The balance of power could flip in Washington after next year’s midterm elections if Republicans win a House and/or Senate majority. But state legislatures and governor’s mansions could be in for dramatic changes as well. With 36 governorships up in 2022, here are five among the most likely to change party control.
If Georgia Republicans want to maintain control of the Peach State’s governor’s mansion, they will have to unify behind a candidate after what’s shaping up to be a brutal primary.
Former Sen. David Purdue, backed by former President Donald Trump, is running a primary campaign against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The first-term governor sparked Trump’s ire for not backing his baseless claims of a stolen election in 2020, when Georgia chose a Democratic presidential nominee for the first time since 1992. Trump vowed revenge against Kemp and other GOP officials who did not overturn election results.
Purdue in January was defeated for reelection to his Senate seat.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the state have largely coalesced around Stacey Abrams, a former state House minority leader who Kemp narrowly defeated in 2018. Should Kemp survive his primary, the two candidates will have a rematch election. The Cook Political Report has ranked Georgia’s gubernatorial race as a toss-up.
Term limits prevent Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey from running for reelection in 2022, and the race to succeed him has also been ranked as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. Trump endorsed former news anchor Kari Lake, who has echoed his claims of a stolen election, in a crowded Republican primary, but she has not emerged as a clear front-runner. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is a front-runner for Democrats.
Michigan’s gubernatorial race is another toss-up, in which incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is running for reelection. Whitmer rose to national prominence for her aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but her approval rating has started to plummet in recent months, signaling Michigan voters might lean Republican in 2022. A dozen GOP candidates have already entered the gubernatorial primary, including James Craig, the former chief of Detroit police, and activist Garrett Soldano. Others may enter the race, including John James, who ran a failed bid for Senate last year.
Another closely watched toss-up race will take place in the Keystone State, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is term-limited. Attorney General Josh Shapiro has emerged as a Democratic front-runner. A crowded Republican field is still taking shape, but it will include former Reps. Melissa Hart and Lou Barletta.
Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited and unable to seek reelection again. Hogan enjoyed high approval ratings throughout his time in office, despite leading an overwhelmingly Democratic state. But since Hogan was willing to buck his own party frequently, as well as Trump, it is unlikely another Republican candidate will replicate his level of electoral success. The Cook Political Report has ranked the race as leaning Democratic.
Maryland’s gubernatorial primaries are proving crowded, with about a dozen candidates currently divided between the parties. The Democratic field includes former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, also the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Perez was recently endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As in Maryland, a popular Republican governor in a blue state will retire next year, virtually ensuring Democrats win control of the governor’s mansion in the Bay State.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced this month he will not seek a third term as governor next year. In a surprise announcement, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also declined a bid for governor. Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl is running as a pro-Trump Republican, but his path to the governor’s mansion is unclear in a state that rejected the former president by wide margins.
Baker’s exit sets the stage for a crowded Democratic primary, with state Attorney General Maura Healey and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, formerly mayor of Boston, weighing bids, and a number of candidates including state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, former state Sen. Ben Downing, and Danielle Allen, a Harvard professor, have formally entered the race.