DemDaily: The Races To Watch In 2023. The Governors

January 27, 2023

The 2024 election cycle is underway, with US House and Senate incumbents and candidates rolling out their campaign announcements daily.

In the interim, we face critical "off-year" contests that will help shape the landscape of next year's elections.

While there are considerably fewer races up in 2023, they will be significant as the first litmus test of voters since Republicans took control of Congress.

In addition to three states that will hold gubernatorial and statewide executive races, there are legislative, mayoral, municipal, judicial, and/or local elections up in 2023 in close to 40 states.

Three Governor's races -- in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi -- head up the top races to watch in 2023.

A reliably red state in presidential elections, Kentucky hasn't voted for a Democratic nominee since it narrowly supported fellow Southerner Bill Clinton in 1996. Trump won The Bluegrass State by a 25.9% margin in 2020, making it the reddest state in the country with a Democratic governor - Andy Beshear.

Kentuckians, however, have a history of splitting their ticket when it comes to the Governor's mansion, and Beshear, who boasts a 60% approval rating going into his reelection bid, is ranked the most popular Democratic governor in the country. Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman will again be Beshear's running mate.

The May 16, 2023 GOP primary has drawn a dozen potential contenders, including Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron (R), who has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and former Trump United Nations Ambassador and major Republican donor Kelly Craft. Kentucky State Auditor Mike Harmon and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles are also running.

Also on the Ballot: Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, State Agriculture Commissioner.

In Louisiana, two-term Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards is term-limited, leaving the seat open to a Republican pickup.

While no Democrats have yet declared, Louisiana Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson, who has formed an exploratory committee, would enter as a frontrunner. Democratic Party chair Katie Bernhardt has also expressed interest, as has East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore, along with a number of local elected officials and community leaders.

Republicans, meanwhile, are lining up, including state Attorney General Jeff Landry, state Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt, Treasurer John Schroder and State Representative Richard Nelson.

Landry received the early endorsement of Donald Trump, Jr. and, controversially, the state GOP before any other candidates entered the race. Senators Bill Cassidy (R) and John Kennedy (R), as well as Lt Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser (R) have declined to run.

Also on the Ballot: Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Commissioner of Insurance, State Senate, State House, School Boards, Ballot Measure.

Runoffs: Louisiana's all-party primary, the last of the year, will be held on October 14. If one candidate does not win with a majority of the vote, then the top two candidates go to a runoff general election November 18, 2023. The Mississippi primary is scheduled for August 8, and a primary runoff, if necessary, August 29, 2023.

One-term Republican Governor Tate Reeves is facing serious opposition, and not just from Democrats.

Reeves, who scored a 48% public approval rating in early January, is facing potential primary challengers, including Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn and, most notably, Bill Waller, Jr.

Reeves defeated Waller, a former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice and son of former governor Bill Waller, in the 2019 primary runoff by 9%. Reeves, a staunch Trump supporter, won the general election 51.91% to 46.83% over Democrat Phil Hood.

Should Reeves survive the primary, he is expected to face four-term Public Commissioner and former Nettleton Mayor Brandon Presley, a distant relative of Elvis Presley.

A January 8-12, 2023 Siena College/Mississippi Today poll of registered voters showed Reeves ahead of Presley, 43%-39% (MOE: +/- 4.6%).

Also on the Ballot: Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Commissioner of Insurance, Public Service Commission, Transportation Commission, State Senate, State House, School Boards.

Other Races to Watch (more to come)

Legislative Elections will be held in eight state legislative chambers in four states in 2023 -- the Louisiana State Legislature, the Mississippi Legislature, the New Jersey Legislature, and the Virginia General Assembly.

Mayors: Roughly 30 of the country's 100 most populous cities are holding mayoral elections in 2023, including Tucson, AZ, Aurora, CO, Colorado Springs, CO, Denver, CO, Jacksonville, FL, Tampa, FL, Savannah, GA, Boise, ID, Chicago, IL, Indianapolis, IN, Wichita, KS, Kansas City, MO, Lincoln, NE, Charlotte, NC, Columbus, OH, Philadelphia, PA, Knoxville, TN, Memphis, TN, Nashville, TN, Arlington, TX, Dallas, TX, Fort Worth, TX, Houston, TX, San Antonio, TX, Madison, WI, Salt Lake City, UT and Spokane, WA

special congressional election will be held February 21, 2023 for Virginia's Fourth Congressional District vacated by the death of Democratic Congressman Donald McEachin (D) November 28 after a battle with cancer.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Ballotpedia, FiveThirtyEight, AP, LAIlluminator, Morning Consult, Newsweek

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