GOP's Share of Governors' Mansions Could Swell

Republicans poised to pick up Democratic seats
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2016 4:25 AM CST
5 Governor's Races to Watch
Democratic candidate Jim Justice speaks during a gubernatorial debate against Senate Majority Leader Bill Cole R-W.Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.   (AP Photo/Tyler Evert)

It's not just the White House and Congress up for grabs: Governors are being chosen in a dozen states, as well as American Samoa and Puerto Rico, where the leading candidate plans a big push for statehood. Analysts say that even if Republicans struggle further up the ballot, the party has a strong chance of winning some of the eight states where Democrats are in defense. The GOP currently has 31 governors, to 18 for the Democrats and one independent, in Alaska. Some races to watch:

  • Vermont. Republican Phil Scott has a strong lead in one of the most liberal states in the country, with 47% to 40% for Democrat Sue Minter, according to the National Post. Former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee of the socialist Liberty Union party is polling at 4%. In 1976, the party's candidate for governor was Bernie Sanders, who got 6% of the vote.

  • West Virginia. Hillary Clinton is expected to lose this state by as much as 30 points, NPR reports, but the Democrats have held the governor's mansion for 16 years and have a good chance of keeping it with Jim Justice, who is running against state senate president Bill Cole. Justice is a coal billionaire, which has made it tough for the GOP to tie him to Clinton's energy policies.
  • Oregon. Democrat Kate Brown, the nation's first openly bisexual governor, is running against the GOP's Bud Pierce. She became governor when John Kitzhaber stepped down amid a scandal last year and if she wins on Tuesday, she will become the first openly LGBT person in US history to be elected governor, NBC News notes.
  • Missouri. In what the AP describes as "the nation's most expensive gubernatorial race," former Republican Chris Koster, attorney general during the administration of term-limited Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, is running as a Democrat and has the endorsements of the Missouri Farm Bureau and the NRA. His GOP opponent, former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, is a former Democrat.
  • North Carolina. Republican incumbent Pat McCrory has probably been under more scrutiny than any other governor than the US this year because of his state's controversial "bathroom bill," notes NPR, which calls the race a a toss-up. His Democratic opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper, has a slight lead and stands to benefit from his party's strong get-out-the-vote operation.
(More Election 2016 stories.)

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