NH Gov

Updated Governors Bottom Lines (MA, NH, OH, PA, VT)

The following Bottom Lines have been updated following last week's ratings changes.


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. Democrats had hoped to include Baker on their list of targets this cycle, but had trouble recruiting a first-tier challenger into the race. The closest thing that they had to one, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, dropped out of the race in late April after struggling to raise money. There is now a two-way Democratic primary between Jay Gonzales, a former state budget director, and Bob Massie, who was the party’s nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 1994. Neither appears to be gaining any traction. Baker won’t have much trouble winning a second term. The race 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. They will host a two-way primary on September 11 between former Portsmouth Mayor and 2016 gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand and former state Sen. Molly Kelly, who was a late entrant into the race. Neither seems to be generating a great deal of enthusiasm, although Kelly’s entrance into the primary garnered some attention. 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 late summer. The race is in the Likely Republican column and the onus is on Democrats to make it more competitive.


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. In the weeks leading up to the May 8 primary, there was 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. Former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray won the Democratic nomination with 62 percent to 23 percent for former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, while four other candidates split 15 percent. State Attorney General Mike DeWine easily defeated Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, 60 percent to 40 percent. Three recent polls were conducted six weeks after the primary: one showed DeWine up by six points, another had Cordray up by two points and the third had Cordray up by seven points. It is extremely unlikely that Cordray is up by seven points and he may not even be ahead by two points, but the takeaway from these surveys is that this race is within the margin of error.  The contest is now in the Toss Up column.


In 2014, political newcomer Tom Wolf defeated GOP Gov. Tom Corbett in what was one of his party’s bright spots in an otherwise bad election year. Wolf ran on the strength of his resume as a successful businessman and promised more transparency and ethics in government. Once in office, Wolf had to address a weak economy and stagnant revenues. Republicans started this contest with high hopes that they could build on their victories in the presidential and U.S. Senate races in 2016, but their primary proved to be nasty as the candidates pushed each other to the edge of the conservative spectrum in an expensive contest. State Rep. Scott Wagner won the GOP nomination with 44 percent to 37 percent for businessman Paul Mango and 19 percent for businesswoman Laura Ellsworth. While Wolf remains vulnerable, GOP strategists believe that Wagner’s nomination has made the race more challenging for them. First, Wagner is probably far too conservative for the general election, and second, his personal narrative (a self-made businessman) isn’t all that different from Wolf’s. Where once this contest seemed headed to the Toss Up column, it’s now in Likely Democrat.


Vermont is one of two states that still elect their Governors every two years. Republican Phil Scott won this open-seat contest in 2016 with 53 percent and boasts very high job approval ratings as he gears up to run for a second term. Democrats are hosting a four-way primary on August 14 between James Ehlers, the executive director of Lake Champlain International; Christine Haliquist, the former CEO of the Vermont Energy Cooperative who hopes to become the nation’s first transgender Governor; Brenda Siegel, the director of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival; and, Ethan Sonneborn, a middle school student. Gubernatorial contests tend to start late here, but this contest has been unusually quiet and Democratic strategists don’t believe that they can give Scott a competitive race. As such, the contest is in the Solid Republican column.

Image: Chris Sununu | Credit: AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, File