When Governor Jim Justice switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party at President Trump’s West Virginia rally last week, he became the 34th Republican governor in the country. Not only was it remarkable for a Democrat to switch parties, but this many Republicans holding governor seats hasn’t happened since 1922.
Now only fifteen states have Democratic governors, and one (Alaska) has an independent governor.
Republican dominance in the majority of states goes beyond the governor’s office. In 26 states, Republicans now hold the governorship and both houses of the state legislature — a state level “trifecta” similar to the current national “trifecta,” where Republicans hold the White House and have a majority in both the House and the Senate.
New Jersey and Virginia will be the only two states to hold gubernatorial elections in 2017.
New Jersey’s unpopular Republican governor, Chris Christi, is out next year, due to term limits in his state. The latest polls show that Phil Murphy, the Democratic nominee, holds about a 20 point lead over the Republican nominee, Kim Guadagno, so the Garden State could turn out to be a Democratic pickup.
In Virginia, their Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, is also term limited, and the Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie, is in a dead heat with the Democratic nominee, Ralph Northam. But it’s such a close race, that it’s anyone’s guess which way it will go.
Contested races in which Republicans have a chance to pick up the governor’s office include Connecticut, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.
In Connecticut, the current Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy, chose not to run for a third term. With his state’s weak economy and facing another fiscal crisis, Malloy has high negatives in Connecticut.
Contested races in which Democrats have a chance to pick up the governor’s office include Michigan and Maine.
Donald Trump won a surprising victory in the 2016 presidential election in Michigan, and Republican Governor Rick Snyder is term limited. So, Snyder is considered a moderate by the conservatives in the state who backed President Trump, and he’s also dealing with the Flint, Michigan tainted water controversy.
Democrats may have an opportunity to take Michigan, but a front-runner for the party’s nomination has not yet emerged.
Republicans have the opportunity to become more dominant at the state level than they ever have been, and at the national level, prospects for Democratic gains in the House and Senate are not as promising.
In the Senate, where Republicans currently hold a 52-48 advantage over the Democrats (including the two Independents who caucus with the Democrats), only eight of the 33 Senate seats up in 2018 are held by Republicans. Twenty-three are held by Democrats, and two are held by Independents who caucus with the Democrats. Ten of those Democrats up for re-election are in states won by President Trump in 2016.
In the House, the Republicans currently have a 240 to 194 advantage over the Democrats, with one vacancy since Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) resigned on June 30. A special election will be held to replace him.
Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats in 2018 to get to the 218 they need for a majority, but due to gerrymandering and other factors, only about 30 of the 435 House races are truly competitive.
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