Seven governor races to follow in midterms
Thirty-six states could see new governors elected in November, and many of the races are heating up.
Gubernatorial races are drawing increased interest as prominent decisions — from pandemic restrictions to abortion — fall to the states. At the same time, they will likely be buffeted by the same issues as other campaigns, including inflation.
A flipped governor’s mansion could indicate a shift ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Here are seven races for governor to keep an eye on in 2022:
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs appears to be the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination ahead of the Grand Canyon State’s Aug. 2 primaries.
The Republican side is a little murkier — and is shaping up to be a proxy war of sorts between former President Trump and the current, term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Ducey last week endorsed Karrin Robson as his successor, and she’s narrowed the gap with Trump-endorsed GOP front-runner Kari Lake just as early voting begins.
In 2020, Trump lost Arizona by less than half a percentage point, and the state remains a sore spot for him.
Lake has promised to keep Trump-era policies intact in Arizona, including finishing the border wall Trump said he would build.
The competition between Stacey Abrams (D) and Brian Kemp (R) was heated when they faced off for governor in 2018. When Kemp won, Abrams accused him of racially motivated voter suppression and took weeks to officially end her campaign.
Abrams has since built a national profile and a coalition of new voters, and just last week a spokesperson for her campaign told The Hill they’ve raised about $22 million in two months — far outpacing Kemp’s campaign.
Polls show Kemp and Abrams are tied.
But Kemp easily defeated a Trump-backed primary challenger and, despite Georgia going blue for the first time in decades by electing President Biden and Sens. Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff, Republicans remain confident they’ll be able to keep the governor’s mansion.
In 2018, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) managed what many thought unlikely: winning as a Democrat in deep-red Kansas, including in several counties that had gone for Trump two years prior.
But this year, Kelly is running against the state’s conservative Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who easily won his reelection in 2018.
In 2020, Schmidt was one of 17 Republican attorneys general to file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the presidential election results. So an endorsement from Trump was unsurprising, though potentially impactful in a state where the former president pulled in 56 percent of votes in 2020.
Still, in 2018, Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) also received a Trump endorsement, and Kelly managed to pull 5 points ahead to win that election.
Democrats in the state view Kelly’s reelection as particularly crucial because Republicans control the legislature and most other statewide offices.
Gretchen Whitmer quickly rose to national prominence after her election in 2018, becoming one of the faces of the country’s pandemic response and, eventually, one of several women on Biden’s list of potential vice presidents.
Despite this, Republicans are hopeful they can turn the state red — after all, Trump lost the state by a narrow margin in 2020, and Michigan was the site of large and ongoing protests against coronavirus restrictions.
But it’s been a chaotic time for the Michigan GOP.
Five of the party’s original candidates were knocked off the ballot, and former front-runner Ryan Kelley is facing charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
The most recent polls show Tudor Dixon surging 11 points ahead of her Republican competitors. She earned the support of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Right To Life of Michigan, as well as state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.
Whitmer heads into election season with a 49 percent approval rating.
When Democrat Steve Sisolak was elected in 2018, he broke a decades-long streak of Republican governorship in Nevada.
Now, he’s battling Trump-backed Republican hopeful Joe Lombardo for a second term.
Polls taken before the primary, like one from the University of Nevada, Reno, showed Sisolak defeating his potential Republican challengers, including Lombardo, by double digits.
But a more recent survey from the conservative Club for Growth showed that gap at just 2.8 percent.
According to the same University of Nevada, Reno poll, voters disagree on what the most important issues of the election are.
It found that though both Democrats and Republicans agree inflation is a key issue, Democrats voted health care as more important. Republicans ranked immigration as a top issue, while Democrats voted climate change as one of theirs.
The last few years have seen Pennsylvania flipping between parties. In 2016, Trump won the state’s 20 electoral votes. But in 2020, Biden won the state back for Democrats.
With Gov. Tom Wolf (D) term-limited, Republicans saw a prime opportunity to take back the governor’s mansion this year.
But those chances may have been complicated by state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s (R) May primary victory. Mastriano centered much of his campaign around Trump’s claims the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him and earned the former president’s endorsement.
Some of his other policy stances — such as ending no-excuse vote by mail and completely outlawing abortions even in cases of incest, rape or if the life of the pregnant person is at stake — also have some Republicans worried, and he trails in the polls.
But Democrats are fretting as well. Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) leads Mastriano by 4 points, a smaller margin than many were expecting, though he has pulled support from top Republicans.
With the governor in charge of certifying the state’s 2024 presidential winner, this gubernatorial election is imperative for both parties.
Tony Evers eked out a 1.1 percent victory over incumbent Scott Walker in 2018. Now, Evers is competing against a familiar face: Rebecca Kleefisch, Walker’s lieutenant governor of eight years.
Kleefisch was the first Republican to announce her candidacy. Even as others entered the race, she remained a Republican favorite, earning endorsements from former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and organizations like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
But last month, Tim Michels pulled an endorsement from Trump, who won the state in 2016 and lost by less than a percentage point in 2020. As voters head to the ballot box, a Trump endorsement could influence the more than 1.6 million supporters who voted for him in 2020.
Kleefisch trails 26 percent to Michels’s 27 percent ahead of the state’s Aug. 9 primary, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll.
Still, Evers leads both Republican favorites in the poll. Forty-seven percent of respondents supported Evers to Kleefisch’s 43 percent, and 48 percent supported him to Michels’s 41 percent.