by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
With some reshuffling of political alignments in the 2020 elections settled, expect high drama in the battles for governors’ mansions in 2022.
Republicans, though, still have an edge in the contests.
In 2020, the 11 gubernatorial races resulted in only one change in party control over a state executive branch. Republicans picked up Montana’s open seat, with Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte as governor-elect, while outgoing, term-limited Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock lost a Senate bid.
That will be much different in 2022. More than half of the states in the nation, 36, will hold gubernatorial elections in two years, with 16 controlled by Democrats and 20 by Republicans.
Many of those have incumbent governors in states that flipped their presidential preference from President Trump from 2016 to 2020.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, which President-elect Joe Biden won by just 10,457 votes, is term-limited and can’t run again.
“With an open contest, it could go either way, depending upon who runs and the national mood,” Chad Kinsella, a professor of political science at Ball State University, told the Washington Examiner.
In Georgia, where Biden won by 11,779 votes, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has butted heads with both Republicans and Democrats on both his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and about his administration of the 2020 election. On Tuesday, Trump retweeted a threat to put Kemp in jail, potentially damaging the governor’s ability to court the Republican base.
Kemp could face a rematch against Democratic star Stacey Abrams, whom he narrowly beat in 2018. Abrams, the former Georgia state House minority leader, is reportedly planning another run for governor.
But the 2022 cycle has some good news for Republicans.
“Given that Joe Biden will occupy the White House and the party in power tends to underperform, it will likely be a good year for Republicans,” Kinsella said.