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2016 Gubernatorial Race Update, Part I

Posted at 4:29 pm September 26, 2016, in 2016 Election, U.S. Governors

2016 Gov Elec MapWith the results in from the September 13 primaries in Delaware and New Hampshire, gubernatorial primary season is officially over. The fields, therefore, are now set and the timing seems right to take a quick look at the races.

Overall, there is little drama in this year’s gubernatorial race as Republicans are guaranteed to maintain control of a majority of the nation’s governorships. Of the 12 gubernatorial races this November, a majority—eight—will take place in states that currently have a Democratic governor. Even an unlikely clean sweep, therefore, would net only four seats for the Democrats, not nearly enough to overcome the Republican’s current 31-18-1 edge.

Individually, however, many of the races are expected to be tight and could be influenced and perhaps decided by public attitudes about the presidential candidates. Below is a look at the contenders in six of the 2016 races. A summary of the others will follow in a second blog post.

Delaware: Congressman John Carney (D) is a strong favorite over State Senator Colin Bonini (R) in the race for an open seat currently held by the term-limited Democrat Jack Markell. An interesting aspect of this contest is that the two candidates are friends. Carney says of Bonini, “I enjoy his company” while Bonini says, “I do like John. I do think he’d be a competent manager of the government…but I think Delaware needs to change course.”

Indiana: The Indiana gubernatorial race changed significantly when Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) as his running mate, thereby disqualifying Pence from continuing to run for re-election. The Indiana seat became open and the state Republican party picked Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb (R) to replace Pence on the ballot. Holcomb will face lawyer and former Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives John Gregg (D); Gregg also ran for governor in 2012, losing to Pence. The race is expected to be close.

Missouri: Former Navy SEAL and political first-timer Eric Greitens (R) won a difficult Republican primary, defeating Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, businessman John Brunner, and former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Attorney General Chris Koster (D) had an easier time in the Democratic primary and will attempt to defend the seat currently held by the term-limited Jay Nixon (D) in November. This race is also expected to be close.

Montana: Incumbent Governor Steve Bullock (D) will defend his seat against businessman Greg Gianforte (R). Bullock has the advantage of incumbency and his approval numbers are high, but as a Democratic governor in a “red” state, he will likely face a fight.

New Hampshire: With incumbent Governor Maggie Hassan (D) choosing to pursue a U.S. Senate seat instead of another gubernatorial term, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D) will attempt to defend the seat for the Democrats. He will face Chris Sununu (R), who won a tight primary election over state Representative Frank Edelbut. Sununu is also an Executive Councilor as well as the son of former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu (R). Sununu leads in the most recent poll.

North Carolina: In perhaps the most closely-watched governor’s race of the year, incumbent Governor Pat McRory (R) will defend his seat against state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D). The race has garnered national attention and is expected to be close, though recent polls have shown Cooper gaining a slight advantage.

Next time: North Dakota; Oregon; Utah; Vermont; Washington; and West Virginia

-Kristoffer Shields