From the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, through the Covid-19 pandemic and following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the power of governors has been increasingly clear for Americans to see.
In November, 36 states will hold gubernatorial elections that, while often less expensive than Senate races, are likely to yield more immediate impacts on the political landscape and could provide a launching pad for candidates with even higher aspirations – like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Heading into the general election season, Republicans control 20 of the contested governor’s seats to Democrats’ 16. But many of the key battleground contests feature Democratic incumbents, elected during the 2018 “blue wave,” trying to win a second term. In Michigan and Wisconsin, Govs. Gretchen Whitmer and Tony Evers are likely Republicans’ only obstacle to governing trifectas. The same goes in Pennsylvania – another state President Joe Biden flipped in 2020 – where Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro would likely face a GOP-controlled legislature if he defeats Republican nominee Doug Mastriano, a Trump-allied election denier.
Republicans have stronger grips on the governors’ mansions in the red states of Florida, Texas and Georgia. But those campaigns underscore the unique nature of these races – DeSantis in Florida and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are closely aligned with Trump and his movement, while Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, because he didn’t go along with the former President’s 2020 election lies, has come under frequent criticism from his party’s ascendant right. That, however, didn’t stop him from subduing a Trump-backed primary challenger, strengthening his brand with Peach State Republicans.
The added attention and, to some extent, increasing attractiveness of governors’ races to big donors and outside spenders, could benefit Democrats if only because the party has in the past tended to look past state elections and zero in on federal and presidential ones.