Primary Election: June 5, 2018
Primary Runoff Election: July 17, 2018
General Election: November 6, 2018
Republican Governor Kay Ivey will seek her first full term as Alabama chief executive after taking office in April 2017. The former Lieutenant Governor ascended to the seat after Governor Robert Bentley resigned due to a highly publicized extramarital affair with an aide. Before becoming Lieutenant Governor, Ivey served three terms as Alabama Treasurer.
Other Alabama Republicans entering the primary race include State Senator Bill Hightower, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, evangelist Scott Dawson, and Michael McAllister. Ivey has campaigned on her steady leadership and her handling of the Alabama economy after assuming office. Ivey’s internal polling from August 2017 found her in the lead, with 66 percent of respondents indicating that they would support the second female governor in Alabama history. Battle followed with 11 percent, while Hightower tallied with three percent.
Senator Doug Jones’ special election victory over Roy Moore in December has given Alabama Democrats new hope in a traditional Republican stronghold. Six candidates have announced plans to run for the nomination, including former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Sue Bell Cobb, Mayor of Tuscaloosa Walt Maddox, former State Representative James C. Fields, 2014 Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries nominee Doug Smith, minister Anthony White, and Christopher Countryman. While Cobb led fundraising efforts with more than $250,000, Maddox has quickly locked up the support of party figures and leaders, including the minority leader and assistant minority leader of the Alabama state house, eight state representatives and senators, various mayors across the state, and the West Alabama AFL-CIO. Cobb, the first woman elected to chief justice in state history, touts her endorsement from national pay-equity figure Lily Ledbetter and other business and non-profit leaders.
If Democrats want success in 2018, they’ll need to close the fundraising gap. Ivey raised more than $2.1 million in 2017 and entered the election year with roughly $1.9 million on hand. Democrats will certainly remind Alabama voters of the recent scandals that plagued Republicans like Moore and Bentley. They will need a strong showing in the race to maintain momentum built by Jones. According to The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections, the Alabama race remains safely Republican.
In December 2017, the Republican-controlled congress passed the most significant overhaul to the U.S. tax code in three decades. The GOP lauded the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 as a boon to the American economy, while critics said the law offers a break for the rich that leaves middle and working class families with little benefit.
The law’s full impact on the economy remains unknown, but the $10,000 cap on State and Local Tax (SALT) Deductions has put traditionally “blue” states with high taxes in a bind. Under the previous law, many high income earners could deduct their state taxes from their federal. The new tax law will cap that deduction, forcing an increased amount on their federal taxes for higher income earners in mostly Democratic states. Republicans point to an increase of the alternative minimum tax and doubling of the standard deduction as moves that will offset the SALT limits.
New Jersey, Connecticut, California, New York and Maryland have the highest state and local taxes in the country, as well as the highest average deduction claims. They also have a strong Democratic presence. Subsequently, lawmakers from these states fear residents and employees will begin to seek havens in low tax states, making it hard to attract and retain businesses. To offset the impact of the tax laws, state elected officials could increase taxes or cut their own spending to ensure residents aren’t paying a hefty bill. Doing so would force many politicians into a political dilemma.
Many of these legislatures have begun reviewing different ways to circumvent the law’s prospective impacts. Instead of taxes, some states have looked at charitable contributions in exchange for tax credits to use on federal returns. Some state lawmakers have also discussed switching from an income tax to a state-based payroll tax paid by employers. Essentially, the employer would pay taxes instead of employees, thereby lowering their wage. These measures could have unintended consequences, while also running afoul of federal tax laws. Supports of these state-based initiatives have pointed to similar precedents in others states where the IRS allowed donations to various education efforts, childhood services and other local government initiatives. If respective state legislatures approve these initiatives, a legal showdown between state and federal governments will likely determine the outcome.
Meanwhile, a group of northeastern governors announced in late January they would take legal action against the federal government. Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Daniel Malloy of Connecticut have filed suit saying the new tax law unjustly targets wealthier states.
The court’s ruling remains unknown, but state legislatures have begun pushing different measures to work around the tax law.
