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Nate Jackson / November 7, 2018

Republicans Maintain Majority of Governorships

Tuesday featured 36 gubernatorial contests across the nation, with Republicans defending 26.

All told, Tuesday featured 36 gubernatorial contests across the nation. All but a handful were relatively perfunctory affairs. It was the exceptions that are of particular interest, as is the fact that Democrats netted an overall pickup of at least seven governorships. Still not bad considering that Republicans were defending 26 of 36 posts.

In perhaps the most-watched race in the country, Democrat Socialist Andrew Gillum lost to Republican Ron DeSantis. Florida is a critical bellwether state, and DeSantis’s victory — combined with outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s win over incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson — is a welcome sign. And yet there’s a cloud. Also on Tuesday, Florida restored voting rights to 1.5 million felons, who vote overwhelmingly Democrat. Donald Trump won Florida in 2016 by a little over 100,000 votes.

Neighboring Georgia remains uncalled, as Democrat Socialist Stacey Abrams refuses to concede until “every vote gets counted,” but as we go to press, Republican Brian Kemp leads by nearly 100,000 votes out of almost four million cast. Two factors are at play in the race remaining uncalled. First, Georgia law requires the winner to exceed 50%, which Kemp currently does at 50.5%. Abrams is hoping that absentee and provisional ballots will pull Kemp under that 50% threshold and put the two in a December runoff. Second, and maybe more to the point, Abrams’s entire campaign was built on painting Kemp as a racist vote suppressor. As executive director of the New Georgia Project, she worked to flood Secretary of State Kemp’s office with voter registrations and then insisted he was racist for working to weed out the fraudulent ones. She’s dedicated to keeping that message going.

Notably, Barack Obama hit the trail for both Gillum and Abrams and appears to have come up empty.

Other notable races include Scott Walker’s defeat in Wisconsin. He won two terms and a recall, but he couldn’t keep the streak alive in a state that isn’t as red as Republicans once hoped. Likewise, Kansas turned blue, as incumbent Republican Kris Kobach couldn’t overcome the negative baggage of Sam Brownback’s administration, and Illinois ousted the worst Republican in the country, Bruce Rauner, opting for unified Democrat control under governor-elect J. B. Pritzker. Yet in the Northeast, Republicans held on in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, meaning they still hold four of 10 governorships in the region. And Republican Mike Dunleavy flipped Alaska, even after the incumbent independent dropped out and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich.

Much of the nation’s economic progress depends on state administrations, and Republicans will still control a majority of governorships.

(Updated.)

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