Fighting For Governors' Offices

[ Posted Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 – 17:19 UTC ]

If Democrats are ever going to have an even chance to control the House of Representatives for the next decade, they need to be fighting as hard as possible for control of more governors' offices. Normally these two things are not directly connected, but after the upcoming 2020 Census, they will be. Redistricting is, in most states, a political function of the state government, meaning control of the governor's office often means being able to gerrymander the lines to your party's advantage -- something Republicans proved very adept at doing after the 2010 Census. Democrats are at a decided disadvantage as things stand, so they need to score a number of victories in gubernatorial races in the next few years in order to level the House districting playing field.

I have to point out that I am writing this before the polls close in New Jersey and Virginia, so whatever happens tonight in these two states can't be taken into account by this article. There are only two likely outcomes of these races, either the Democrats win both states or the Republicans pick up Virginia while Democrats pick up New Jersey, which would preserve the status quo politically.

Currently (before the New Jersey and Virginia races are taken into account), Republicans control 34 governors' offices, Democrats hold 15, and one (Alaska) is held by an Independent. That's a pretty lopsided balance of power, and looking at the map shows just how much ground Democrats need to make up to achieve any sort of parity nationwide.

The really curious thing about this imbalance is how many otherwise solid-blue states now have Republican governors. But this also means picking up states should be easier for Democrats to accomplish. Other than New Jersey (which is almost universally expected to go to the Democrat tonight), Republicans should be vulnerable in the following states: Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Vermont. Each of these are pretty reliable Democratic votes in presidential races, so it shouldn't be too hard for a solid Democratic candidate to win.

In addition, there are a number of purple (or purplish, at the very least) states where Democrats could be expected to have a decent chance of winning: Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

If Democrats win Virginia tonight, they'll have control of 16 governors' offices. If they could pick up that first list of states in the next election cycle, that number would grow to 21 states. If they won just half of that second list, they would reach 25 states. This would obviously be a Democratic wave, but it isn't too farfetched to consider as a possibility. Winning the governors' offices in places like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin would obviously improve the chances of the next Democratic presidential candidate as well (notably, these states were all lost by Hillary Clinton).

Governors' races are oftentimes almost purely local affairs, having little to do with national politics. Personality and charisma matters a lot, especially in smaller states with fewer voters. Local issues that nobody beyond the state's borders has ever heard of can be crucial to the election results. This all means that state outcomes may have nothing to do with Donald Trump or any other national issue or figure. It also makes them a lot harder to predict, for people who don't live in that particular state.

Even with these caveats, however, Democrats simply have to make up some ground in the governors' offices if they're going to have a chance at controlling the House of Representatives in the 2020s. The Democratic Party lost a lot of this ground while Barack Obama was in the White House, but recently have begun making some small gains in statehouses across the country. State legislature seats are also important to the redistricting process, and Democrats could even flip the control of one legislature tonight (in Washington state).

This is all pretty mundane stuff, seen from a national perspective. It's hard to focus on and track thousands of state legislative races, in other words. But the Democratic Party really needs to make this effort -- by recruiting good candidates, by backing these candidates with help and resources from the national party, and by actually winning elections.

So while we all watch the returns come in from Virginia and New Jersey, it's good to remember that this should really be seen as the start of a marathon which will take place over the next several years. Democrats need to stage a comeback in multiple blue states, and fight hard for the purple states where they will have a decent chance of winning. Again, in normal election cycles governors' offices don't mean much outside the state's boundaries, but with House redistricting looming on the horizon these races are going to be crucial for Democratic chances of getting things done in Congress for the next decade.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


32 Comments on “Fighting For Governors' Offices”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Before I get to election results watching, I have some sad news to pass along.

    Requiescat In Pace, First Cat of New Zealand "Paddles"


  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    On to the results...

    VA looks neck-and-neck so far, but everyone knew it was going to be close...


  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Northam takes the lead, with 25% in...


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Lead is shifting back and forth -- looks like it's going to be a late night.


  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Northam lead seems to be holding at around 30K votes...

    But it all comes down to which counties have reported and which haven't...


  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    CNN called the NJ race, like 5 minutes after the polls closed, for the Dem.

    No real surprise there, though.


  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Northam lead expands to 80K votes

    52% Northam
    47% Gillespie


  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    And CNN calls it for Northam!

    Woo hoo!



  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Still waiting on Maine's Medicaid expansion, which also looks close...


  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    With about 1/6th reporting, Maine seems to be going for Medicaid expansion. Still early, though.


  11. [11] 
    Paula wrote:

    Looking like a big night for Dems nationwide. Significant win: first Transgender Rep in VA beats openly anti-LBGTQ Republican. Dems win entire ticket in Virginia. Be still my heart!

    NJ, as expected, but yay!

    Virginia is big -- really big -- because Trump put his weight behind Gillespie; Bannon was out there crowing and Gillespie went full-bore bigot. For the Resistance this win is hugely important psychologically - we needed this.

  12. [12] 
    Paula wrote:

    Significant win: Virginia's Lt. Gov-elect Justin Fairfax is the second African-American elected statewide since Civil War.

    Charlotte, NC: Vi Lyles is first female African-American Mayor!

  13. [13] 
    Paula wrote:

    Also significant re: Northam: his "F" rating by NRA.

  14. [14] 
    Paula wrote:

    Philadelphia DA a Resistance win: Defense/Civil Rights attorney Larry Krasner.

  15. [15] 
    Paula wrote:

    Re: Georgia, Blake Aued tweets: Dems Deborah Gonzalez and Jonathan Wallace pull off shocking upsets in right-leaning Athens House races: … #gapol

  16. [16] 
    Paula wrote:

    First Sihk Major of Hoboken NJ, Rhavi Bhalla (and lots of other places I'll bet. Have their been Sihk Mayors elsewhere?)

