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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 April 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, though National Guard member Kevin Baron is expected to run.

Primary date: September 15, 2020

 

Indiana

Eric Holcomb (R) was first elected governor of Indiana in 2016. He was originally the 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. Holcomb will run opposed in the primary; businessman Brian Roth filed to run against him, but did not have enough signatures and was removed from the ballot. Holcomb will be the favorite in the general election against former State Health Commissioner Woody Myers (D), who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary after former Chairman of the Indiana Charter School Board Josh Owens withdrew from the race.

Primary date: Originally scheduled for May 5, 2020, moved to June 2, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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; he will face three opponents, most notably 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 had fundraising success early in the race and is currently the only statewide elected Democrat in Missouri. Galloway has also been vocal in criticizing what she considers an inadequate response by Parson to the coronavirus epidemic.

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 against businesswoman Whitney Williams The race is considered close, however, and the candidates have raised similar amounts of money. 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. State Senator Albert Olszewski is also in the race. Gianforte also has a large fundraising lead over both of his primary opponents. 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: September 8, 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 after winning the Democratic nomination by a comfortable margin. 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, when Cooper will face Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, who also won his primary by a comfortable margin. Forest’s win set up the extremely unusual situation in which a sitting lieutenant governor is challenging the sitting governor in a gubernatorial general election.

Primary date: March 3, 2020

Democratic winner: Governor Roy Cooper (incumbent)

Republican winner: Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest

 

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. The state’s Democratic-NPL Party endorsed veterinarian Shelley Lenz in a convention held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lenz will now run unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the June primary.

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 will face University of Utah professor Chris Peterson in the Democratic primary, but either will be a significant underdog in the general election; a Democrat has not won the Utah governorship since 1980. The Republican primary itself, however, has garnered 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. Cox, Huntsman, and Wright collected enough signatures to appear on the primary ballot; the rest of the contenders (including both Democrats) will need to fare well in their parties’ conventions to officially appear.

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. Scott will be a favorite against the only declared candidate in the Republican primary, conservative commentator John Klar. The general election could be a bigger 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 and lawyer Pat Winburn 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 face major primary opposition and will also be a strong favorite in the general election. Washington runs a “top two” primary, in which all candidates run regardless of party and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. No significant Democrats have declared an intention challenge Inslee. State senator Phil Fortunato and Loren Culp, the police chief of the Town of Republic, are the Republican candidates who have polled the highest. Independent Tim Eyman has also shown support in primary polling. Inslee has polled significantly ahead of all other candidates, however.

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–twelve candidates officially filed to run for the office–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. Democratic candidate and community organizer Stephen Smith has gained attention for turning his campaign into a “COVID-19 response program.”

Primary date: Originally scheduled for May 12, 2020, moved to June 9, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic