DemDaily: The 2022 Governors Races I

January 26, 2022 

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

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

   The Landscape
The 2018 midterms, when the same states were up last, were a boon for Democrats in their quest for gubernatorial control. Out of 36 Governors races up that year, Democrats 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 contrast, while the 2020 presidential election marked a number of historic shifts in voter performance, the status of the eleven 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 2021 just two gubernatorial elections were held, with Democrats defending both seats in New Jersey and Virginia. While incumbent Governor Phil Murphy narrowly won reelection, 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 ago.

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 ten states where both state legislative chambers are controlled by one party but have elected governors of a different party.

The Toss Ups
Nine months away from the November 8, 2022 elections, the focus is currently on seven gubernatorial seats that are considered a "Toss Up" in Arizona (R), Georgia (R), Kansas (D), Michigan (D), Nevada (D), Pennsylvania (D), and Wisconsin (D).

Arizona
2020 Presidential Vote: Biden 49.4% v.Trump 49.1%
Filing Deadline: April 4, 2022
Primary: August 2, 2022
Rating: Toss Up

In Arizona's open seat, the gloves are already off in what is expected to be a nasty general election to succeed Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who is term-limited.

Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current Secretary of State and party establishment favorite, is sparring with the Trump-endorsed Republican frontrunner and former Fox news anchor Kari Lake.

Although November polling puts Lake ahead in the GOP primary, she has hardly cleared the field. Also running are former Congressman Matt Salmon, who boasts the endorsement of US Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Lindsey Graham (SC); businessperson Steve Gaynor; and Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robinson, along with two others. State Treasurer Kimberly Yee dropped out of the race last week.

Hobbs is facing primary opposition from State Representative Aaron Lieberman and former Nogales Mayor Marco López.

Also on the ballot: US Senate seat (incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly), US House (9), Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, all State Senate and State House seats.

Georgia
2020 Presidential Vote: Biden 49.5% v. Trump 49.2%
Filing Deadline: March 11, 2022
Primary: May 24, 2022
Rating: Toss Up

In what is expected to be 2022's highest-profile contest, national voting rights advocate and former Georgia State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) is once again vying for the governor's mansion.

Her December entrance to the race sets up a potential general election rematch with current Republican Governor Brian Kemp, whom Abrams came within 55,000 votes of defeating in 2018. That rematch may be derailed, however, by the entrance of former US Senator David Perdue last month, who is challenging Kemp for the nomination.

A January 19-24, 2022 Quinnipiac University Poll of 666 likely voters showed Kemp leading the GOP primary with 43%, followed by Perdue with 36% and former State Representative Vernon Jones with 10% (MOE:+/- 3.8%).

In the same poll, but measured in a larger sample of 1702 registered voters, Brian Kemp leads Stacey Abrams in a head-to-head race 49% to 47%. When Abrams and Perdue are pitted directly against each other, the numbers are at a dead heat at 48% to 48% (MOE: +/-2.4%)

Also on the ballot: US Senate (incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock), US House (14), eight statewide offices including Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State, and all State Senate and State House.

Kansas
2020 Presidential Vote: Biden 41.6% v. Trump 56.2%
Filing Deadline: June 1, 2022
Primary: August 2, 2022
Rating: Toss Up

Incumbent Democratic Governor Laura Kelly defeated polarizing Republican Secretary of State and Trump acolyte Kris Kobach in 2018, winning the historically red state 47.8% to 43.3%.

She is expected to face State Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who also previously served as the Majority Leader of the Kansas Senate from 2005 to 2011.

The last poll of Kansas likely voters by Clarity Campaign Labs in September found that Kelly (D) had a narrow advantage at 47% to 44% over Schmidt (R).

Also on the ballot: US Senate (Incumbent Republican Jerry Moran), US House (4), Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer and all State House seats.

Related
DemDaily: 2021: Tuesday's Election Results 11/3/21
DemDaily: Battleground 2022: Georgia 12/6/21

Tomorrow: The 2020 Governors Races II: Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin

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Sources: Ballotpedia, FiveThirtyEight, Cook Political Report, Inside Election, Sabato's Crystal Ball, Wiki, NBCNews

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