Gubernatorial Races in 2016: January News

While all eyes are on Iowa today and tomorrow, there are important gubernatorial races in 2016.   There was some news on that front during January, so here it is.  NOTE: Not every race is necessarily covered in these updates.  So, for example, if there is no major news out of the Arizona senatorial race, there is no need to list it.

Missouri:  Well, if fundraising figures were predictive of nominees, the GOP would be going with former Navy seal, Eric Greitens.  He, you may remember, was sought out by the Democratic Party to run for a House seat last cycle.  Instead, he is running as a Republican in the gubernatorial race.  John Brunner also raised a respectable sum, but dropping behind in that department were Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Catherine Hanaway, although the latter has good relations with some very(!) rich Missouri donors.

On the Democratic side, state attorney general Chris Koster has the primary to himself.  He was a prolific fundraiser at the end of 2015 and since he has no primary opponent, he is just banking the money.  This is an important race and opportunity to pick up another gubernatorial slot.

Montana:  Republican Brad Johnson, citing a commitment to his day job as Public Service Commissioner, dropped out of the race leaving only Greg Gianforte and Mark Parea in the race on the GOP side.  More likely, Johnson estimated it would take up to $200,000 to secure the Republican nomination, but he’s raised only $1,500 so far.  And Gianforte has huge personal wealth, so…  Regardless, either will have a tough time unseating a fairly popular Democratic incumbent.

New Hampshire:  Public Policy Polling is out with a poll showing that although the final candidates are far from decided, the GOP’s Chris Sununu leads slightly in hypothetical match ups.  Regardless, about one-third of respondents are undecided at this point rendering the poll quaintly interesting, but little else.

North Dakota:  Doug Burgum, who started a software company in the state and sold it to Microsoft, has announced he will run for Governor on the GOP side.  He joins state attorney general Wayne Stenehjem and state representative Rick Becker.  There was some concern he would run as an independent, but that was put to rest.  The question now becomes whether he will compete in the April convention to receive an endorsement.  Usually, whoever emerges with that endorsement clears the field for the June primary.  However, in 2012 Kevin Cramer decided to skip the convention, head straight for the primary, and eventually won that primary.  Since the first district conventions to select delegates to the state convention have passed and given Burgum’s late entry into the race, it appears he will follow the same path as Cramer and head straight to the primary.  And finally…

Washington: A poll by Elway shows Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee up 39-30 over likely Republican challenger Bill Bryant.  A July 2015 poll showed that Inslee had only a 41% approval rating and that few independents would vote for his reelection.  Things may have gotten worse for Inslee when it was revealed that over 3,200 prisoners were erroneously released early from prison due to a computer snafu.   The Elway poll indicates not only potential vulnerability, but that 31% of respondents are either not paying attention or have not made up their minds.  Taken together, this could be a sleeper race in 2016.  The plot may thicken OR, more likely, the Democratic/socialist lemmings in the Seattle area will just say, “Oh well…” and vote for Inslee anyway.  Remember: King County and surrounding environs basically dictate statewide politics in Washington.  Still, a nine point deficit at this stage for a relative unknown translates into Inslee vulnerability.  This writer would usually not move a candidate’s status based on a single poll this far out, but there is some consistent polling before January, 2016 showing that Inslee may have some dark clouds on the horizon.  Another reminder: he never has enjoyed high approval ratings and he won a close race in 2012.

West Virginia:  Booth Goodwin- a name well-connected in West Virginia politics- recently resigned his position as US Attorney fueling speculation he will enter a very competitive (already) Democratic primary battle.  Its nice to see Democrats eat each other on occasion.

Updated ratings (Washington rating downgraded for Democratic incumbent):

G. Herbert- UT M. Pence- IN P. McCrory- NC
(J. Darymple-ND) OPEN
(J. Markell-DE) Open J. Inslee- WA (P. Shumlin-VT) Open (J. Nixon- MO) Open
S. Bullock- MT (E. Tomblin-WV) Open
K. Brown- OR (M. Hassan-NH) Open