Midterm Election Preview: Gubernatorial Races

Date: October 04, 2018

Here’s a look at the importance of the statehouse battle.

In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, most of the headlines and hype have centered around the potential power shift in Congress. However, at the state level, this election will be one of the most important for governors for the next decade.

Gary Selvy, NFIB’s Executive Director of State Government Relations, explains the two reasons why this election cycle for governors is so crucial. The first: At 36 races, the sheer number of contests is tremendous. The second: Governors play a key role in appointing, overseeing, or potentially vetoing and redistricting Congressional maps, which will affect representation in Congress for the next 10 years. Redistricting will take place after the 2020 census.

By the numbers, here’s what’s ahead:

  • In 26 of the 36 total races, the incumbent is a pro-small business governor.
  • Of those 26, half will be open seats because of term limits or retirements.
  • Republicans currently hold 33 governor seats compared with Democrats’ 16, and according to Roll Call, Democrats could potentially gain up to eight statehouses. Twenty-six are needed for a majority.
  • NFIB has issued 29 gubernatorial endorsements this fall.
  • The most important gubernatorial races are happening in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Here’s a look at a few of these key races.


Florida: Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) vs. Andrew Gillum (D)

This open-seat race is a toss-up, according to Real Clear Politics. Florida’s strong economic climate has landed it in the top 10 of numerous different lists of the best states for business in recent years, and NFIB/Florida members would like to keep it that way. In an announcement of NFIB’s endorsement of Rep. DeSantis, NFIB’s Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said, “DeSantis believes in free enterprise and supports cutting taxes and reducing the scope of government—the same policies that have grown Florida’s economy, created jobs, and positioned our state as an economic leader. Andrew Gillum’s progressive policies are an outright threat to free enterprise. His anti-business approach will deflate small business optimism, which is currently at record-breaking levels.”


Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-incumbent) vs. J.B. Pritzker (D)

In a Washington Post analysis of the top 10 governors’ races, Gov. Rauner was named one of, if not the most vulnerable governors in the nation. Real Clear Politics also listed the Illinois race as a likely win for Democrats. NFIB/Illinois has endorsed Rauner for re-election, citing his commitment to a turnaround agenda that includes regulatory reforms, property tax relief, and pension overhaul and has helped small business owners get their heads above water. By contrast, Pritzker supports labor policies like expanded state-funded healthcare and a $15 minimum wage, as well as increased environmental regulations.


Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker (R-incumbent) vs. Tony Evers (D)

If Gov. Walker wins re-election, it will be his third term in office and fourth election win in eight years, including his 2012 recall win. Real Clear Politics lists this race as a toss-up, but the Washington Post analysis estimates that this race is the least likely of the 10 to flip parties. During his time in office, Gov. Walker has been a steadfast friend to small business by signing into law various tax cuts and regulatory reforms. Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction Evers’ polices are less business-friendly. He opposes the state’s right-to-work law and recent changes to the state’s prevailing wage laws, and he supports a $15 minimum wage as well as the ability of local governments to establish their own wage rates and labor regulations.


RELATED: Visit NFIB’s Election Center to register to vote, view NFIB-endorsed candidates, and find additional small business voter resources.

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