The US Midterms is an interesting time in the American political cycle. Whilst Senate Races and Congressional Races are ways of viewing presidential approval, Governor races are a sort of wildcard. This is because governors do not conform to national politics of a state. Red states can vote for Democratic governors, such as Louisiana whilst Democratic strongholds such as Massachusetts or Vermont will vote for Republicans as governors.
Why are governorships important in US national politics? Other than having a control over state politics and state legislators, taking the governor of a state can have large repercussions for a states congressional districts. Governors have an effective veto on congressional district allocation which has an effect on the national representation of different states. Therefore, the more governors your party can have elected across the USA, the more effective your party will be in pushing for favourable congressional districts on a national level. This is effectively shown within the state of Pennsylvania, where the Democratic governor managed to veto national congressional districts for Pennsylvanian congressional districts, which gave the Democrats a disadvantage in congressional elections. Governors are a very powerful way of challenging gerrymandering in the USA, the practice of redrawing electoral districts to give a political party an advantage.
Which are the states to watch for? Florida is an interesting state in the Gubernatorial elections. Florida was a state with a narrow win for Donald Trump; he carried the state by 1.6%. This means that it could be exceptionally competitive in a state he narrowly carried. Turnout is lower in off-year elections and the last few months have been good for the Democrats, where it is taking Alabama in a Senate special election or winning in a Pennsylvanian special election in a very pro-Trump district. Florida also lacks Republican incumbents and with a lack of incumbents means the race is a possible win for the Democrats. What is worth bearing in mind is that Florida was very competitive for the Democrats when Obama was in the Whitehouse meaning that the Democrats could very realistically take the governorship given the president’s party usually does worse in off-year elections.
The Rust-belt states of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin all offer interesting races. These were Trump states in 2016 but are overall swing-states which each gives the Republicans a massive advantage in congressional house races. The state of Ohio has 75% of its house delegation to Congress being Republican, despite Trump winning by only 8% and Obama winning it by 1%. Wisconsin will be a tough race for the Democrats because of the incumbent Scott Walker is running for re-election. However, there is some small anecdotal evidence that the Democrats could win in Wisconsin, causing an upset for the Republicans. If the Democrats can win all three of those states, then they can veto unfavourable redistricting when it comes to 2020.
Overall, the Democrats have a lot to play in the governor races. If they can take states off the Republicans, particularly states which are swing-states, they can have a chance of undermining the Republicans when it comes to redistricting in 2020.
Article by Daniel Clemence
Photograph: VOA News