On November 8, millions of voters in 36 states and three territories will choose a new governor in match-ups dominated by abortion access, transgender rights, taxes, education and future elections.
Only five races look truly competitive – three in the modern swing states of Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin.
The historically-Democrat Oregon could elect its first Republican governor in 40 years and the votes in New York and Wisconsin are getting tighter in the polls with less than a month to go.
DailyMail.com also highlighted races to watch, including top GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis’ battle with Charlie Crist in Florida and Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams in a re-match in Georgia after their nail-biting race in 2018.
There is also a former White House press secretary and a Democrat once considered to be one of her party’s rising stars – who could lose her rematch against a Republican former President Donald Trump tried to take down.
Here are the five most competitive governor’s races:
Arizona’s close governor’s race is between Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (left) and the Trump-backed for TV news anchor Kari Lake (right)
Arizona: Katie Hobbs (D) vs. Kari Lake (R)
During the days following the 2020 presidential election – as Arizona looked poised to flip blue – Arizona’s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs became a television personality.
In November, she’s on the ballot against a former TV news anchor, the Trump-backed Kari Lake, who’s loudly and proudly spouted the so-called ‘big lie.’
Lake’s also used absurdist rhetoric to hammer Hobbs on abortion, saying her Democratic opponent supports the procedure ‘right up until birth.’
Hobbs has said her position is that the government should stay out of the decision, which is between a woman and her doctor.
The race is extremely tight. FiveThirtyEight gave each candidate a 50-50 chance of winning. The most recent poll, conducted by CBS/YouGov, had each woman at 47 percent support. The Real Clear Politics polling average gave Lake a teenie advantage of 1.1 percent, within the margin of error in every public opinion poll conducted.
Unlike other 2022 races, there will be no debate.
Hobbs declined to participate, saying Lake would create a ‘circus.’
Kansas’ Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly (left) is in a good position to retain her post in the red state against Republican Derek Schmidt (right)
Kansas: Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vs. Derek Schmidt (R)
When Kansas’ Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly won election in 2018, it seemed to be a fluke.
Kelly, a longtime legislator from Topeka, toppled Kris Kobach, the state’s secretary of state, who had chaired former President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, which was created to back up his 2016 fraud claims – that Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote because millions of votes were illegally cast by noncitizens.
Kobach had made those claims, and also expressed a number of hardline positions on immigration.
Kelly was able to win the governor’s mansion voicing moderation and linking Kobach to the state’s last Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who was unpopular.
Now four years later, Kelly – a Democrat in a state that voted for Trump in 2020 by 15 points – was expected to have an uphill climb.
Instead, she’s ahead.
FiveThirtyEight gives Kelly a 65 percent chance of beating Kansas’ three-term Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
To blame, according to a Hotline assessment from September, is Schmidt’s ‘lackluster campaign and poor fundraising.’ ‘The race will be tight, but Kelly is in a much stronger position now than she was just a few months ago,’ Hotline said. ‘What’s the matter with Kansas? According to some national GOP strategists, it’s the Republican nominee, Derek Schmidt.’
Also in August, Kansans overwhelmingtly voted to keep abortion legal in the state, another sign that could be good for the Democrat come November.
Nevada’s Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak (left) could be deprived a second term thanks to Republican Joe Lombardo (right)
Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) vs. Joe Lombardo (R)
Unlike a lot of Republican candidates on the 2022 ballot, Nevada’s GOP gubernatorial hopeful Joe Lombardo is keeping former President Donald Trump at an arm’s distance.
While Lombardo appeared alongside Trump at a recent rally, at his debate alongside Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, Lombardo – the Clark County sheriff – refused to call Trump a ‘great’ president, opting for ‘sound’ instead, and said the ex-president’s false election fraud claims bothered him.
It could be a smart strategy in a swing state that twice rejected Trump.
Lombardo decided to run against Sisolak after disagreeing with the Democrat’s COVID-19 handling – like many Republicans, he believed business and school closures, along with mask mandates, to be heavy handed.
He’s also modeled his candidacy after the successful one of GOP Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who made education a centerpiece.
The two candidates have also traded barbs on abortion and crime, but in the tourist-heavy state the No. 1 issue, by far, is inflation and the economy, which could spell trouble for the Democratic incumbent.
Still, Democrats are known for winning tight races in the Silver State, especially with the help of the powerful Culinary Workers Union.
But with the death of former Senate Leader Harry Reid, who died in December and ran the state’s political machine, Democratic turnout is a big question mark.
Democrats ‘have to turn out, and the so-called Reid machine, which was started by Harry Reid, needs to show it still can work even without Harry Reid around,’ Jon Ralston, the CEO of the Nevada Independent and likely the state’s top political expert, told The Hill this week.
