DemDaily: 2022 Governors Race: The Landscape

August 31, 2022

Of the 50 US states, Democrats hold 22 gubernatorial seats to Republicans' 28. Of the five US territories, four are held by Democrats and one by a Republican.

Governors serve four terms in all but two states, Vermont and New Hampshire, where they serve two years. Virginia is the only state to limit its governor to one term.

As a state's highest-ranking elected official, Governors are administrators of their state, responsible for dictating policy, overseeing the budget, agencies, national guard and its executive branch. Politically governors are more independent -- in practice and in the eyes of the voters. There are 12 states where there is split partisan control between state legislative chambers and the party holding the governor's mansion.

The Landscape
The 2018 midterms, when the same 36 states were up last, were a boon for Democrats, who won 16 seats and flipped seven -- their greatest gains since 1982.

Although Trump had won 20 of those states in 2016, a dissatisfied electorate rebelled two years into his controversial term, laying the groundwork for Trump's defeat in 2020.

In the three 2019 gubernatorial contests, Democrats were able to hold their seat in Louisiana and flip the governor's seat in Kentucky, while Republicans held on to the open Mississippi seat.

While the 2020 presidential election marked a number of historic shifts in voter performance, the status of the 11 gubernatorial elections up that year remained relatively unchanged. Just one state, Montana, flipped political control - increasing Republicans' share of the nation's governorships to 27 compared to Democrats' 23.

In the two 2021 gubernatorial elections, Democratic incumbent Governor Phil Murphy narrowly won reelection, while Democrats lost the open Virginia seat in a devasting blow that reversed many of the gains that had placed the Commonwealth in the blue category just two years before.

In 2022, United States gubernatorial elections are being held in 36 states. Democrats are defending 16 seats, including three open seats, and Republicans are defending 20, including five open seats. In addition, three territories are holding gubernatorial elections, with Democrats defending two and Republicans one.

The Race Ratings
Despite the historical midterm headwinds against the party in the White House, Democrats are favored in 16 states.

That includes two anticipated flips in Massachusetts and Maryland, where two moderate GOP governors are leaving office.

In battleground Michigan, incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) has moved from the toss-up to lean Democrat category, as has Josh Shapiro (D) In Pennsylvania's open-seat race, and by our analysis, Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

While Democrats are still favored to retain control in the open Oregon seat vacated by term-limited incumbent Governor Kate Brown; in New Mexico, where Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is seeking reelection; and in Maine, where incumbent Janet Mills is running again; all are competitive races to watch.

Similarly, with the Sunshine State's primary now over, we are watching for momentum in the Florida gubernatorial between incumbent Ron DeSantis (R) and Democratic nominee Charlie Crist.

That leaves the focus on four seats that are considered a toss-up in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas and Nevada.

Tomorrow: A Rundown on the Races!

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: Ballotpedia, FiveThirtyEight, Cook Political Report, Inside Election, Sabato's Crystal Ball, Politico

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