The Center on the American Governor has found that across the country when modern incumbent governors have sought re-election, they have been successful just over 72% of the time. Over the last 65 years, the rate has increased almost every decade – from an average of 68.26% between 1948 and 1979 to an average of 79.22% from 1980 through 2013.
The information compiled by the Center is broken down below by decade, region and gender. The full data set, including year, incumbent name, challenger name and winner, is available here. Incumbent success rates can be viewed by state and by year.
Governors Seeking Re-Election
|Years||Incumbents Running||Incumbents Winning||Success Rate|
The re-election success rate for incumbent governors has gone up almost every decade with the largest jumps occurring from 1980-1990 and from the 2000s to 2010-2013.
|Decade||Incumbents Running||Incumbents Winning||Success Rate|
Re-Election Rates by Region
Regionally, governors seeking re-election have had the greatest success in the Northeast where, since 1948, 76.32% have won their races. Even in the Southeast region where incumbents have most frequently lost, however, more than two-thirds – 68.97% -have been successful.
|Region||Incumbents Running||Incumbents Winning||Success Rate|
Re-Election Rate in New Jersey
In New Jersey, seven of the ten incumbent governors to run for re-election since 1948 have been successful. Those who lost were Governor William Cahill, defeated in the Republican primary in 1973, and Governors Jim Florio in 1993 and Jon Corzine in 2009, beaten by Christine Todd Whitman and Chris Christie respectively. Most recently, in 2013, Chris Christie won re-election, defeating challenger Barbara Buono.
Re-Election Rates by Gender
Since 1970, 18 women have run for re-election as incumbent governors and 15 (83.33%) have been successful. Of these races, 14 took place in 1990 or later and 12 of them were successful. A woman incumbent governor running for re-election has not been defeated since Ann Richards (D-TX) lost to George W. Bush in 1994.
Information on past governors is available at the National Governors Association Website, www.nga.org. Detailed election results from past campaigns are available at www.ourcampaigns.com. Many state archives also have websites with information about that state’s former governors.
Colin McDowell, a Rutgers University undergraduate assisting the Center on the American Governor as an Aresty Research Assistant in 2012 – 2013, was responsible for collecting and analyzing much of the data in this section.