a battery plant, and further announcements from Rivian and Hitachi.

In 2023, Governor Beshear was one of four governors who chose not to accept funding from the EPA-administered and IRA-funded Climate Pollution Reduction Grants, which gives money to the states to develop plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Beshear’s perspective is that major cities, which are also eligible, are better equipped to apply directly for these funds.


With Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards’ term set to expire in 2024, current Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry faced former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, Democrat Shawn Wilson. On October 14, Louisiana voters chose Jeff Landry to be the next governor of Louisiana.

Landry has described climate change as a hoax and is a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry. As attorney general, Landry sued FEMA over increased flood insurance rates in Louisiana and sued the Biden administration over a moratorium to halt the sale of oil and gas leases.

The governor will continue to be supported by Republican Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, who was elected to serve a third term. Nungesser has focused his efforts in office on bringing tourism back to Louisiana coastal communities following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.


Mississippi voters reelected Republican incumbent Governor Tate Reeves over Democratic candidate and former public service commissioner Brandon Presley. As a commissioner, Presley supported rebates for solar panels, which would expand net metering for low-income customers. Reeves opposed the proposal, calling it a “bad deal.”

In March 2021, Governor Reeves signed the All Fuels Act of 2021, a preemption bill that promotes an “all of the above” strategy to supply the state’s energy. The act prevents any political subdivision from prohibiting a type or energy source from being provided to a customer. The All Fuels Act of 2021 supports the state’s oil and gas industries and is speculated to prevent cities’ transitions to lower carbon energy sources. In March 2023, Governor Reeves signed HB 401, which amends provisions to the Mississippi Motor Vehicle Commission Law. The amendments require that all electric vehicle manufacturers in the state sell their vehicles through dealerships rather than directly to customers. HB 401 received a significant number of comments from electric vehicle manufacturers and advocates, including concerns of free market infringement, increased costs, loss of additional electric manufacturing investments in the state, and how to ensure quality of service and maintenance of electric vehicles.

Governor Reeves will continue to be supported by incumbent Republican Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, who was reelected this fall over Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel.

In addition to the governor and lieutenant governor races, all three Mississippi Public Service Commission seats were up for election. Republican State Representative Chris Brown ran unopposed for the Northern District Seat currently held by former governor hopeful Brandon Presley. Elected on November 7, Brown has adopted an “all of the above” approach to energy, wants to ensure low utility rates, and advocates for consumer choice. Republican Nelson Carr won the election against incumbent commissioner Dane Maxwell in the Southern District. Carr brings electrical and contracting expertise to the commission. Lastly, incumbent Republican Commissioner Brent Bailey, who supported net metering, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and integrated resource planning, faced Democrat State Representative De’Keither Stamps for the Central District Seat. In 2019, the same candidates shared the ballot, with Bailey winning by a slim majority. This year, the slight majority shifted in Stamps’ favor, who will serve as the Central District’s next public service commissioner. Stamps’ platform includes affordable energy, grid modernization, and increasing access to high-speed internet.


In 2020, Virginians voted to establish the Virginia Redistricting Commission to redraw legislative boundaries. Between the commission’s establishment and this year’s election cycle, the General Assembly approved new maps, leading to position turnovers, early retirements, and no incumbents to reelect in the newly created districts.

Previously held by state Republicans, on November 7, the Virginia House of Delegates was flipped by state Democrats with a 51-48 majority. Additionally, Democrats retained control of the State Senate with a 21-19 majority. Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin was elected in 2021 with a commitment to withdraw the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Senate Democrats used their majority to oppose and stall any legislative moves contrary to previously passed climate policies, including stopping proposals to amend the Virginia Clean Economy Act and attempting to roll back a mandate prohibiting the sale of gas-powered vehicles after 2035.

Legislative Sessions Convene
Legislative Session Adjourns
(all dates are estimates)
ALFebruary 6May 20
ARApril 10May 9
FLJanuary 9March 8
GAJanuary 8March 27
KYJanuary 2April 15
LAMarch 11June 3
MSJanuary 2May 5
NCApril 24July 31
SCJanuary 9May 9
TNJanuary 9April 25
VAJanuary 10March 9