Election Preview: 2018 Gubernatorial Races

By Danny Restivo (Posted 12/1/17)

In less than a year, voters in 36 states will decide on their respective governors during the 2018 midterm elections. With just less than a year out from election day, many of these contests have already become competitive with a host of Republican and Democratic nominees announcing their candidacy. The Republican party will defend 26 governorships, while the Democratic party will defend 9 governorships (Alaska Governor Bill Walker is an Independent). However, 14 of these seats are considered to be relatively “safe” for the incumbent party. 11 of these “safe” seats are held by Republicans. On the Democratic side, New York, California and Hawaii will likely maintain a Democratic governor.

The Republicans currently have 33 governorships, compared to 16 for the Democrats, the widest margin for the GOP since 1922. In 24 states, they control the executive branch as well as the legislature. Although Democrats will have an opportunity to field winning gubernatorial candidates in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. They’ll also have the chance to unseat Republican Governors in traditionally blue states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont, while defending incumbent governors in Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

With gubernatorial wins in 2017 for Democrats Ralph Northam in Virginia and Phil Murphy in New Jersey, the political momentum has begun to shift. Yet if Democrats want to significantly increase their statehouse seats, they will also have to win over some Republican-dominated constituencies. Fourteen of 34 gubernatorial seats have a relatively safe path of the incumbent party. Fortunately for Republicans, eleven of those are held by GOP lawmakers.

Moreover, 2018 midterms will have added meaning with the 2020 census looming. In most states, governors and state legislatures determine district boundaries based on the census data. As a result, Republican and Democrats will want to position themselves so their interests are accounted for during the congressional mapping process.

2018 Gubernatorial Elections in the States and Territories in 2018


(source National Governor’s Association)

Throughout 2018, Duane Morris Government Strategies will provide updates and insight on gubernatorial election occurring throughout the country.


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