Oregon’s three-way governor’s race could usher in the first Republican governor in 40 years. Candidates include (from left) Republican Christine Drazan, Democratic nominee Tina Kotek and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson
Oregon: Christine Drazan (R) vs. Tina Kotek (D) vs. Betsy Johnson (unaffiliated)
The last time Oregon elected a Republican governor was in November 1982 – 40 years ago – with the re-election of incumbent GOP Gov. Victor Atiyeh. The state’s been solid blue since then, but Republican gubernatorial hopeful Christine Drazan is giving the GOP its best shot in decades.
‘There’s a pretty darn good chance that Drazan could win,’ Pacific University political science professor Jim Moore told Willamette Week earlier this month.
She’s running against Democrat Tina Kotek, the former speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. The two women have stood in opposition before, as Drazan was the Oregon House’s minority leader. Under Drazan’s leadership, Oregon House Republicans refused to show up for floor sessions, denying the Democratic supermajority a quorum. Kotek and Drazan also battled over redistricting after the 2020 census.
‘She’s uniquely talented and incredibly ruthless,’ Greg Leo, the former chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, told Willamette Week of Drazan. ‘She rose quickly and broke some china in the process.’
Drazan has tied Kotek to outgoing Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who in May was ranked the least popular governor nationwide in a Morning Consult poll. Brown’s taken heat for her handling of pandemic closures and the state’s rise in homelessness, both potent campaign issues.
Kotek also has to contend with an unaffiliated candidate on the ballot, longtime Democratic politician Betsy Johnson, who in recent polls is seemingly siphoning Democratic votes.
Kotek’s one of the rare endangered Democrats to call on President Joe Biden’s help.
He’ll travel to the Beaver State later this week to campaign alongside her.
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (left) is being challenged by Republican construction magnate Tim Michels (right) in the Wisconsin governor’s race.
Wisconsin: Gov. Tony Evers (D) vs. Tim Michels (R)
Of the 28 incumbent governors seeking re-election this fall, only Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had a negative approval rating with voters in his state at the beginning of the cycle, according to Morning Consult.
That has left him in a close race against the Republican Tim Michels.
Wednesday’s Marquette Law School Poll puts Evers at 47 percent support, versus Michels at 46 percent among Wisconsin likely voters. The Real Clear Politics polling average has the candidates tied, while FiveThirtyEight gives the Democratic incumbent a slight advantage.
The Trump-backed Michels, a construction magnate, won the Republican primary in August over the state’s former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who had the blessing of former Vice President Mike Pence, in a race that was considered a proxy battle between the former running mates.
Both Republicans had questioned the results of the 2020 presidential election, but Michels called for abolishing the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
He said instead he’d like to see a state elections board made up of members from each of Wisconsin’s eight Congressional districts – which would make it easier for Republicans to control it.
The current makeup of the commission is three Democrats and three Republicans.
Wisconsin is one of three swing states that had turned red once for Trump and then back to blue for President Joe Biden, making it ripe for the ex-president’s false claims of widespread fraud.
The two candidates will participate in only one debate, slated for Friday night.
Political newcomer Chris Jones (left), a Democrat, is running for Arkansas governor against Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders (right), the most prominent Trumpworld White House figure hoping to make the transition into elected office this year
Arkansas: Chris Jones (D) vs. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the most prominent Trumpworld White House figure hoping to make the transition into elected office this year.
The former White House press secretary is running to become Arkansas’ next governor, as current Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is term-limited.
Her dad, Mike Huckabee – a two-time GOP presidential hopeful – formerly held the job. And like her father, and former President Bill Clinton, another ex-Arkansas governor, Sanders was born in Hope, Arkansas.
If elected, she’d be the first female governor of the state.
Sanders is running against Democrat Chris Jones, a nuclear engineer new to politics, who’s vowed to support law enforcement, as many Democrats are being politically damaged by left-wing members of their party’s calls to ‘defund the police.’
This week, Sanders pushed that messaging, releasing a ‘plan for a Safer, Stronger Arkansas,’ with the pledge to ‘never defund the police.’
Unlike the Pennsylvania Senate race, where Democrat John Fetterman’s stroke has become a central issue in the race, Sanders’ recent battle with thyroid cancer was met only by a statement from Jones’ family with wishes of ‘hope, love, and healing.’
‘Our family has been on this journey before and, while it’s not easy, we know personally the power of prayer, the healing hand of God, and the strength that comes from being surrounded by community,’ the Jones family said.
While Sanders is heavily favored – FiveThirtyEight gives her a 99 percent chance of winning the race – if Jones pulls off a miracle he’ll make history too, as the first black governor of the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) is being challenged by Democrat Charlie Crist (right), a former Florida governor, who changed parties, lost a gubernatorial election and then served in Congress as a Democrat
Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vs. Charlie Crist (D)
Florida’s governor’s race is one to watch not for election day, but what happens after.
The incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis needs to jump over this hurdle before he can seriously consider a White House bid.
DeSantis has consistently been ranked the No. 2 choice by Republican voters for the 2024 nomination – coming behind former President Donald Trump, of course.
