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2020 Gubernatorial Races

Eleven states will hold gubernatorial elections in 2020. Republicans currently hold seven of those 11 seats, while Democrats hold four. Two of the contests are likely to be for open seats, as Montana incumbent Steve Bullock (D) is term limited and Utah incumbent Gary Herbert (R) has announced he will not run for a third full term. The remaining nine races will feature incumbents, many of whom are likely to be re-elected. See below for a quick state-by-state look at this year’s races, including dates for the primaries:

Updated January 2020

2020 Gov Elec Map

Delaware

John Carney (D) is finishing his first term as governor of Delaware. He previously served as lieutenant governor from 2001-2009 and then as a U.S. Representative from 2011 – 2017. Carney is eligible to seek a second term as governor. He is expected to run and will be a heavy favorite. No Republican has yet officially filed to oppose him.

Primary date: September 15, 2020

 

Indiana

Eric Holcomb (R) was first elected governor of Indiana in 2016. He was originally incumbent Governor Mike Pence’s (R) running mate in that election, but when Pence withdrew to accept the Republican nomination for vice president, Holcomb successfully ran for governor in his place. Holcomb is running for reelection in 2020. While he will face opposition in the primary from businessman Brian Roth, he is expected to win the nomination easily. He will then likely be the favorite in the general election. Currently two Democrats have filed to run in the primary: former State Health Commissioner Woody Myers and former Chairman of the Indiana Charter School Board Josh Owens.

Primary date: May 5, 2020

 

Missouri

Mike Parson (R) became governor of Missouri in June 2018 after then-Governor Eric Greitens (R) resigned. Parson had been serving as Greitens’s lieutenant governor, elected in 2016. Parson also has experience in the state senate, state house of representatives, and as a county sheriff. He will run for his first full term in 2020, first facing state Representative James Neely in the Republican primary. Parson will be a strong favorite in that primary. State Auditor Nicole Galloway is the favorite on the Democratic side. While Parson is considered likely to ultimately hold onto the seat, Galloway has had fundraising success early in the race.

Primary date: August 4, 2020

 

Montana

With incumbent Governor Steve Bullock (D) ineligible to run for a third term due to term limits, Montana is one of only two races to feature an open seat this year. The race is therefore wide open, though current Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney is considered the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, with Whitney Williams and Representative Casey Schreiner his principal opponents. On the Republican side, U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte—who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2016—led very early primary polling, with state Attorney General Tim Fox second. This race is likely to be one of the most closely watched gubernatorial races of 2020.

Primary date: June 2, 2020

 

New Hampshire

As one of two states with a 2-year gubernatorial election cycle, it is almost always gubernatorial election season in New Hampshire. Incumbent Chris Sununu (R) will run for reelection in 2020, seeking a third term. He is not expected to face significant opposition in the primary (though radio talk show host Rich Paul, who legally changed his name to Nobody, has announced a run). The Democratic primary is expected to be closer, with state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes facing off against Executive Council Member Andru Volinsky. Both are serious contenders, but either will likely be an underdog against Sununu in the general election.

Primary date: June 12, 2020

 

North Carolina

Along with Montana, North Carolina is likely to be one of the most closely scrutinized gubernatorial races of the year. Unlike Montana, the North Carolina seat is not open; incumbent Governor Roy Cooper (D) is running for a second term and is expected to win the Democratic nomination easily over Ernest Reeves. Cooper’s 2016 general election win, however, over then-Governor Pat McCrory (R) was extremely close; Cooper prevailed by just over 10,000 votes, 49.0% – 48.8%. The general election is expected to be close again in 2020, as Cooper will likely face either State Representative Holly Grange or Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest. If Forest wins the Republican primary over Grange, it will set up the unusual situation in which a sitting lieutenant governor faces the sitting governor in a gubernatorial election.

Primary date: March 3, 2020

 

North Dakota

Incumbent Doug Burgum was first elected governor of North Dakota in 2016 and is running for a second term. He is expected to easily win the Republican nomination and will also be a strong favorite in the general election—he won in 2016 with over 76% of the vote. No Democrat has officially announced their candidacy, though State House Minority Leader Joshua Boschee and former State Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider are among those possible to be considered at the state Democratic Convention. Perhaps most notable is a candidate who has indicated that she is not, at least for now, interested in running: former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

Primary date:  June 9, 2020

 

Utah

Utah is the second state—along with Montana—to feature an open seat governor’s race in 2020. While Utah does not have gubernatorial term limits, incumbent Governor Gary Herbert (R) has announced that he will not seek a third full term. Herbert took over as governor in 2009 when then-Governor Jon Huntsman (R) resigned to become Ambassador to China under then-President Barack Obama (D). Herbert was elected to a full term in 2012 and reelected in 2016. The general election in Utah is not likely to be close; businessman Zachary Moses is currently the only Democrat officially declared as a candidate and a Democrat has not won the Utah governorship since 1980. But the Republican primary could earn significant attention. Seven candidates have already declared for the Republican primary. Herbert has endorsed his sitting lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, to succeed him. Cox will have to overcome a number of high-profile primary opponents, however, including former Speaker of the State House Greg Hughes, Salt Lake City Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, former Chair of the Utah Republican Party Thomas Wright, and, perhaps most notably, aforementioned former Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.

Primary date: June 30, 2020

 

Vermont

Like neighboring New Hampshire, Vermont elects governors on a two-year cycle. Incumbent Governor Phil Scott (R), therefore, was reelected in 2018 for his second two-year term. While he has not officially announced his intention to seek a third term, he is expected to run. He will not face significant opposition in the primary. The general election could be a larger test. While Scott won in 2018 by a 55.2 – 40.2 margin, he may this time face Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman in the general election. Zuckerman, who has also served in the State Senate and the State House of Representatives, will face former State Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe in the Democratic primary.

Primary date: August 11, 2020

 

Washington

The Washington gubernatorial race lost much of its intrigue in August 2019 when incumbent Governor Jay Inslee (D) announced that he was dropping out of the 2020 presidential race and would instead seek a third term as governor of Washington. Inslee is unlikely to have a major primary opponent and will also be a strong favorite in the general election. State senator Phil Fortunato is the favorite to win the Republican nomination.

Primary date: August 4, 2020

 

West Virginia

Governor Jim Justice (R) won the West Virginia governorship in 2016—as a Democrat. In August 2017, however, Justice announced that he was switching to the Republican Party, or more accurately switching back. He had been a registered Republican prior to 2015, when he changed to the Democratic Party before launching his gubernatorial run. Justice will run for reelection in 2020 as a Republican, and is a strong favorite. It is a large field—8 candidates are officially registered for the race as of January 2020, with more likely to come—but Justice’s closest competition will likely come in the Republican primary. Early polls have suggested that Justice has a lead, with the closest candidate former State Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher. Democratic candidates include Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango and State Senator Ron Stollings, but with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D) opting to remain in the Senate, it is unlikely that any of the Democratic candidates will ultimately pose a significant threat to Justice.

Primary date: May 12, 2020