In late January, California became the first state to respond with legislation after a 27-7 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The California bill would allow a charitable contribution to a state-run nonprofit in lieu of state taxes. If approved by the assembly and Governor Jerry Brown, the “charitable” contributions would allow Californians to skirt the $10,000 cap, while giving taxpayers a credit of 85 percent of the amount they contribute to the new state-run nonprofit organization.
However, this process would require taxpayers to make contributions before the end of the year to receive the charitable contribution tax credit. Because California is the first state to push such legislation, other states are looking to see how the IRS and the Treasury Department view the measures.
CA State Senator Kevin de León (D) has championed the new legislation (he’s also challenging Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the 2018 midterm), but according to a spokesperson, neither he, nor the governor, have not consulted with the IRS.
According to the IRS, more than a third of California taxpayers used state tax deductions in 2015, claiming an average of $18,438. Only New York and Connecticut had a higher rate.
Democrats in the state assembly released a plan in January that proposes a tax law similar to California. Both the Democratic House Speakers and Senate President want to “make sure Marylanders can get relief.”
Democratic lawmakers unveiled three bills aimed at preserving state and local tax deductions while mitigating the tax plan’s impact for on Maryland residents. Like California, one bill would allow charitable contributions to a state nonprofit in exchange for tax credits. Another would allow Maryland residents to claim personal exemptions on their state form, even though personal exemptions are eliminated from the federal tax code. The last measure would separate Maryland and federal estate taxes. The plan decouples Maryland’s estate tax from the federal estate tax, which doubled under the GOP tax plan from $11.2 million to $22.4 million. Maryland Democrats want to limit the state’s exemption to about $5 million.
On February 2, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said the state would join New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in a lawsuit against the federal government which argues the new legislation unfairly targets Democratic-leanings states.
“It is an attack on state sovereignty and an attempt to cripple our ability to educate our kids, protect the Chesapeake Bay, and build the infrastructure that Maryland needs to be competitive in the world economy,” said Frosh during a press conference.
Meanwhile, Governor Larry Hogan (R) said he will pitch a competing proposal to alleviate the burden on Marylanders.
Shortly after the federal tax plan was signed into law, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) asked the Department of Taxation and Finance to provide different pathways that shelter Empire State residents from the caps on SALT.
In February, Cuomo unveiled a plan to shift from an income-based tax system to a payroll tax, as well as a proposal for two new charitable contribution programs, one for health care and one for education.
The optional payroll tax would let employers pay taxes as a way to protect the income of high earners from federal taxation.
For example, if an employee makes $80,000 a year, an employer could lower that salary to $70,000 a year because they pay the payroll tax. Also, New York would provide a $10,000 wage credit to the employee, ensuring they recoup any loss from their original salary while protecting them from an increased federal taxation. Although employers under the payroll-tax plan would face a 5-percent tax on all annual payroll expenses in excess of $40,000 per employee.
In New York, the average SALT deduction in 2015 was about $22,000, among the highest in the country, according to the state comptroller’s office. Robert Mujica, state budget director, said New Yorkers would pay an addition $14.3 billion in taxes if the state didn’t do anything in light of federal tax plan. Mujica maintained the state would remain revenue neutral under the proposals.
Cuomo’s plan could face an uphill battle in the state legislature where Senate Republicans have a majority in the upper chamber. The Empire State’s GOP says Cuomo’s numbers do not account for the savings residents will receive under the tax plan. Senator Majority Leader John Flanagan has also questioned how the governor’s proposal would impact businesses, as well as the legality of the optional payroll tax.
“We need to see the details. Because sometimes voluntary is not voluntary,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of things written, ‘No, no. It’s OK. It’s at the employer’s option,’ and then it turns out there is no option at all.”
Cuomo, who’s posturing for a 2020 presidential bid, intends to put the proposal in the 2018-2019 state budget.
Governor Phil Murphy(D) has requested state lawmakers to send him a bill that allows taxpayers to make charitable donations in lieu of taxes. Shortly after the federal tax bill passed, Murphy called the tax cuts a “gut punch” to New Jersey residents who pay the highest property tax in the country.
