This is part 1 of a two-part series that looks at gubernatorial elections in 2018. In all, there are thirty-five races up for grabs. Of those races, twenty-five seats are currently held by Republicans, nine by Democrats, and one by an independent (Alaska). So without further ado:
Alabama: Incumbent Republican Kay Ivey is up for reelection after assuming the office when Robert Bentley resigned. However, her candidacy is not a foregone conclusion as she has drawn five primary opponents. Because this is a runoff state, that eventuality is a very real possibility. The competition is led by Huntsville Mayor Tim Battle and state senator Bill Hightower. The Democrats also have six people in their primary with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb the best known of the lot.
Perhaps sensing a Democratic resurgence in Alabama after the Roy Moore Senatorial loss, the Party seems to be feeling their oats here. Assuming Ivey is the eventual Republican candidate (she sports a very respectable 62% approval rating), they are likely barking up the wrong tree. Prediction: Republican hold
Alaska: Independent Bill Walker is the current Governor and has a 40% approval rating which all but guarantees defeat. No Democrats have stepped forward yet, but four Republicans have with former state senator Charlie Huggins the best known. If Walker’s ratings stay in the toilet, this creates an opportunity for the GOP to pick up a Governor’s seat. Prediction: Leans Republican Pick-Up
Arizona: Republican incumbent Doug Ducey started off slow and had low approval ratings, but he has rebounded to a 46% approval rating. That is basically on the cusp of being reelected, but it will take some work. He has thus far drawn no primary opponents. On the Democratic side, only two candidates have declared thus far with state senator Steve Farley having the likely inside track at this early date. Still, keep an eye on this race as the year progresses. Prediction: Toss Up
Arkansas: Asa Hutchison is the Republican incumbent running for reelection and has drawn no primary opponents and no Democratic candidates have come forward yet. With a very respectable 63% approval rating, this one is a no-brainer. Prediction: Republican hold
California: With Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown term-limited, it creates an open race in the Golden State. California uses the “top two” primary system regardless of party advancing to the general election. Thus far, twenty-one candidates are on the clown car ballot with eleven being Republicans. In reality, the race will likely come down to two Democrats advancing to the general election: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former LA Mayor Antonio “Amnesty for All” Villaraigosa. With 54% of the population undecided at this early date, they are the only two names registering with the remainder of the voters with Newsom ahead. This will be interesting to watch as they try to out-liberal one another. Prediction: Democratic hold
Colorado: Like California, Democratic incumbent John Hicklenhooper is term limited creating yet another clown car primary on both sides with ten Republicans on one side and nine Democrats on the other side. For the Democrats, Lt. Governor Donna Lynn will likely have her toughest competition against US Congressman Jared Polis who seems well-funded.
On the GOP side, there are some formidable possibilities. They include former Congressman Tom Tancredo, State Treasurer Corey Stapleton, and state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. This primary will be a good one with people with name recognition in the state against a Democrat with name recognition and the Democrats will fight hard to keep this seat in their hands.
If Polis is the Democratic choice, how liberal he comes off will be important. In Congress, he was among the most liberal Democrats. Because of Colorado’s recent voting history, my-at this point, Prediction- Leans Democratic
Connecticut: Democratic incumbent Dan Malloy, who is eligible for another term, decided to run for the hills than face the ire of voters in 2018 thus creating an open race. You wouldn’t think it, but eleven Republicans have entered the fray against five Democrats on the other side. Before discounting GOP chances here, be reminded that very popular Republican Governors are in neighboring Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Malloy’s numbers were in the crapper at 23% approval. That is slightly better than the worst of 2017- New Jersey’s Chris Christie. That may be enough to ruin the Democratic brand in Connecticut in 2018 and with a moderate enough Republican, the GOP may just get a win here. It seems strange to say this about a Northeastern blue state, but Prediction- Toss Up
Florida- Rick Scott, the Republican incumbent, has had his approval ratings ups and downs in his tenure, but he stands at a respectable 54% as he nears the end of his eight years. There are twelve Republicans vying in their primary with state agriculture secretary Adam Putnam likely having the inside track at this early stage.
On the Democratic side, seven candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and daughter of popular ex-Senator Bob Graham is probably the best known of them all. However, this writer would not count out former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and current Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.
Anything is possible in the topsy-turvy world of politics, especially in a state with a changing demographic. However, this writer at this point: Prediction- Leans Republican
Georgia: Like Florida to the south, Nathan Deal, the Republican incumbent, is term limited. That has brought out six Republicans and two Democrats. One thing is sure- the first name of the Democratic candidate will be Stacy with Stacy Evans and Stacy Abrams, both former state representatives, vying for the honor of running for the Democrats.
On the Republican side, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, state secretary of state Brian Kemp and state senator Mike Williams are likely the top candidates in the GOP primary. The question is whether any reaches the 50% mark to avoid a runoff. Still and all- Prediction: Republican hold
Hawaii: David Ige is the Democratic incumbent. He has drawn a formidable opponent in the primary as Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is challenging him. For a Democratic Governor in a deep blue state like Hawaii to have an approval rating of 47% is noteworthy and not good. Thus, it is likely he will lose the primary to Hanabusa.
How much they damage each other in their primary may determine the GOP chances as two candidates- state representative Andrea Tupola and former state senator John Carroll- will battle it out. It’s real difficult to see a Republican Governor in Hawaii, but Linda Lingle did it. Prediction- Democratic hold
Idaho: Although Republican incumbent Butch Otter is eligible for another term, he is opting for retirement. On the GOP side, the battle will come down to Lt. Governor Brad Little against US Congressman Raul Labrador, either of whom will likely be the next Governor. There are three Democrats running, but this is deep red Idaho. Prediction- Republican hold
Illinois: Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner finds himself embattled. With approval ratings hovering in the low 30’s, he might be lucky to survive a primary challenge from state representative Jeanne Ives. Seven Democrats will fight it out on their side with Tio Hardiman, state senator Daniel Bliss and J.B. Pritzker the most noticeable names. Given the horrible fiscal shape that Illinois is in, its a surprise anyone wants to be the Governor there. Prediction- Its a blue state; Democratic Pick Up
Iowa: Kim Reynolds became Governor after Terry Branstad left and is the GOP incumbent running for reelection. With a 45% approval rating, Reynolds has drawn two primary opponents, but should prevail. On the Democratic side, there are currently eight candidates as they sense blood. Iowa is a swing state and difficult to predict. If Reynolds can increase their approval rating somewhere north of 50%, this writer would be more confident. Until and if then, Prediction: Toss Up
And finally in part 1:
Kansas: Republican incumbent Sam Brownback is term limited and with an approval rating of 24%, it is a good thing. Although thirteen Republicans have declared their candidacy, this looks like state secretary of state Kris Kobach’s race to lose although they will have to get past the others. There are some names on the Democratic side including former state agriculture secretary Joshua Svaty, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and state senator Laura Kelly. This is Kansas and despite Brownback’s horrible performance, Prediction- Republican Hold