Seven governor races to watch in November
While much of the attention this midterm season is directed at who will control the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats are also eyeing three dozen governors’ mansions.
Twenty governors currently held by Republicans are up for grabs, in addition to 16 on the Democratic side. However, only a few have emerged as critical pickup opportunities for both sides. Democrats have gone on the offensive in more red-leaning states like Texas and Georgia, while Republicans are fielding their own contenders in blue-leaning states like Oregon and Nevada.
Unlike congressional elections which tend to be more nationalized, gubernatorial races focus more on state-specific and local issues, with voters often weighing more heavily on factors such as character and charisma. ‘a candidate. Yet the races are also affected by national politics, and Democratic candidates will still have to deal with the headwinds their party faces this year.
Here are seven governor races we’re watching in November.
Term limits prevented Gov. Doug Ducey (R) from running for another term, leaving the seat open. Former local news anchor Kari Lake and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs became the respective Republican and Democratic nominees after primaries in early August.
Lake, who received an endorsement from former President Trump, has come under scrutiny for her support for far-right positions on the 2020 election and abortion, though she tried to tone down her posts after the primary . Hobbs made a name for himself after the last election for certifying state results as Trump peddled the baseless claim that he won it, and for his criticism of the former president.
The race proved to be competitive. A CBS News-YouGov Battleground Tracker survey released this week showed the two tied at 49% each, well within the margin of error. Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) and adviser to many Republican candidates across the country, suggested the “issues matrix” in the state favored Lake.
“It’s the economy, crime and immigration. And that’s what’s unique about Arizona, as opposed to some other states, is that immigration is really one of the top three issues. And Republicans like Kari Lake have an advantage on this issue,” he said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) has earned a reputation as a culture warrior with national ambitions since taking office in early 2019. And despite his polarizing personality, he is still seen as a great favorite to be re-elected next month.
A recent poll shows him leading his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), by 11 percentage points. And DeSantis has already raised more than $130 million for his reelection bid — a sum Crist simply can’t match.
But that doesn’t mean victory is a sure shot for DeSantis.
Florida has a knack for political surprises, and even Republicans expect the race to be closer than some of the forecasts. At the same time, DeSantis has found himself in the spotlight as the state struggles to recover from Hurricane Ian, which flattened parts of Florida last week.
Any missteps or perception that DeSantis isn’t doing enough to help the recovery could come back to haunt him. DeSantis is seen as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nod, and a lackluster performance in November could be seen as weakness, even if he winds up winning a second term in the governor’s mansion.
Georgia’s gubernatorial race is a rematch of 2018, as now the government. Brian Kemp narrowly beat Democrat Stacey Abrams by just about 55,000 votes.
Abrams is the Democratic nominee again, but she may face a tougher fight this time around. Not only do Democrats around the country face a tougher political environment than they did four years ago, but Kemp now has the advantage of being a starter and having an approval rating out of the water.
Kemp also passed a key test of his political stamina this year when he beat former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in a hard-fought primary fight that saw Trump campaign against the incumbent governor.
Of course, Abrams remains a formidable challenger. She’s a proven fundraiser, and her celebrity status among Democrats could help boost turnout in her favor in November.
The outcome of the race could also prove crucial for Abrams’ political future.
President Biden considered her a possible 2020 running mate before ultimately choosing Vice President Harris, and Abrams’ performance in this year’s gubernatorial race could make or break his future prospects on the national stage. .
Governor Laura Kelly (D) is vying for a second term in November as Republicans see the Sunflower State as a critical pick-up opportunity, along with outside groups like the RGA. Kelly won his first term in 2018 by 5 percentage points over Republican Kris Kobach, but the state often leads in red, electing Trump by double digits in 2016 and 2020.
Key groups that either remained neutral in the last gubernatorial election or endorsed Kelly have backed GOP candidate Derek Schmidt this time around, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas State Troopers Association. . But an unknown factor is how the abortion issue might play into the race given how it galvanized voters who rolled back a restrictive ballot measure earlier this summer.
“It’s the midterm elections where, you know, a lot of groups and people, you know, retreat to their usual political corners,” said Eric Hyers, who has worked on campaigns for Democratic candidates like the Governor Andy Beshear in Kentucky and former Governor Steve Bullock in Montana.
“I think the way forward for Democratic governors, especially in the toughest states for Democrats, is to really, really focus on improving the lives of their people and running the state, chair of the economy and chair of the state budget in an efficient and pragmatic way. And that is what Governor Kelly has done,” he added.
An Emerson College Polling-The Hill survey released last month showed Kelly received 45% support among likely voters, compared to 43% for Schmidt, although that is within the margin of error.
Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) is also battling for a second term, against Republican and Trump-endorsed nominee Joe Lombardo, while battling some headwinds the party is facing nationwide.
On the one hand, residents are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and the toll it has taken on Nevada, a tourist-heavy state. A CNN poll released Thursday showed the economy ranked as the most important issue among likely voters at 44%, followed by abortion at 14%. That same poll found Lombardo ahead of Sisolak by 2 percentage points at 48% and 46% respectively, although the result was within the margin of error.
But some politicians argue that governors may not fall prey to the headwinds Democrats face nationwide given they run different races than congressional candidates.
“What makes gubernatorial races so unique and able to challenge national political trends more easily than federal races is that people really have a different process when it comes to deciding who they are going to support,” Hyers said. “And for the governor, it’s who is going to make my life better, who has the policies that are going to have a tangible impact on my life, and who do I trust to run this state in a competent way that will make things better. easy for me.”
Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican as governor since 1982, but given that Governor Kate Brown (D) has become one of the most unpopular governors in the country – she ranks fifth among governors more unpopular, according to Morning Consult — Republicans see the state as a key pick-up opportunity.
Brown has been criticized for imposing strict COVID-19 lockdown measures and was in power as the state witnessed weeks of protests in Portland in the summer of 2020 following the killing of George Floyd. State House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R), who is running for governor, has sought to tie her Democratic opponent, former State House Speaker Tina Kotek (D), to Brown.
“I think she has a great chance of winning. You know…his message is meeting voters where their biggest concerns are with the economy, crime and homelessness, which is a huge problem in the state,” said Cox, the former executive director of the RGA.
It’s actually a three-way race between Kotek, Drazan and former state senator Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat who is running without affiliation. Johnson, who voted in third place, was seen as a bit of a troublemaker given her financial advantage and the fact that she was polled higher than typical third-party candidates. An Emerson College Polling survey released this week found Drazan received 36% support while Kotek received 34% and Johnson 19%, suggesting Johnson may be siphoning off votes.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) looks set for an easy victory next month over his Democratic rival, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas). If that victory materializes, it will mark the latest disappointment for Democrats in a state they have long said is on the cusp of political change.
Unlike Democratic candidates in other parts of the country, O’Rourke did not appear to benefit from the momentum following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and a recent poll showed Abbott’s lead was growing.
With the Texas governor’s mansion looking unlikely to topple over this year, O’Rourke’s campaign marks the former congressman’s latest attempt to stage a comeback after his closely watched attempt – albeit at an end unsuccessful count — to oust Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2018.
That makes the stakes particularly high for O’Rourke. After his 2018 loss to Cruz and his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, another loss would likely only raise new questions about the former rising star’s future political prospects.