Murphy has begun working with Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) on a bill that would allow local municipalities to establish chartable funds that pay for public services, including schools and law enforcement. In lieu of paying property taxes, homeowners could then donate to municipalities in exchange for a tax credit they could use as a charitable deduction on a federal tax return.
In February, State Senator Paul Sarlo (D) introduced a similar piece of legislation that would allow local governments to create charitable funds as a primary revenue source. Residents who contribute to the fund would receive tax credits, allowing them to offset a large portion of their property tax bill, and take a write-off on their federal income taxes.
According to the IRS, the average SALT deduction claimed in 2015 by New Jersey was $17,850, with Northern New Jersey Counties averaging more than $28,000.
Murphy’s plan to work around the federal tax overhaul could complicate the new governor’s legislative agenda. While campaigning, Murphy said he would offer meaningful property tax relief, increase taxes on millionaires and create tuition-free community college. Although Murphy says he has bipartisan support from local mayor’s, some state house and senate Democrats have begun to waver on the plan.
Primary Election: August 14th, 2018
General Election: November 6th, 2018
Incumbent Governor Mark Dayton–a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farm-Labor party–declined to run for a third term, thus creating a competitive election in a state Hillary Clinton carried by 1.5 percent in 2016. Dayton was first elected Governor in 2010 by a .4 percent margin; he successfully ran for reelection in 2014 with nearly 50% of the vote. Without Dayton, six Democratic–Farmer–Labor candidates have announced their bids for the nomination: U.S. Congressman Tim Walz, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, State Representatives Erin Murphy, Tina Liebling, Paul Thissen and former Mayor of St. Paul Chris Coleman. State Attorney General Lori Swanson could join the race but has not announced her intentions to run for governor or reelection for her current office.
A January poll from the Minnesota Star Tribune showed Walz leading the pack of candidates with 21 percent, followed by Swanson with 16 percent and Coleman at 12 percent. However, roughly one-third of respondents were undecided. Walz, elected to the 1st Congressional District since 2006, also leads all DFL candidates in fundraising, taking in over $1.1 million, with Coleman trailing with a reported $800,000.
For the GOP, Dayton’s retirement has sparked an equally crowded primary despite Republicans not winning a statewide race since former Governor Tim Pawlenty’ reelection in 2006. State Representative Matt Dean, former State GOP Chair Keith Downey, WoodburyMayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson have emerged as the four major contenders out of the ten declared. Although a laundry list of potential candidates has also arisen, including Pawlenty and State House Speaker Kurt Daudt. The Star Tribune poll found Daudt in second with 14 percent of registered Republicans despite no declaration of his candidacy and publicly evading the question. He trails Commissioner Johnson who received the support of 21 percent of respondents. More than half of GOP voters contacted said they were undecided.
University of Virginia’s Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball and Inside Elections both predict a “likely DFL victory,” while the Cook Political Report has the race as a “toss-up.” In addition to the gubernatorial race, The former Mankato high school coach and history and social studies teacher has been serving as a Democrat in the 1st Congressional District since 2006 and is making his first bid for statewide office. Minnesota votes on both U.S. Senate seats (one is a special election due to Al Franken’s resignation), all state row offices, congressional seats and the entire State House are on the ballot this year.
On February 14, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Act 2 of 2018 amending the existing Pennsylvania lobbying disclosure law. The law provides for increased penalties for late filing and non-compliance, and makes electronic reporting mandatory.
Specifically, the law:
Requires that a Principal, Lobbying Firm, or Lobbyist designate on its registration an authorized representative to receive all notices on its behalf, including notices of non-compliance.
Requires that Principals, Lobbying Firms, and Lobbyists file all registrations, quarterly reports, amendments, and terminations electronically using the Department of State’s computerized filing system.
Increases the maximum administrative penalty that may be imposed by the Ethics Commission when it has been determined that a Lobbyist or Principal has committed an unlawful act under the law from $2,000 to $4,000.
Increases the fine for failure to register to report from $50 for each late day to:
– $50 for each late day up to ten days;
– $100 for each late from ten days to twenty days; and
– $200 for each late day over twenty days.
Requires that the Department of State post all filings on its public site within seven days of receipt.
Mandatory electronic filing and designation of an authorized representative take effect in 60 days; the rest of the changes take effect immediately.
