Gov: March Revised Bottom Lines

Governors: March Revised Bottom Lines

Bottom Lines are our most current take on a race.


When Republican Gov. Robert Bentley resigned on April 10 of last year to avoid impeachment, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey was sworn in as the state’s new chief executive. She has spent her time in office working to stabilize the ship of government in the wake of the scandals that forced Bentley from office. Ivey has also focused on the crowded GOP primary she faces in her bid for a term in her own right. Four candidates filed for the primary: Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, evangelist Scott Dawson, state Sen. Bill Hightower and Michael McAllister. For now, Ivey is the frontrunner, but she can’t take anything for granted. Democrats have always believed that they would have a credible candidate here, but are more enthusiastic after their stunning upset in the special U.S. Senate election. The frontrunners for the Democratic nomination are former state Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox; three minor candidates also filed. Despite Democrats’ enthusiasm, the race is in the Solid Republican column.


In 2014, Republican Asa Hutchinson won this open seat by defeating former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross by 13 points, while Tom Cotton was knocking off Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor by 17 points. In 2016, Donald Trump carried the state with 61 percent. Margins like this don’t provide Democrats with any serious hope of making this race competitive.  Two Democrats filed: Jared Henderson, the former state executive director of Teach for America, and Leticia Sanders, a hair braider.  Hutchinson faces a primary challenge from gun range owner Jan Morgan, but the Governor hasn’t given GOP voters any reason to vote against him.  The race is in the Solid Republican column.


The state adopted a top-two primary system in 2012 and it has had the effect of shutting Republicans out of statewide office in this very Democratic state. As such, Democrats will dominate the primary for this open seat. To date, four first-tier Democrats – state Treasurer John Chiang, former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – have announced along with seven minor Democratic candidates. Recent polling showed Newsom leading the field with Villaraigosa in second place. On the Republican side, state Rep. Travis Allen and businessman John Cox (Cox has made three unsuccessful bids for office in Illinois since 2000 and ran for President in 2008) are the credible candidates among the five Republicans who filed.  Another 10 candidates filed as independents or under the banners of third parties. None of the Republican or independent/other party candidates have much of a shot at winning a slot in the general election, leaving voters with a general election between two Democrats.  The race is in the Solid Democrat column.


Republican Kim Reynolds was sworn in as Governor on May 24, 2017 after Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become the U.S. Ambassador to China. She must now run for a full term in her own right. She now has a clear path to the nomination after Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett failed to make the ballot. The end of the filing period left Democrats with six candidates: state Sen. Nate Boulton, labor union official Cathy Glasson, former Equitable Life CEO Fred Hubbell, physician Andy McGuire, political consultant John Norris, and former Iowa City Mayor Wilbur Ross.  Hubbell is considered a nominal frontrunner, but Boulton shouldn’t be counted out and Glasson is something of a dark horse. Democrats are enthusiastic about their chances here, arguing that Reynolds is struggling in her new post. That said, the Democratic field hasn’t gotten stellar reviews. The race is worth watching and is in the Likely Republican column.


By almost any measure, Republican Charlie Baker is one of the most popular Governors in the nation. He is also the most moderate of the nation’s 33 Republican Governors, which is an important asset in this solidly blue state. Baker has focused on issues that voters care about like infrastructure improvements and even signed pay equity legislation. That hasn’t stopped three Democrats from announcing their intention to challenge him, although none seem to be gaining any traction and are struggling to raise money. Newton Mayor Setti Warren may be the nominal frontrunner. Baker shouldn’t have too much trouble winning a second term. The race is in the Likely Republican column.


Democrats have this Republican-held open seat high on their list of targets this cycle. There are four announced Democrats, with former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer getting the most attention to date. By virtue of the fact that he has been the only other Democratic candidate on the air, wealthy businessman Shri Thanedar has moved up in the polls.  On the Republican side, there are also four candidates, but the frontrunners are Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and state Attorney General Bill Schuette. Calley will be forced to defend Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, particularly when it comes to its response to the Flint water crisis. Schuette, on the other hand, can campaign on his efforts to root out those responsible for the crisis.  He has also claimed the mantle as the most conservative candidate.  It’s difficult to see the contours of the general election without knowing the identities of the nominees, but it’s hard to call this contest anything but a Toss Up.


Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has opted not to seek a third term, creating a free-for-all in both parties for the right to succeed him. Both sides started the race with large primary fields that have since winnowed to a more manageable size.  On the Democratic side, state Rep. Erin Murphy, state Auditor Rebecca Otto and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz are running.  Walz won the straw poll at February’s statewide precinct-level caucuses, giving his candidacy a boost.  On the Republican side, the field was upended when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced April 5 that he would seek the office again.  There were already four announced candidates in the field:  state party chair Keith Downing, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Phillip Parrish. Johnson won the straw poll at the statewide precinct-level caucuses in February (Pawlenty didn’t get into the race until well after the caucus process started).  It is unclear whether Pawlenty’s entry into the race changes the existing GOP field as candidates re-evaluate their chances in the primary.  Democrats say that they are confident that they can hold the seat given Dayton’s largely successful tenure. Republicans contend that if the results of the 2016 election proved anything it’s that Minnesota remains a swing state and that voters are ready for change after eight years of Democratic leadership. The question is whether Pawlenty, who served as Governor from 2002 to 2011 and recently resigned as CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, represents this change.  At this point, neither party has an advantage. The race is in the Toss Up column.


Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts doesn’t have much to worry about as he seeks re-election to a second term.  Despite lots of talk that he would get a competitive primary challenge, Ricketts faces only minor opposition from Krystal Gabel, a writer.  There are three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination:  University Of Nebraska-Omaha instructor Tyler Davis, state Sen. Bob Krist and activist Vanessa Ward.  Krist is the most interesting candidate.  Considered a moderate Republican, Krist first said that he would run as an independent.  He then switched to the Democratic primary.  Davis went to court in an unsuccessful effort to keep Krist off the primary ballot.  Whether the nominee is Davis or Krist, neither is likely to give Ricketts a truly competitive race. The contest is in the Solid Republican column.


Republican Gov. Chris Sununu was elected in 2016 by just over 16,000 votes and must run for a second term in 2018. Polls give Sununu solid job approval ratings and voters rarely turn away incumbents after one term, but that doesn’t mean that Democrats won’t try. So far only former Portsmouth Mayor and 2016 gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand has announced, and a number of potentially competitive candidates have taken a pass on the race. It is worth remembering, though, that New Hampshire is especially susceptible to electoral waves, which keeps this race on the radar screen.   Given that the office is up every two years, these races tend to start late, meaning that there might not be a lot of clarity in this contest until summer. For now, the race is in the Lean Republican column.


This is yet another open Republican-held seat that is high on both parties’ target lists. By the time incumbent Gov. John Kasich leaves office in January of 2019, Republicans will have held the governorship for 24 of the last 28 years. In the era of Trump, Democrats believe they have a shot at breaking Republicans’ streak. There has been a great deal of movement on the Democratic side, as candidates have dropped out of the race or stepped back to join a ticket in the Lieutenant Governor’s slot. Seven candidates filed for the Democratic nomination, including former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former state Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, and state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni.  Cordray is something of a hero to progressive Democrats as the first director of the agency established as part of the Dodd-Frank financial services reform law, although his tenure will provide Republicans with plenty of fodder.  The roll out of his campaign was less than smooth, leading some observers to question whether he is the strongest general election candidate. Two Republicans are seeking the nomination: state Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. DeWine is the frontrunner and has the endorsement of the state party. This contest is in the Lean Republican column, but has the potential to become a toss-up race once the parties choose their nominees.


This seat was supposed to be open as the incumbent, Republican Nikki Haley, was term-limited. Haley, though, joined the Trump Administration as Ambassador to the United Nations and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster succeeded her and will now run as the incumbent. He isn’t getting a free ride to the nomination, though, as four other candidates, including Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, former state Department of Health Director Catherine Templeton, and mortgage company executive John Warren, filed to run in the primary.  Three Democrats filed for the nomination: tech consultant Phil Noble, who has deep political roots in the state, state Rep. James Smith, and attorney Marguerite Willis.  Smith is considered the frontrunner, but Noble has a solid message and shouldn’t be counted out. Democrats contend that McMaster has struggled to get his footing and that a scandal that has enveloped the state GOP could provide an opening for them. Regardless of whether they are right about this, the onus is on them to make the race competitive. Until that happens, the contest is in the Solid Republican column.


Democrats don’t seem interested in contesting this open seat given how heavily Republican the state is. President Trump took 68.5 percent in 2016. At this point, businessman Bill Dahlin, data services entrepreneur Sam Galeotos, state Treasurer Mark Gordon, and attorney Harriet Hagman have announced. Gordon is the favorite to win the nomination.  The sole announced Democrat is former state House Minority Leader Mary Thone. The race is in the Solid Republican column.