The nation’s governor’s offices are mostly status quo in a year when efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic have put the leaders in the spotlight while state legislatures are poised to determine redistricting, abortion, health care and other super-charged topics.
Both are on the ballot this year in races that have been overshadowed nationally by the presidential race but have drawn intense interest and massive spending in their states. From early election results Tuesday, no states switched partisan control of the governor’s office, though the race in Montana, which was expected to be the closest in the country, had not been called
Across the country, 35 are picking state lawmakers this year.
Democrats are hoping to gain control of more state legislative chambers after Republicans scored huge wins in 2010. That put them in charge of drawing congressional and state legislative maps after that year’s Census, a process that kept them in control in most of those states throughout the decade.
In most states, legislatures and governors have a role in drawing congressional and legislative maps, a process that starts after the U.S. Census delivers its decennial count at the end of this year.
Control of governor’s offices and legislatures also will determine much of how coronavirus-related restrictions and recovery efforts go.
If an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court throws out the right to an abortion or portions of the Affordable Care Act, the new policies could be set state-by-state.
Republicans are mostly in defensive mode, trying to keep offices they hold now. But there are exceptions.
In Montana, the Democratic and Republican governors associations and the campaigns themselves have contributed more than $24 million to a governor’s race to fill the seat of Democrat Steve Bullock, who is running for U.S. Senate. U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney are vying for the position.
In Missouri, incumbent Mike Parson, a Republican, defeated Nicole Galloway, the state auditor who was the Democrats’ best chance to pick up a seat. The race had some echoes of the race for president; Parson, who has resisted mandating mask usage, tested positive for the coronavirus in September as the state’s case total started to surge.
Galloway made Parson’s response to the virus outbreak a core part of her campaign. An Associated Press survey of the electorate found Parson ahead in rural areas, Galloway leading in cities and a close race in suburban areas.
While Democrats have been chipping away at Republicans’ edge in state political offices, the GOP is still in control of the majority of state legislative and executive branches.
Republican incumbents Eric Holcomb in Indiana, Chris Sununu in New Hampshire, Doug Burgum in North Dakota, Jim Justice in West Virginia and Phil Scott in Vermont were re-elected. So were Democratic incumbents John Carney in Delaware and Jay Inslee in Washington.
The only governorship besides Montana without an incumbent on the ballot is Utah, where Spencer Cox will replace fellow Republican Gary Herbert, who did not seek re-election after more than a decade in office.
In North Carolina, a swing state, Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper held off Republican Dan Forest.
Republicans are seeking to expand their power by taking over the legislature in New Hampshire. But it’s Democrats who are on the offense elsewhere, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Party control in some of those chambers may not be clear immediately.