DemDaily: The 2022 Governors Races: Kansas, Michigan & Nevada

April 14, 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 three 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 36 states were up last, were a boon for Democrats, who won 16 seats and flipped seven -- their greatest gains since 1982.

In the three 2019 gubernatorial contests, Democrats held onto Louisiana and flipped 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 - to the GOP.

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.

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. In all but two states, Vermont and New Hampshire, governors serve four years.

The Toss Ups
Now less than seven months out from the November 8, 2022 elections, the focus is on seven gubernatorial seats that are considered a "Toss Up" in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

SeeDemDaily: The 2022 Governors Races: Arizona and Georgia

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

Governor Laura Kelly is the only incumbent Democrat running for reelection in a state that voted for Donald Trump in 2020. Kansas has not voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964.

Kelly was elected in 2018, defeating polarizing Republican Secretary of State and Trump acolyte Kris Kobach 47.8% to 43.3% in the historically red state.

She previously served four terms in the state Senate, including as Assistant Minority Leader and as Minority Whip, and prior to that, as Executive Director of the Kansas Recreation and Parks Association.

While Democrats control the governor's mansion, the GOP holds the remaining statewide offices, as well as supermajorities in both legislative chambers.

The presumptive Republican nominee is State Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who has only token opposition in the primary. Schmidt served as the Majority Leader of the Kansas Senate from 2005 to 2011 before unseated Incumbent Democratic Attorney General Steve Six in 2010, 54.9% to 41.8%. He was reelected in 2014 with 66.7% of the vote, and again in 2018 with 59%.

Compared to Kelly's controversial 2018 opponent, the more mainstream Schmidt, who has also been endorsed by Trump, is a more formidable foe. Kelly, however, has effectively garnered bipartisan support, releasing a list of more than 60 prominent Republican endorsements last month, including former legislators and statewide officeholders.

In 2021, Kelly raised more than $2 million and had $1.9 million cash on hand, while Schmidt had raised $1.6 million and had $1.3 million cash on hand. The national GOP, however, is investing heavily in the contest, with the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) last month announcing a $3.5 million television ad buy in preparation for the general election.

With a clear path to the general election match-up, there is no current polling available. The last, a September 2021 Clarity Campaign Labs survey of likely voters, showed Kelly with a narrow advantage over Schmidt at 47% to 44%.

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.

Michigan
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.

Whitmer, who was also on Biden's shortlist for Vice President, previously served in the Michigan House from 2001 to 2006 and in the Michigan Senate from 2006 to 2015.

A crowded Republican primary field is dominated by front-runner and retired Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who led a March 29–31, 2022 Trafalgar Group survey of likely voters with 34% of the vote.

Craig's chief primary contenders include businessman Perry Johnson, who secured 16% in the poll, chiropractor and co-chairman of Unlock Michigan Garrett Soldano at 15%, Allendale Township Planning Commissioner Ryan Kelly at 7%, conservative media personality Tudor Dixon at 3%, and businessman Kevin Rinke at 2%. The remaining six candidates accounted for 8%, with 12% undecided (Margin of Error: ± 3.0%).

Between candidate fundraising and outside groups, $93.4 million was spent on the 2018 Michigan governor's 

Whitmer is a prolific fundraiser, raising $14.2 million in 2021, more than all of her GOP competitors combined.

Craig raised $2 million in 2021, and Soldano close to $1.4 million. Rinke, who owns Detroit-area car dealerships, self-funded his campaign with $2 million and pledged to put as much as $8 million more into his bid. Fellow millionaire Perry Johnson, who did not enter the race until January, said he pumped $2.5 million of his own funds into his campaign.

A February 1-4, 2022 Blueprint Polling survey of likely voters showed Whitmer and Craig in a 44%-44% dead heat, with 12% undecided (MOE: ± 3.9%).

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

Nevada
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 Sandovalin in 2018, was elected 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%.

A successful business entrepreneur whose net worth is estimated at $5 million, Sisolak previously served on the Clark County Commission from 2009 to 2019 and on the Nevada Board of Regents from 1999 to 2008.

Sisolak raised $4.5 million in 2021 and, ahead of tomorrow's campaign finance report deadline, announced he raised $1.55 million in the first three months of 2022. That brings his total to roughly $10 million raised this cycle, with $9.55 million cash on hand.

A crowded field of GOP candidates is vying for the chance to oppose Sisolak, led by Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who was elected in 2014 in Nevada's largest county. Former US Senator Dean Heller, who was unseated by Democrat Jacky Rosen 50%-45% in 2018, is also a major contender. Others include North Las Vegas John Lee, venture capitalist Guy Nohra, former boxer and attorney Joey Gilbert, and ten other candidates. Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore dropped out of the race in March to run for State Treasurer.

Lombardo’s campaign reported raising $3.1 million in 2021, with $2.7 million cash-on-hand, with Heller lagging far behind at just $650,000 raised for the year. Lee self-funded approximately $1 million of the $1.6 million he raised in 2021. Nohra, also a self-funder, reported $1.3 million raised, and Gilbert $326,000.

A March 13-15, 2022 WPA Intelligence poll of likely voters showed Lombardo leading with 28%, followed by Heller at 22%, Lee at 13%, and Gilbert at 9%. Other candidates totaled 8%, and undecideds accounted for 17% (MOE: ± 4.4%).

An April 2-6, 2022 Reno Gazette-Journal/Suffolk University poll of likely voters had Sisolak trailing Lombardo 37% to 39%. A head-to-head matchup between Sisolak and Heller had the two at 39% to 39% (MOE: ± 4.4%).

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.

Tomorrow: The 2022 Governors Races: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

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Sources: Ballotpedia, FiveThirtyEight, Cook Political Report, Inside Election, Sabato's Crystal Ball, Detroit Free Press, AP, Mlive

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