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2016 Gubernatorial Race Update, Part II

Posted at 4:17 pm October 7, 2016, in 2016 Election, U.S. Governors

2016 Gov Elec MapIn our last blog entry, we took a look at the state of half of the 2016 gubernatorial races. Below find a summary of the other half:


North Dakota: This is an open seat, as incumbent Governor Jack Dalrymple (R) chose not to fun for a second full term. Former Microsoft executive Doug Burgum won the Republican primary and will defend the seat against State Representative Marvin Nelson , who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Burgum is the heavy favorite in the solidly red state—North Dakota has not had a Democratic governor since Governor George Sinner’s second term ended in 1992. Burgum has not held previous political office.

Oregon: In January 2015, Governor John Kitzhaber (D) was sworn in to begin his fourth (and, he announced, final) term as governor of Oregon. One month later, Kitzhaber resigned the governorship, in the midst of allegations of corruption. Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) succeeded Kitzhaber as governor and will now run as the Democratic candidate (and incumbent) in a special election this November to complete Kitzhaber’s term. She will face physician Bud Pierce (R) in the general election. Pierce, who has not held prior elected office, generated headlines in a recent debate when he made controversial statements about domestic abuse, for which he later apologized. Brown is expected to win the election in this blue state; Oregon has not had a Republican governor since Governor Vic Atiyeh completed his second term in 1987.

Utah: Incumbent Governor Gary Herbert (R) defeated a primary challenge by chairman Jonathan Joseph and will defend his seat against businessman and first-time candidate Mike Weinholz (D). Herbert is a strong favorite in another solidly Republican state. Utah has not had a Democratic governor since the end of Scott Matheson’s second term in 1985.

Vermont: Former State Representative and Transportation Secretary Sue Minter (D) won the Democratic primary over former State Representative and State Senator Matt Dunne (D). She will face Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott (R), who defeated businessman Bruce Lisman in the Republican primary. This is an open seat; incumbent Governor Peter Shumlin (D) chose not to run for a fourth 2-year term. The race is expected to be close, perhaps as close as the last gubernatorial race, in 2014. In that year, while the Democrat Shumlin won a plurality of votes, he did not gain over 50% of the total. By state law, the election was then decided by the State House of Representatives, which voted 110-69 in favor of Shumlin.

Washington: Incumbent Governor Jay Inslee (D) will face former Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant (R) in November. They were easily the top finishers in the state’s “top-two primary” in August. In this primary format, all candidates compete in a single primary, with the top two finishers advancing to the general election. Inslee is considered the favorite to hold onto his seat.

West Virginia: With incumbent Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) term-limited, billionaire businessman Jim Justice will attempt to defend the seat for the Democrats. He will face State Senate President Bill Cole , who ran unopposed in the Republican primary. It is, in many ways, a difficult race to predict. Justice, who has largely self-funded his campaign, has distanced himself from both President Barack Obama and the Democrat Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. Cole, meanwhile, has embraced the Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump who is expected to easily win the state. In every election since 2000, however, West Virginia has voted for the Republican nominee for President—and elected a Democratic governor. The state has not had a Republican governor since Cecil Underwood’s term ended in January 2001. The trend may continue: some polls show Justice to be leading the governor’s race despite Trump’s popularity in the state. Other onlookers, however, have deemed the race to be a toss-up.

-Kristoffer Shields