2022 Gubernatorial Guide
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
36 Governor’s offices are up for election in 2022, with 17 currently held by Democrats and 19 currently held by Republicans. Republicans expect to flip multiple seats in 2022, not only because of a friendly political environment but also because Democrats have to defend their gains from the 2018 Blue Wave midterms. While Republicans have to defend their gains from the successful 2016 elections in the Senate, Democrats control the majority of swing states in governor's elections. Democrats currently hold office in the Obama-Trump-Clinton trifecta of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, with Tony Evers (D-WI) and Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) expecting to face harsh re-election battles. Republicans control offices in Arizona, Florida, and Georgia, with Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Brian Kemp (R-GA) hoping for only semi-competitive paths to re-election. Governors Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and Tom Wolf (D-PA) cannot run for a third term because of term limits in their state constitution in two states narrowly won by Joe Biden, but Republicans appear poised to win both of these open elections. Republicans and Democrats each enjoy a tremendous pickup opportunity in a state that their Presidential nominee won by double digits in 2020. Laura Kelly (D-KS) has nearly an impossible task of maintaining her office after beating poor Republican nominee Kris Kobach in 2018. On the East Coast, popular incumbent Larry Hogan (R-MD) has been term-limited out, and Democrats expect to gain his seat. But the bottom line for the 2022 Gubernatorial Season is that Republicans are poised to complete an absolute takeover of state governments. Biden won 25 states just a year ago, but Republicans could control up to 33 or even 34 of the nation’s 50 Governor’s offices only 2 years later; our model expects Republicans to gain 3.3 offices to increase their advantage from 28-22 to 31.3-18.7.
Top Five Flip Opportunities:
1. Kansas (Democratic Incumbent Laura Kelly)
In 2018, Republicans nominated Kris Kobach, the sitting Secretary of State in Kansas, as their governor’s nominee. Kobach is best known for his hardline far-right immigration views and has experienced backlash for ideas such as creating a registry for Muslims in the United States. Kelly beat Kobach by 5% in 2018, but she will likely not face as polarizing of a candidate in 2022. It will be hard for Kelly to be re-elected in a red state in a red wave year.
2. Maryland (Open Office, Held by R)
Larry Hogan (R-MD) cannot run for a third term in 2022, so Republicans will have to find a new nominee for the first time in more than a decade. Given that a Maryland Republican outside of Hogan hasn’t won a major statewide race since 2002, it will be hard to find a replacement. Hypothetical polling indicates that Republicans similar to Trump are likely to be dominated, but Republicans similar to Hogan could very well defeat the Democratic nominee. We will be following the Republican Primary closely, as the results could go a long way towards determining the outcome of the general election.
3. Pennsylvania (Open Office, Held by D)
Josh Shapiro (D-PA) is already the de-facto nominee for the Democrats, as he is the only major declared candidate. Shapiro is the sitting Attorney General and certainly has the chance to rescue the election, even in a Republican-leaning political environment. The Republican Primary is wide open, and no high profile candidates have declared yet.
4. Wisconsin (Democratic Incumbent Tony Evers)
The Republican Primary in the Wisconsin Governor’s race could be one of the more interesting ones of the cycle. Donald Trump gave his coveted endorsement to Sean Duffy, a past representative who will most likely win the primary. But other candidates have also scored high profile endorsements as well; businessman Jonathan Wichmann was endorsed by Michael Flynn and former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was endorsed by Scott Walker.
5. Nevada (Democratic Incumbent Steve Sisolak)
The Republican Primary in Nevada appears to be a two-ran race in between ex-Senator Dean Heller and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Lombardo’s political positions on many issues are not known but he has taken some moderate viewpoints in the past. For example, Lombardo supported a high-capacity magazine effect. But Heller has won statewide races in the past, and he should not be underestimated.