The governors’ races are becoming more important as the attacks on democracy from the American right continue. This is my first (and both very incomplete and early) look at the 2022 races.
I’ll start with the raw numbers. 37 seats are up in 2022. The Republicans are defending 20 and the Democrats 17. Based on that alone I guess you have to give the Democrats a very slight advantage, but in my opinion not enough to consider. There are eight current governors (four from each party) that are term limited and therefore unable to defend their seats. Since the numbers net out, not a significant factor in the overall scheme in my opinion.
I expect Republicans to hold 13 seats (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming). The political gods giveth and they taketh away; I have New Hampshire as a hold only because incumbent Republican Governor Chris Sununu declared he will run for reelection instead of challenging for a U. S. Senate seat.
The only flip I have in the lot at this point is in Maryland where popular Republican Governor Larry Hogan is term limited. Maryland is very blue and I think it will be extremely difficult for a Republican to succeed him.
I have the other six GOP defends (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts and Texas) as toss ups. Georgia became even more competitive with Stacey Abrahams announcing that she will challenge incumbent Republican Brian Kemp. I expect that race to go right down to the wire and be the most expensive of the cycle. Many may be surprised to see me have Massachusetts as a toss up. Massachusetts has a history of electing moderate Republican governors despite being solid blue and it’s early. Candidates matter; when you combine Beto O’Rourke entering the races for the Democrats and Greg Abbott’s incompetence you may just have a race in a state that is red but turning purple. It’s early and I expect several of the six to come out of the toss up category well before Labor Day.
On the Democratic side I have 11 holds (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island). New York may have the most interesting Democratic primary but I think the party will prevail in November regardless of whose name is on the ballot.
At this “starting post” I also have six Democratic defends as toss ups, (Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). All are, at least somewhat, purple states with the exception of Kansas. I’m far from an expert on Kansas politics but that is a difficult place for a Democrat to win statewide.
I’m focusing more on the governors’ races than ever for two main reasons. The first is the Republican effort at voter nullification in addition to their long campaign of voter suppression. The other is that I’m convinced the Supreme Court will to at least some substantial degree gut Roe making abortion a state issue. In many cases all that is standing between Republican efforts at regression and the status quo is the governor of a state.
I live in North Carolina where the Republicans have a majority in both chambers of the legislative branch. The only thing preserving democracy is a Democratic governor. These races will get more interesting (and in a few cases clearer) as we proceed; but they are already of paramount importance.
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