It is officially 2017 and the nation’s political attention–while focused on the President Obama-to-Trump transition–is also beginning to turn to the only two states that will hold gubernatorial elections this year: Virginia and New Jersey.
Virginia is the only state in the country in which governors cannot seek at least two consecutive terms, so incumbent first term governor Terry McAuliffe (D) cannot run for re-election. Democrats will turn to either Lt. Governor Ralph Northam or former Congressman Tom Perriello to attempt to defend the seat. Northam was expected to be the only major Democrat candidate in the race until Perriello surprisingly announced a run last week.
Meanwhile, political strategist and “establishment Republican” Ed Gillespie (R) is considered the front-runner to win the Republican primary, but he will be challenged by Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart, who ran Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign. State Senator Frank Wagner and former Air Force intelligence officer and current businessman and craft brewer Denver Riggleman (R) have also filed paperwork indicating they both will seek the nomination.
In New Jersey, the race will also be open, as incumbent Governor Chris Christie (R) completes his second term and is ineligible to run for a third. The Republican field is still settling; Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, businessman Joseph Rullo and Nutley Township Commissioner Steve Rogers have officially announced they will seek the nomination while Republican Assembly Leader John Bramnick has said he will not run. Two high-profile potential candidates—Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and comedian Joe Piscopo—have indicated interest in running, but have not made official announcements. Guadagno would likely begin as the favorite to win the Republican nomination if she runs.
The Democratic side features a number of candidates with one heavy favorite. Businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy is considered the favorite to win the nomination (and the governorship). His primary challenge will come from Assemblyman John Wisniewski, State Senator Ray Lesniak who, after much speculation, announced last week that he will run for the seat, and former Undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Jim Johnson. A number of lower-profile Democrats have also indicated they will run, including activist Bill Brennan, former priest Bob Hoatson, pharmaceutical sales rep Monica Brinson, publisher Lisa McCormick, Tenafly councilman Mark Zinna, and banker Titus Pierce.
The New Jersey primary will take place on June 6, 2017.
Update: On January 17, 2017, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno announced that she will seek the Republican nomination for Governor of New Jersey.