A Look at the 2014 Gubernatorial Landscape

A lot of focus this election season is trained on the battle for Capitol Hill.  And rightly so, with the majority in the Senate up for grabs and Democrats hoping to avoid another harmful midterm election in the House.  But there are also a host of gubernatorial battles being waged this year.  In fact, the midterm elections every four years mark a bonanza of statehouse contests. Thirty-six of the nation’s fifty states will be choosing their chief executive this November.

In 2010, the last midterm election, thirty-seven gubernatorial elections produced a staggering 17 partisan takeovers – 11 by Republicans, 5 by Democrats, and independent Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island.  Add to that count several states in which sitting governors were term-limited, decided against running for reelection, or lost their primary, and you have a remarkable statistic.  Twenty-six states -- over half the states in the country -- welcomed a new governor in 2011.

So do we have the same kind of shakeup in store in 2014?  Probably not, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of interesting and competitive races to enjoy this year.

Here’s a look at a baker’s dozen of states which have at least a decent chance of electing a governor from a different party on Election Day.  I’ve ranked them and categorized them according to their level of vulnerability.

Easy Pickup (1 Republican)

  1. Pennsylvania – Republican Tom Corbett is struggling mightily under approval ratings that make President Obama’s numbers look enviable.  Former Pennsylvania Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf is the prohibitive favorite to earn the takeover.

Lean Toward Takeover (2 Democrats)

  1. Arkansas – If Democrat Governor Mike Beebe were free to run for a third term, this race would not be on this list.  As it turns out, however, he is term-limited, and the door is open for a Republican to win the statehouse this year in this ever-reddening state. Asa Hutchinson, the former congressman, is the GOP nominee.  All three polls taken recently give him leads ranging from 3 to 6 points over Democrat Mike Ross, another former congressman.
  2. Hawaii – Democrat Governor Neil Abercrombie has a treacherous re-election path ahead of him.  First, he must contend with a strong primary challenge from state Senator David Ige.  Then, if he survives, he faces a daunting three-way race with Mufi Hannemann, former Democratic mayor of Honolulu, siphoning off votes as an independent.  And, to top it off, the Republican nominee, former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona, is ahead in the polls.  Despite Hawaii’s very deep blue hue, Aiona appears well-positioned to earn the governorship.