This is the first of a three part series looking at gubernatorial races in 2018 as they stand now. There are 36 races in 2018 and two this year. Part 1 will look first at the 2017 races and 12 of the races in 2018.
Kim Guadagno, the Lt. Governor, will carry the GOP banner against Democrat Phil Murphy. In any other year, I would say she was a decent choice, but she follows on the heels of one of the most unpopular Governors of either party- Chris Christie. She will get my vote, but it will be in a losing cause. Prediction: Democratic pick-up.
Former RNC chief Ed Gillespie takes on current Lt. Governor Ralph Northam. Virginia uses the one-term-and-out system and of late they have alternated between Democrat and Republican Governors. That should work in favor of Gillespie who threw an unexpected scare into Mark Warner in the 2016 Senate race. Given recent history and Gillespie’s last attempt at statewide office, you would have to give him a leg up at this point. Plus, although the current Democratic Governor has a 52% approval rating, he has a 30% negative rating which impacts, by association, Northam. Prediction: Republican pick-up.
Republican incumbent Kay Ivey replaced Robert Bentley who resigned in disgrace. She faces nine opponents in the primary with four of them pretty tough ones. With so many candidates, this primary will likely be decided in a runoff. On the Democratic side, there are four candidates in the mix. After the drama that was Bentley, Kay Ivey has come in and established some stability. She currently has a 64% approval rating that, if it stays that high, should get her the eventual nomination. It is very hard to see a Democrat winning this seat. Prediction at this point: Republican hold.
Independent incumbent Bill Walker will likely be opposed by at least a Republican as two candidates have entered the race and no Democrats yet. Sporting a 42% approval rating is not going to get the job done for Walker especially since 48% of Alaskans disapprove of the job he is doing. Although things can definitely change, he is in trouble. Prediction at this point: Republican pick-up.
Republican incumbent Doug Ducey is running for a second term and has drawn no primary opponents, but three potential Democrats with state senator Steve Farley the most experienced of the bunch. Ducey enjoys a 48% approval rating/ 35% disapproval which is kind of low for an incumbent facing reelection. However, unless someone more formidable than Farley steps forward, or Farley can convince some fence sitters, Ducey looks safe for now. Prediction at this point: Republican hold.
Republican incumbent Asa Hutchinson is running for reelection. With a 60% approval rating, no primary opponent and no Democrats declaring their candidacy…duh! Prediction at this point: GOP hold.
Jerry Brown, the Democratic Governor, is term-limited. This has created a clown car of candidates in a state that uses the top two vote getters in the primary to advance to the general election. Eleven Democrats and ten Republicans are running so far. One guaranteed winner will be Democrat Gavin Newsom. It would be a shock if he did not advance to the general election. His likely opponent will be former LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, another Democrat. When the best the GOP can do (no offense to to the other candidates) is former NFL great Rosey Grier, then the GOP has some problems in California. Prediction at this point: Democratic hold.
Like California, Democratic incumbent Governor John Hicklenhooper is term-limited and so far seven Republicans and eight Democrats have announced their candidacy. On the GOP side, district attorney George Brauchler is perhaps the most formidable candidate. On the Democratic side, the good news is that two US House members- Earl Perlmutter and Jared Polis- are in the mix. That means, they won’t be in DC come 2019. Polis may be too liberal for Colorado so the money is on, at this point, a Brauchler-Perlmutter general election match up. Prediction at this point: Toss Up.
Although eligible to run, Democratic incumbent Dan Malloy has decided to call it quits. Perhaps the 29% approval (64% disapproval) rating has something to do with it. Anyway, the open race has attracted ten Republicans and six Democrats- kid of weird for a blue state. Four Republicans are real possibilities. On the other side, Kevin Lembo, the state comptroller, is probably the best of the bunch. This is a tough one, but given the surprise GOP interest at this point…Prediction at this point: A lukewarm GOP pick-up.
Rick Scott, the GOP incumbent, is term-limited. There are eight Republicans in the primary and four Democrats so far. On the GOP side, this is state agriculture secretary Adam Putnam’s race to lose as he has been groomed for this position for some time now. The best Democrat so far is Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum. The race may be closer than most think, but…. Prediction at this point: Republican hold.
Another Republican incumbent- Nathan Deal- in Georgia is term-limited. The GOP primary has attracted four fairly strong candidates thus far: Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, state senators Hunter Hill and Mike Williams and state secretary of state Brian Kemp. Two Democrats have entered their primary so far. Georgia uses a runoff system and with four viable candidates in the GOP primary, we may very well see one in 2018. Given Georgia’s red state status, the quality of candidates and Deal’s relatively strong approval rating (57%)- both Kemp and Cagle are in his administration- my prediction at this point: Republican hold.
David Ige is the Democratic incumbent up for reelection. Although Hawaii will occasionally elect a Republican here and there, this is a deep blue state. He has no primary opponents and only Republican state rep Bob McDermott has taken on the task of unseating Ige. Before dismissing this state, Ige suffers with a 48% approval rating and 42% disapproval score which puts him at #35 nationally among all Governors. Whether that is enough of a liability to cost him remains to be seen. Prediction at this point: Democratic hold, but keep an eye on it.
Although eligible, Republican Governor Butch Otter is retiring. Most of the drama will be in the GOP primary where two of the three- US Rep Raul Labrador will take on Lt. Governor Brad Little (although there is a third candidate). Whoever emerges will be the next Idaho Governor. Prediction at this point: Republican hold.
Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is one of the least popular governors in the country with a dismal 40/49 approval-disapproval rating. That is why several Democrats are lining up to unseat him. This is Illinois and it is a blue state. Simply, there is no analysis other than Rauner’s days as Governor are numbered. Prediction at this point: Democratic pick-up.