US Elections: State Governors & Legislatures

In addition to the Presidential election, other votes will also be cast on November 3rd for state governors and legislatures. What is going on, and why does it matter?

State Governors 

Where: In 11 states plus the territories of Puerto Rico and American Samoa

What: 4 of the governorships are held by Democrats, 7 by Republicans. 

States to Watch

  • Montana: Currently held by Democrat Steve Bullock who is running for the Senate seat instead. It could be a Republican gain. 
  • North Carolina (Democrat incumbent) and New Hampshire (Republican incumbent): Both always have close elections.
  • Vermont: A strong Democrat state but with incumbent Republican seeking re-election. In 2018, Vermont voters re-elected both Senator Bernie Sanders with 66% of the vote and Republican Governor Phil Scott with 54%. Will these “Sanders Scott” voters reappear again in November?

Why These Elections Matter

Governors have significant powers, especially during emergencies as we’ve seen this year with coronavirus. The overall political balance among governors can affect a Presidential administrations ability to see co-operation or a lack of it between the federal government and the states. 

What about the territories?

Both the outgoing Puerto Rico and American Samoan governors are affiliated to Democrats. The Puerto Rico governor lost their primary to another Democrat allied candidate (some in their New Progressive Party ally with Republicans, like the non-voting US House member). The American Samoan governor is term-limited. 


State Legislatures

What: State legislatures are the state equivalent of the Houses of Congress. Apart from Nebraska, which has one legislative chamber, all other states have two chambers. A lower chamber with more members than the Upper chamber. 

Where: In 44 states and 5 US Territories and Washington DC

States to watch: Swing states like Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona but also given how many US House seats they both have California and Texas.

Why These Elections Matter

The state legislative elections have an impact on how much a Governor can or cannot do in their state depending on whether the Governor’s party does or doesn’t control the legislative chambers.

For 2020, these elections have added importance because between now and 2022, the allocation of US House seats in many states will change following this year’s census, meaning many states will have their state’s congressional districts redrawn. In many states, it’s the state legislature that determines what the boundaries are, and these boundaries are then mainly set for the next 10 years until the 2032 elections. 

So 2020 would be a good year for a party to do well at the state level. In 2012 Republicans kept control of the US House despite Obama’s re-election and losing the House popular vote because Republicans had done well in 2010 which meant Republican-controlled legislatures could redraw the congressional map in their favour!

Other Elections

There are more elections for other statewide offices, local, mayoral, courts and referendums. 

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