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Center on the American Governor > On Governors > U.S. Governors > 2019 Gubernatorial Elections

2019 Gubernatorial Elections

2019 Gov Elec MapThere were only three gubernatorial elections in the U.S. this year. All were in southern states that overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Only one—Mississippi—was for an open seat. Each race, however, had its own interesting storylines. A quick look at the races and results:

 

Kentucky

In Kentucky, incumbent Governor Matt Bevin (R) appears to have lost a close race against current Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D). Beshear, the son of former two-term Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (2007-2015), beat Bevin by about 5,000 votes, 49.2% – 48.8%.

With the race so close, Bevin has not yet officially conceded and has requested a “recanvassing.” Bevin could also have the option of contesting the race in the state House of Representatives, but he has not given any indication that he intends to do that. It seems most likely that the recanvassing will confirm Beshear’s victory and he will be inaugurated in December.

 

Louisiana

The Louisiana race also featured an incumbent seeking reelection: Democrat John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor currently serving in the deep South. Bel Edwards was the favorite in the race, but faced early opposition from a number of Republicans, led by U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone.

Louisiana’s system for choosing its governor is unique in the U.S. Louisiana is the only state to use a “jungle primary.” All of the gubernatorial candidates—regardless of party—competed against each other in one primary, held on October 12, 2019. In the Louisiana jungle primary, if any candidate receives over 50% of the vote in that primary, then he or she becomes the next governor. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the top two—again regardless of party—advance to a runoff.*

Bel Edwards came relatively close to the 50% mark in the October 12 primary but fell short, receiving 46.6% of the vote. He therefore advances to a runoff election, where he faced Republican Eddie Rispone. The runoff took place on November 16, 2019–a week and a half after Election Day. Polls suggested that the race would be very close but Bel Edwards prevailed, defeating Rispone 51.3% – 48.7%. Bel Edwards will now serve a second term as governor of Louisiana.

*Note that there are other states that run “blanket” primaries in which all candidates of every party participate. Unlike in Louisiana, though, in those states, the top two advance to the general election even if one candidate receives over 50%.

 

Mississippi

Mississippi was the only open gubernatorial seat in this year’s election cycle, as incumbent Governor Phil Bryant (R) was term-limited. While his lieutenant governor—Tate Reeves—was the Republican frontrunner, Reeves failed to reach 50% in the Republican primary on August 6, and therefore faced a runoff against former Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Bill Waller on August 29th. Reeves won the run-off, defeating Waller 54.3% to 45.7% and will be the Republican nominee.

Current Attorney General Jim Hood easily won the Democratic primary and head-to-head polls pitting Hood against Reeves were relatively tight. In the end, however, Reeves pulled away and held the seat for the Republicans, defeating Hood 52.2% – 46.6%.

There was pre-election discussion that Mississippi’s gubernatorial election process could help determine this year’s winner. Gubernatorial candidates in Mississippi have to do more than just win a majority of votes to win the office.  They must win a majority of the total votes case statewide AND a plurality of the votes cast in a majority of state house districts. If no candidate wins both, the winner is chosen by the State House of Representatives.

In the end, Reeves won both a majority of votes and a majority of state house districts.