News & Politics

Democrats Eyeing GOP Governorships

Democrats Eyeing GOP Governorships
Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards addresses supporters at his election night watch party in New Orleans, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Edwards won the runoff election for Louisiana governor Saturday, defeating the once-heavy favorite, Republican David Vitter, and handing the Democrats their first statewide victory since 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The race for control of the House of Representatives has been getting a lot of press lately. And with 39 Republicans (so far) announcing their retirement, Democrats are licking their chops because these open seats usually go to the party out of power the first midterm of a president’s tenure.

The latest rat to leave the GOP sinking ship is Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court recently ruled that the state’s congressional districts were gerrymandered and put a new map in place for November’s midterm elections. Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block new congressional maps.

A two-term congressman, Costello won his previous races in a then-more favorable district for Republicans with 57% of the vote in 2016 and 56% in 2014.

The new map, however, favors Democrats in the redrawn district, which encompasses Chester County and the largely Democratic city of Reading, and will be tough for Republicans to hold.

The House isn’t the only danger spot for Republicans. There are 36 governor’s races on tap this year and the GOP controls 26 of them. With that many seats at risk, Republicans might be looking at a nightmare scenario for 2020: Democrats in control of key states for the presidential election and the census where new district lines will be drawn.


Of 36 gubernatorial seats up for grabs this year, 26 are held by Republicans. The Democrats’ top targets are Ohio, Florida and Michigan, where they have been out of power for years. If they succeed, the party stands to gain strength on three critically important fronts:

  • Policy issues ranging from Medicaid expansion to environmental protection and gay rights.
  • Congressional and state legislative redistricting after the 2020 census.
  • National candidate development: Two of the past three Democratic presidents were governors, but the ranks have been thin recently.

“The governor’s races this year are even more important than Congress,” says Terry McAuliffe, who just stepped down as Virginia governor and is a former party chairman. Republicans remember the impact of their 2010 sweep. They devoted huge resources to state races, then dominated redistricting the next year. The result: a policy and political counterweight to a Democratic White House.

The fruits of state battles are already becoming clear. The GOP’s gerrymandering in Pennsylvania in 2011 was overturned this year, thanks in part to help of a Democratic governor who took  office in 2015. The result? Three to five House seats this fall, Democrats say.

But they still are suffering from partisan lines in Ohio, Michigan and Florida. All three are purple; only a third of their combined 57 members of the House are Democrats.

In recent months, in part reflecting a national tide, Democrats have become more optimistic about contests in Ohio and Michigan.

This may be a case of coattails in reverse, where Democratic opportunities to gain House seats drive voters to the polls, who then vote for the Dem candidate for governor.

This is only possible because the Republican Party is in such bad odor with voters in their own base. That budget-busting, $1.3 trillion budget bill may have been the last straw for many GOP voters. But disgust has been building for months. True, the tax cut passed — but it may be a case of “what have you done for me lately” that keeps GOP voters and home and hands state houses and House districts to Democrats.