Less than a week after taking office, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer signed an executive order stipulating all state employees within the executive branch must receive annual sexual harassment training.
“It is incumbent upon us, the leaders of this state to attack this issue head on,” Colyer said after he signed the order on Monday. “We now have the opportunity to look in the mirror and see whether we can do a better job of protecting state employees. This executive order is an important first step toward ensuring Kansas employees are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Colyer’s mandate affects 20,000 state employees in various executive branch agencies. The move comes after he was sworn into the Governor’s office following former Governor Sam Brownback’s confirmation as the U.S. Ambassador at-large for International Religious Freedom. While Kansas had harassment policies in place, the new order creates a uniform policy across executive agencies that requires annual training.
Colyer’s order occurs as a number of high profile sexual harassment scandals pervade politics. In the past year, several congressional lawmakers and a host of state lawmakers have faced serious allegations of sexual harassment. According to the Associated Press, at least 14 legislators in 10 states resigned from office in 2017, while 16 others in more than a dozen states face repercussions or deny the allegations. The #metoo movement and the rising furor over misogynistic behavior has sparked executive and legislative branches within state government to revisit policies and procedure regarding misconduct in public office. According to the Associated Press, roughly three-fourths of states currently have at least one legislative chamber updating sexual harassment policy, or developing proposals to review whether changes are needed.
In Kentucky, Jeff Hoover, the former Republican speaker of the house, resigned in early January following a report he had secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a woman on his staff. The new Kentucky house speaker has appointed a committee to devise a formal system to address complaints. In Arizona, Republican Rep. Don Shooter was voted out of the Arizona House in late January following a report ordered by legislative leaders of his own party showing he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward two women.
Shooter, Hoover, and a number of other harassment scandals at the state level have cast a large shadow over legislatures throughout the country. While the US House of Representatives voted to overhaul Capitol Hill’s sexual harassment policies, state policies will likely vary from congressional rules and procedures. However, public anger over harassment allegations will certainly fuel stronger action from lawmakers.
Primary Election: August 8th, 2018
General Election: November 6th, 2018
Republican Scott Walker will seek a third term as Wisconsin Governor in the 2018 election. This is Walker’s fourth statewide election in eight years (a recall election occurred in 2012, but was unsuccessful). Walker was first elected in 2010 as a conservative Republican who opposed same sex marriage and promised to limit government spending. Walker’s collective bargaining reforms for public employees, as well as his funding cuts for public schools, created controversy in 2011. As a result, voters garnered more than 900,000 signatures requesting a recall election in 2012. After spending more than $30 million, Walker defeated Democratic candidate Tom Barrett, a former Milwaukee Mayor and U.S. Congressman that he had previously defeated in 2010. In 2014, Walker defeated Mary Burke, a corporate executive and former Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce.
Walker’s divisive policies continue to fuel a backlash among voters. According to a February 2018 poll from Morning Consult, Walker’s approval rating has remained at 43 percent for the past year, while his disapproval rating sits at 50 percent. In lieu of disappointing numbers, Walker has raised more than $3.7 million in the second half of 2017 and entered 2018 with roughly $4.2 million. Despite staying true to his base, two other Republicans are in the running with hopes of claiming the primary nomination: businessman Robert Meyer and anti-abortion activist Ryan Cason.
Meanwhile, seventeen Wisconsin Democrats have registered for the gubernatorial primary, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Many candidates have used Walker and Trump’s divisive nature as a rallying cry, but a clear party favorite has not emerged.
Major Democratic candidates include State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, State Representative Dana Wachs, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin President and 2012 lieutenant governor candidate Mahlon Mitchell, former state Party Chair Matthew Flynn, former non-profit director Mike McCabe, and businessman Andy Gronik. The field raised a combined $2 million in the last quarter of 2017 and began 2018 with roughly $1 million on hand – $3.2 million less than Walker’s campaign. With roughly six months to go until the primary and a lack of polling, it does not appear the field will decrease soon.
