ADEA State Update

Midterm Elections: Governors and State Legislatures

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As the few states that remain in legislative session wrap up their work for the year, many elected officials in state governments are turning their attention to upcoming midterm elections. This year, 36 states will hold elections for governor, and roughly 80% of state legislative seats across the country face a vote. It is not unusual for presidential politics to have an impact on state midterm elections, and Democrats are hoping that President Trump’s low approval ratings will result in a blue wave this November, while Republicans hope the strong economy will result in continued control for the GOP.

Among the 36 gubernatorial seats up for reelection, 26 are currently held by Republicans, nine are held by Democrats and one is held by an independent. Based on current polling, it appears Republicans will maintain an advantage in the overall number of states led by GOP governors, but it is likely Democrats will make significant gains. According to the Cook Political Report, current polling indicates Democrats are unlikely to lose any of the seats they currently hold, and at least three governorships currently held by Republicans are likely to flip. The site currently rates races for eight seats held by Republicans as tossups and only one held by a Democrat as a tossup. The only likely gain for Republicans in November will be Alaska, where the Governorship is currently held by an independent.

On the legislative side, historical data show that the party in opposition to the sitting president usually makes significant gains during midterm elections. One reason for this may be that fewer than 20% of Americans can name one of their representatives at the state level. As a result, people tend to be less versed in state issues, and midterm state legislative elections often become a referendum on sitting presidents. Much like the gubernatorial elections, Republicans hold significant leads in the state legislatures, and while they are unlikely to lose that lead, Democrats may gain control in states where legislatures are split or Republicans hold a small lead.

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