He’s also the only one polling at double-digits, whereas other potential contenders, like former Vice President Mike Pence and former U.N. Amb. Nikki Haley, clock in around 8 and 3 percent, respectively.
DeSantis, who has riled up Democrats nationally for knocking down COVID restrictions and the controversial ‘don’t say gay’ bill in Florida schools, is on the ballot facing former Rep. Charlie Crist, an ex-governor and an ex-Republican governor at that.
Crist changed parties 10 years ago after throwing his support behind then-President Barack Obama in the 2012 re-election race.
Crist subsequently lost the 2014 gubernatorial election to now GOP Sen. Rick Scott.
He then ran for Congress in 2016, only giving up his seat in August, after easily beating Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary for governor.
Despite all the name recognition, only one poll, in early August, has ever shown Crist ahead.
The Real Clear Politics polling average gives DeSantis a 7.8 point advantage, while FiveThirtyEight’s model shows DeSantis winning 94 percent of the time.
Democrat Stacey Abrams (left) is engaged in a rematch for Georgia governor against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp (right), who became a thorn in former President Donald Trump’s side in the aftermath of his 2020 election loss
Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp (R) vs. Stacey Abrams (D)
Georgia’s gubernatorial race is a 2018 rematch – with Democrat Stacey Abrams trying to oust incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp from the governor’s mansion.
While the first time these two foes appeared on the ballot together the race was a nail-biter, Kemp has held a consistent lead.
Part of Abrams’ trouble is that Kemp became a thorn in former President Donald Trump’s side in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election when Georgia went blue. And so while he might not get the MAGA stamp of approval – Trump backed his primary challenger, former Sen. David Perdue – he’s attractive to more traditional Republicans and independents.
He retained 76 percent approval among GOP voters as Perdue was trying to knock him out.
Still, Abrams has tried to link Kemp to Trump politically.
‘He’s getting this cloak of mainstream niceties, when he is as vicious and as callous and as aggressively opposed to our freedoms than every iteration of Donald Trump,’ the Democrat said in a recent interview. ‘In fact, he was Trump before Trump was.’
Georgia elections are notoriously squeakers and Abrams remained optimistic she will win this time due to an influx of new voters that lean Democratic.
New York’s Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul (left) is leading Republican challenger Lee Zeldin (right), but several new polls suggest the Empire State race could be tighter than it has been in previous cycles
New York: Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) vs. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R)
A recent poll out of New York showed the Empire State may be experiencing a bit of a Cuomo hangover.
A shocking Trafalgar Group survey had Republican gubernatorial hopeful Lee Zeldin just two points behind Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul.
One survey since has shown what’s more typical – the Democrat eight points ahead in an ultra-blue state.
But even that is exciting Republicans.
The last time a gubernatorial candidate won by fewer than 10 points in New York was in 1994, when Republican George Pataki surprised the establishment by winning election over three-term Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo.
That Cuomo was the late father of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who Hochul took over for after he resigned from office in August 2021 over sexual harassment claims.
Hochul, of course, is still well positioned to win.
But the Republican Governors Association decided to at least bet some money on Zeldin, throwing $450,000 at a pro-Zeldin super PAC to run ads against Hochul, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Zeldin has hammered Hochul on crime and inflation.
In turn, she has linked him to former President Donald Trump – as Zeldin was a prominent supporter – and highlighted his opposition to abortion rights.
Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial hopeful Doug Mastriano (left) – dressed in controversial Confederate Civil War gear – is trailing Democrat Josh Shapiro (right) in the Keystone State’s governor’s race
Pennsylvania: Doug Mastriano (R) vs. Josh Shapiro (D)
The Pennsylvania governor’s mansion should have been Republicans’ for the taking.
The notoriously swingy state, which likes to flop between parties when electing governors, had at its helm Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who Morning Consult ranked No. 45 out of 50 in popularity earlier this year.
Wolf irritated many Pennsylvanians with what they considered overzealous COVID restrictions.
But former President Donald Trump saw the writing on the wall – that hard-right candidate Doug Mastriano was poised to win the state’s GOP primary – and backed him at the last minute, cementing his win.
Mastriano, a state senator, led the charge to contest the results of the 2020 election.
The Democrat, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, ran unopposed allowing him to get a major lead in fundraising.
Now with less than a month to go, FiveThirtyEight gives Shapiro a 96 percent chance of winning.
The Real Clear Politics polling average puts the Democrat 11.6 points ahead.
One of the most perplexing moments in the campaign came when Reuters unearthed a photograph of Mastriano dressed in a Confederate Civil War uniform.
It came from the candidate’s time teaching at the Army War College, with faculty being told they could dress up like a historical figure.
However, it’s not representative of Pennsylvania’s history – as the state’s soldiers fought for the Union. And Mastriano represents Gettysburg, where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War was fought.