DemDaily: The 2022 Governors Races II

January 27, 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.

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

See yesterday's DemDaily: The 2022 Governors Race I for a summary of the national landscape and review of gubernatorial races in Arizona, Georgia and Kansas.

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).

2020 Presidential Vote: Biden 50.6% v. Trump 47.8%
Filing Deadline: April 19, 2022
Primary: August 2, 2022
Rating: Toss Up

Incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette 53.3% to 43.7% in 2018, giving Democrats control of the key battleground state and setting the stage for a Biden victory in 2020.

However, Whitmer, who was also on Biden's shortlist for Vice President, has faced pushback for her COVID-19 restrictions, and was even the target of an alleged kidnapping plot by anti-government extremists driven by anger over her pandemic orders. She also public backlash for some of her personal actions during the pandemic, such as flying on a private plane to Florida not long before warning Michiganders against out-of-state travel in early 2021.

A crowded Republican primary is led by front-runner and retired Detroit police chief James Craig, who surpassed all other contenders by significant margins in early polling. Also running are conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, chiropractor and co-chairman of Unlock Michigan Garrett Soldano, wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, businessman and US Army veteran Austin Chenge and Allendale Township Planning Commissioner Ryan Kelly, along with five other candidates.

A January 15-20, 2022, EPIC-MRA poll of 600 likely Michigan general election voters gave Whitmer a 46% to 41% lead over Craig, with 13% undecided (MOE: ± 4.0%)

Also on the ballot: US House (13), other State Executive Offices (11) including Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State, State Senate and State House.

2020 Presidential Vote: Biden 50.06% v.Trump 47.67%
Filing Deadline: March 18, 2022
Primary: June 14, 2022
Rating: Toss Up

In the battleground state that Biden won by just 2.4%, incumbent Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak is seeking reelection.

Sisolak, who succeeded retiring GOP Governor Brian Sandoval, was elected in 2018 as the first Democratic Governor of Nevada in 20 years. He defeated Republican nominee and then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt in the general election, 49.4% to 45.3%

Sisolak, who boasts a 52% approval rating and is so far unopposed in the Democratic primary, raised $4.5 million in 2021 and has $8.28 million cash on hand.

A crowded field of GOP contenders is vying for the chance to oppose Sisolak, led by former US Senator Dean Heller and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who was elected in 2014 in Nevada's largest county.

North Las Vegas John Lee, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore, attorney and former boxer Joey Gilbert are also running, along with four other candidates.

While Heller, who was unseated by Democrat Jacky Rosen 50%-45% in 2018, is the biggest name in the field, he is far behind in the fundraising game. Heller raised only $650,000 in 2021, compared to $3.1 million by Lombardo and $1.6 by Lee.

A December 1-7, 2021 Impact Research poll of 800 likely voters showed, in head-to-head general election matchups, Sisolak leads Heller 47% to 44%, and Lombardo to 47% to 45%. The margin of error (MOE) was ± 3.7%.

Also on the ballot: US Senate (Incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto), US House (4), other State Executive offices (9) including Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer, State Senate and State Assembly.

2020 Presidential Vote: Biden 50%, Trump 48.8%
Filing Deadline: March 8, 2021
Primary: May 17, 2022
Rating: Toss Up

In one of the country's most politically divided states, which Biden won by 1.26%, term limits prevent two-term Democratic Governor Tom Wolf from running again.

Popular Attorney General Josh Shapiro, first elected in 2016, has all but cleared the Democratic primary, with the endorsements of Wolf, current US Senator Bob Casey (D), the Democratic Governors Association and major labor unions.

In the high-profile contest, which is expected to exceed the $65 million spent in 2018, Shapiro is already boasting a campaign war chest in excess of $10 million.

By contrast, the Republican primary has attracted a dozen declared candidates, including former Congressman Lou Barletta, State Senate President Jake Corman, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, political strategist Charlie Gerow, former Congresswoman Melissa Hart, State Senator Doug Mastriano, former US Attorney William McSwain, State Senator Scott Martin, and former State House Speaker Mike Turzai.

The field has no clear front runner at this point, and with a number of the candidates having just entered the race in recent months, fundraising is not yet a determining factor. However Corman, the top elected Republican in the Senate, claims to have $3 million on hand, and McSwain has the recent endorsement of influential Commonwealth Partners PAC, which has $20 million on hand.

In the most recent primary survey of likely voters, conducted November 9-10, 2021 by Public Policy Polling, showed Mastriano, who participated in the January 6th insurrection, leading with 18%, followed by Barletta at 14%. The remainder came in under 5% and 56% of respondents were undecided (MOE: ±3.8%).

Also on the ballot: US Senate (open, Republican Pat Toomey retiring), US House (17), Lieutenant Governor, State Senate and State House

2020 Presidential Vote: Biden 49.4%, Trump 48.8%
Filing Deadline: June 1, 2021
Primary: August 9, 2022
Rating: Toss Up

In battleground state Wisconsin, Democratic Governor Tony Evers is running for reelection. Evers, who unseated controversial incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker 49.54% to 48.44% in 2018, helped carry candidate Joe Biden reclaim Wisconsin as a blue, if not purple state in 2022.

However, he faces a tough reelection battle against likely Republican primary nominee Rebecca Kleefisch who served as Walker's Lieutenant Governor.

In a January 10-13, 2022 Tarrance Group survey of likely Republican primary voters, securing Kleefisch secured 61% among a field of GOP contenders, with Wisconsin businessman Kevin Nicholson, who announced his entry into the race today, securing 8%. Businessman Jonathan, who announced a year ago, secured 5%.

Also on the ballot: US Senate (Incumbent GOP Senator Ron Johnson), Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer, US House (8), State Senate and State Assembly.

DemDaily: DemDaily: The 2022 Governors Races 1 1/26/21
DemDaily: 2021: Tuesday's Election Results 11/3/21
DemDaily: Battleground 2022: Georgia 12/6/21

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Kimberly Scott

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

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