  17. [17] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Maine's Medicaid expansion passed.

    Looks like a very good night for Dems!

    Fox has gone back to loops of Trump strutting.

  18. [18] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    It would appear the Russki hackers have switched their allegiance. Devious bastards, right?

  19. [19] 
    John M wrote:

    In the end, it looks like the Virginia race wasn't even all that close. Democrats are even within striking distance of taking over the Virginia House of Delegates, with about 8 races left to be counted, they already picked up 14 seats, taking a 66 seat Republican majority down to a 52 seat one so far.

    Also, Democrats won full control of the government of Washington state with their takeover of the state Senate.

  20. [20] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    Whoda ever thunk there was anything anywhere on the 'left' coast that the Dems did not ready control???

  21. [21] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Oops, make that read "already"

  22. [22] 
    John M wrote:

    Looks like Republicans will have to do some more tweaking to their tax cut plan. According to most current estimates, it will add 1.7 trillion dollars to the deficit, over the 1.5 trillion dollar limit. Unless they can get it back down from 1.7 to 1.5, it will trigger the 60 vote requirement in the Senate for passage.

  23. [23] 
    John M wrote:

    [23] C. R. Stucki


  24. [24] 
    John M wrote:

    {18} Don Harris

    Looks like Vincent Fort, the small contribution candidate in the Atlanta mayoral race, only managed to pull in 11 percent of the vote.

  25. [25] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Running in circles will not lead to the finish line. The only finish that you can achieve by running in circles is collapsing from exhaustion.

    Ah yes. The long-honored tradition of the Caucus Race.

  26. [26] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    While we were having our first really good political night in a year, the Far Left and the Right were busily looking for turds to throw in our punchbowl:

    Tucker Carlson And Glenn Greenwald Prove Horseshoe Theory With Hot New Video ‘Two Guys, One Horseshoe’

    Being a centrist means never having to say that you're with one of these guys.

  27. [27] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Since polling is an oft-discussed topic in these parts, may I suggest a column on world polling vis a vis Trump?

    Here's a conversation starter:

    It Only Took Trump One Year To Trash America’s Global Reputation

  28. [28] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Paula [16]

    I wouldn't know about any other 'Sihk' mayors, but I know I'm damn 'sihk and tired' of the guy in the White House!

  29. [29] 
    Paula wrote:

    Alabama is the next big election and I suspect a lot of activist energy is about to be unleashed there. I think Doug Jones is about to be a very lucky Dem in an uphill race. He's going to get donations from all over, and more. On one side, we have the "deep redness" of the state; on the other side we have the deep disgustingness of Roy Moore. Will Trump's unpopularity help Moore lose? Will Dem/Resistance energy help Jones win?

  30. [30] 
    Paula wrote:

    [32} C.R. Stucki: :-)

  31. [31] 
    John M wrote:

    [31] Don Harris

    Here's the actual final vote count breakdown:

    City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms and City Councilwoman Mary Norwood will proceed to the runoff, having earned 26 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively.

    Former City Councilwoman Cathy Woolard received 17 percent of the vote, followed by former city manager Peter Aman with 11 percent and former Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort with 10 percent.

  32. [32] 
    Paula wrote:

    There is a good diary on DKOS right now written by DKOS' Community Outreach guy. When the Donna Brazile story broke he posted a diary saying he'd talk about it all but not until after the election. So he posted his response today. His focus was not on all the 2016 Bernie/Hillary sturm and drang, but on what he thought were Brazile's legitimate concerns about the DNC and what is being done to respond to them. He writes:

    Having read through a large portion of her book, the biggest concerns that I take away from it is this:

    * The party allowed for apathy and complacency to seep into party organizations.

    * The party put less effort in strengthening state parties, causing infrastructure to become poor.

    * The party didn’t keep membership informed, even officers, in a proper way that allowed for changes to be made to improve our opportunities.

    * We bought far too heavily into media/tv, and not enough into active field efforts and candidate recruitment.

    I certainly would agree. (Not to take away from Brazile but I think lots of folks have had these concerns for a long time.)

    He then writes:
    Changes that are already coming:

    * In Virginia, rather than TV, the DNC committed to more than $1.5M in field programs. This is something that state parties have asked for, funding for get out the vote programs over TV programming. While one election isn’t a pattern, let’s just say these results certainly help sell this.

    *100% of the money the DNC invested in Virginia went to organizers and technology tools for them. No TV. We engaged in hiring minority hiring practices to put more members of a community talking to their own communities.

    *The party passed proposals saying we no longer accept lobbyist and corporate money from companies opposed to our issues.

    Changes we still need and are proposed:

    *The creation of a debate commission within the party. The setting of presidential debates shouldn’t be just discretion of the chair; it should go through a transparent process. This is a proposal that is coming.

    *Creation of new committees designed to help modernize the party with our new grassroots efforts.

    *Continued growth of the 50th state strategy and a commitment to states.

    *Superdelegate reforms which are being proposed.

    *Reform of the budget process.

    *Changes to our caucus process allowing more people to participate.

    The party has no power at all to make changes in some areas; especially on laws and voter ID programs in states around the country. Only state legislatures can do that. But, we should support those changes as part of our efforts to win over state legislatures.

    There's more. People are commenting and he's responding as I write this.
    But the takeaway for me is that Tom Perez and Keith Ellison are getting the job done at the DNC, and that they are very aware of the need to rebuild state party infrastructures, etc. (

    I particularly like that they didn't blow $ on TV in Virginia. I'm sure there was plenty of ads being done by the campaigns and other groups -- much better to have spent the dough on ground games/GOTV.

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