During a special election in January 2018, a rural state Senate seat held by Republicans since 2000 (it also went for Trump in 2016) was won by a Democrat. While the “Blue Wave” looms large in Wisconsin, a fragmented Democratic party with a small funding apparatus has improved Walker’s chances of winning a third term. As a result, the Cook Political Report has the race “leaning Republican,” while Inside Elections has the race as “likely Republican.”
Primary Election: May 22, 2018
General Election: November 6, 2018
Incumbent Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson will seek a second term in office during the 2018 election. Prior to his election as governor in 2014, Hutchinson previously served as a U.S. Attorney, Member of Congress, and Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator under President George W. Bush. Hutchinson now enjoys favorable poll numbers which has kept most primary opponents away. The Arkansas Poll, commissioned by University of Arkansas, found Hutchinson with 62 percent favorable ratings among registered voters. Meanwhile, a December poll from Morning Consult found Hutchinson with a 63 percent favorability rating, third best among all governors.
These numbers have not deterred Republican Jan Morgan, an “America First” Republican and gun range owner. Morgan has challenged Hutchinson from the right, claiming the governor “campaigns like a conservative Republican but governs like a liberal Democrat.” However, with more than $1.5 million in his campaign, Hutchinson has far more resources than Morgan. Subsequently, she may have a hard time convincing Arkansas Republicans to support her candidacy.
Democrats in Arkansas have rallied behind their only declared candidate, Jared Henderson, the former executive director of the Arkansas branch of Teach for America. Since 2014, Arkansas Democrats have lost every statewide election, all four congressional districts, and remain the minority party in both chambers of the state legislature. Henderson, a first time candidate, believes that “way more than half of this electorate that is alive, and will be voting, has voted for a Democrat,” and getting them to actually vote for a Democrat in 2018 is “not impossible.” In the last quarter of 2017, Henderson and his campaign brought in roughly $131,000. He’s attempting to keep the race competitive by focusing on the ground game–holding town halls, knocking on doors, and making phone calls. However, with Hutchinson’s high favorability ratings, Henderson’s path to the governor’s seat remains extremely difficult.
At this time, national experts all agree the race is safe or solid Republican.
Primary Election: June 5th, 2018
General Election: November 6th, 2018
Governor Kim Reynolds will seek her first full term as chief executive of the Hawkeye State in 2018. While serving as Lieutenant Governor, Reynolds assumed office—becoming the first female governor in Iowa—after Terry Branstad left office in May 2017 to become U.S. Ambassador to China. Despite serving as Lt. Governor under Branstad, two other Republicans have announced their bids to unseat Reynolds in the primary. Former Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives Ron Corbett and Boone City Councilmember Steven Ray. Reynolds, a former county treasurer and state senator, entered 2018 with more than $4 million, while Corbett and Ray entered with under $600,000 and $1,000, respectively. With four months to go until the primary, Reynolds’s name recognition and fundraising abilities will likely lead her to the GOP nomination.
The Democratic gubernatorial primary has turned into a search for a state party flagbearer to help lead Iowa Democrats back to relevance. Since 2010, Iowa Democrats have lost a U.S. Senate seat in 2014, the Governor’s mansion in 2010, and both bodies of the state legislature. Currently, only two Democrats hold statewide office; Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. As a result, seven Democrats have announced bids for a wide open gubernatorial primary. State Senator Nate Boulton, SEIU Local 199 President Cathy Glasson, longtime Democratic donor Fred Hubbell, former State Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire, former State Auditor General candidate Jon Neiderbach, former USDA official John Norris, and former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn are all seeking the nod from primary voters. Hubbell leads the pack in funding, raising more than $3 million in 2017, while entering 2018 with more than $1.2 million on hand. He has received more than 80 percent of his funding from in-state donors. Hubbell is the first candidate of either party to start running television ads.
According to a December poll conducted by the Des Moines Register, 2018 may provide an opportunity for Democratic redemption in Iowa. Nearly half of voters want to see someone new take over as governor, including 53 percent of women respondents. Democrats also won the at-large generic congressional ballot, winning three out of Iowa’s four districts. Conversely, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball and Inside Elections have classified the gubernatorial race as “lean Republican.” Iowa will be a state to watch to see if it stays in Republican control, or is a part of a “blue wave.”