Big Swing in Governor Races as Blue Wave Buoyed by Strong Statewide Candidates

November 14, 2018 by TWN Staff
Gwen Walz, her husband Gov.-elect Tim Walz, and Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan talk with reporters during a press conference at their transition offices in the State Capitol Thursday morning, Nov. 8, 2018 in St. Paul, Minn. (Anthony Souffle/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Last Tuesday’s election saw many governors’ mansions switch as Democrats won in a number of key states, with big repercussions for the balance of power as states head into the 2020 census and subsequent redistricting

Governor mansions were high on the priority list, but received less attention than the high profile races in the House and Senate. States like Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, and Nevada have the biggest implications, where Democrats haven’t held the office in decades in some cases. And we still have two undecided races in Florida and Georgia, which could shift the map even further if Democrats are able to pull ahead in those close contests.

Here’s a look at the new crop of Governors:

Pickups:

Mike Dunleavy (R-Alaska)

Republican state lawmaker Mike Dunleavy will become Alaska’s next governor after defeating Democrat Mark Begich, in a race that was marked by the independent incumbent seeking reelection, Bill Walker, dropping out in the final weeks of the campaign. (Vox)

J.B. Pritzker (D-Illinois)

Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and a former venture capitalist, offers a vastly different approach to boosting investment and job growth than his predecessor, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a multimillionaire former private equity investor. (Chicago Tribune)

Laura Kelly (D-Kansas)

Democratic state lawmaker Laura Kelly will be Kansas’ next governor after scoring a surprising victory over Republican Kris Kobach, a close ally of President Donald Trump. (Bloomberg)

Janet Mills (D-Maine)

Democrat Janet Mills said Wednesday that her top priorities as Maine’s next governor will be expanding Medicaid as voters demanded in 2017, lowering health insurance premiums and tackling the opioid crisis that has claimed hundreds of lives. (Bangor Daily News)

Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan)

A perennial presidential battleground state, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette, upending years of Republican control in the state. (AP News/ABC7Chicago)

Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico)

New Mexico voters elected the first Democratic Latina governor in the United States. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who made a name for herself as one of President Donald Trump’s strongest critics on immigration, beat Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, a conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus. (Vox)

Steve Sisolak (D-Nevada)

In what was one of the tightest gubernatorial races in recent Nevada memory, County Commissioner Steve Sisolak upended a rising Republican star to become the Silver State’s first Democratic governor in two decades. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Tony Evers (D-Wisconsin)

After upending Wisconsin politics and infuriating liberals across the country, Gov. Scott Walker narrowly lost his bid for a third term Tuesday to Tony Evers, the leader of the education establishment Walker blew up eight years ago. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

 

Other New Governors (did not switch party control):

Gavin Newsom (D-California)

Californians made their choice Tuesday and elected Gavin Newsom their next governor. Now, Newsom faces some crucial choices of his own — who will serve in his administration. (Los Angeles Times)

Jared Polis (D-Colorado)

Jared Polis has won the Colorado governor’s race, becoming the first openly gay person to be elected governor in America. (Vox)

Ned Lamont (D-Connecticut)

Ned Lamont, a Democrat and wealthy business owner, won the governor’s race in Connecticut on Wednesday, helping his party hold on to a vulnerable seat and overcoming a fierce challenge from a Republican opponent who tried to tie him to the state’s unpopular incumbent and a slumping economy. (New York Times)

Brad Little (R-Idaho)

Idaho voters selecting a new governor for the first time since 2006 faced a choice between a female Democrat promising robust change, and a male Republican largely pledging to continue Gov. Butch Otter’s policies. (Idaho Statesman)

Tim Walz (D-Minnesota)

Tim Walz defeats Jeff Johnson in high-stakes election for Minnesota governor. The victory gives Democrats four more years in the governor’s office following two terms by Gov. Mark Dayton. (Minnesota Star-Tribune)

Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)

Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine defeated Obama-era consumer protection chief Richard Cordray in the race for Ohio governor on Tuesday, leading a GOP sweep of statewide nonjudicial offices and dashing Democrats’ hopes of riding an anti-Trump wave into power in a key swing state. (AP News/10TV)

Kevin Stitt (R-Oklahoma)

Kevin Stitt, a self-made millionaire from Tulsa who vowed to bring a CEO’s playbook to the state Capitol, will become Oklahoma’s 28th governor, reaching the state’s chief executive position in his first bid for elected office of any kind. (The Oklahoman)

Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota)

Republican Rep. Kristi Noem has been elected South Dakota governor, defeating Democrat Billie Sutton. The win means South Dakota voters have elected the state’s first female governor. (Keloland)

Bill Lee (R-Tennessee)

Tennesseans elected Republican Bill Lee as the state’s 50th governor on Tuesday, voting into office a political newcomer who rose to prominence traveling the state in an RV, avoiding negative attacks and appealing to voters as a conservative businessman and devout person of faith. (The Tennessean)

Mark Gordon (R-Wyoming)

Republican Mark Gordon easily defeated Democrat Mary Throne on Tuesday to become Wyoming’s next governor. (Casper Star-Tribune)

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