Democrats have a great chance at picking up gubernatorial seats in November — but that doesn’t mean they won’t need to defend a few of their own.
Last week, we showed why polls of governors races released so far should be taken with a grain of salt. This early in the campaign, a qualitative assessment — based on things like base partisanship, candidate quality and, yes, the consensus of polls — provides the most honest read of each race. By this method, roughly 25 of the 36 governors races on the 2018 ballot rate as potentially competitive, based on a consensus of ratings from nonpartisan handicappers The Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections.2 Today, we’ll run through the 10 states with Democratic and independent incumbents. (We’ll address the more numerous Republican-held seats in a subsequent article.)
Note that you won’t find blurbs for California, Hawaii or New York below. That’s because Democrats are virtually assured of holding those governorships3 — but that doesn’t mean those states are short on gubernatorial intrigue. All three could sport interesting primaries. In California, an epic NorCal-SoCal faceoff is brewing between Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Thanks to the state’s unusual primary system — whereby the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to November — that fight could go all the way to the general election. In Hawaii, Democratic Gov. David Ige’s middling approval ratings attracted a primary challenge from Colleen Hanabusa, who represents half the state in the U.S. House.