Democrats gain governorships in red states
Democratic candidates won governorships in seven Republican-held states on Tuesday as voters rebuked both President Trump and unpopular GOP governors in some of the deepest red territories in the country.
Democratic candidates picked up open seats in Maine, Nevada, Michigan and New Mexico where Republican incumbents faced term limits.
State Sen. Laura Kelly (D) beat out controversial Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who ousted Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) in this year’s Republican primary.
Billionaire hotel magnate J.B. Pritzker (D) easily outpaced Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) in a race that cost both men tens of millions of dollars.
And in the closest race of the night, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers (D) ousted Gov. Scott Walker (R) by 31,000 votes.
“We won in the Midwest and a lot of people said that wasn’t possible after 2016. We’ve certainly laid that idea to rest,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who heads the Democratic Governors Association, told The Hill. “It shows that when we focus on bread and butter issues, we do well.”
Democrats were picking themselves up off the mat after drubbings in the last two midterm elections sent the party to historic lows in state government control.
Prior to Tuesday’s elections, Democrats held just 16 of the nation’s 50 governorships, their lowest ebb in modern history.
It could have been worse for Republicans. The GOP defended open governorships in states like Florida and Tennessee, and popular Republican governors coasted to re-election in deep-blue states like Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont.
In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) holds a narrow lead over former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) in a race that may head to a December runoff, pending late ballot counts.
Republicans even picked up a governorship: Former Alaska state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R) leads former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) by 21,000 votes out of about 260,000 cast. Dunleavy would replace Gov. Bill Walker, an independent.
“Despite their boasts and guarantees of picking up 10-12 governorships, Democrats failed to capitalize on their extremely favorable map,” said Jon Thompson, a Republican Governors Association spokesman. “Republicans won the night’s big prizes of Florida and Ohio, and will continue to hold a strong majority of governorships in 2019.”
Historically, voters have tended to treat gubernatorial races differently than federal races. Republicans in blue states and Democrats in red states routinely survive even the harshest political environments to win governorships.
But even those races are becoming more polarized in this hyper-partisan environment.
After new governors are sworn in, Democrats will control chief executive offices in just seven states President Trump won in 2016 — Montana, Louisiana and North Carolina, where Democratic governors were not on the ballot on Tuesday, along with Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Republicans will control governorships in just four states Hillary Clinton won in 2016 — Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland and New Hampshire, where Gov. Chris Sununu (R) won reelection on Tuesday.
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