With the 2023 election cycle in full swing, we’re announcing our inaugural slate of gubernatorial ratings. Because of the limited number of seats up in both the 2023 and 2024 cycles, we’re folding the two into a single slate here. Stay tuned to Elections Daily throughout these two election cycles for further updates and coverage of these important races.
2023 Gubernatorial Ratings
- Kentucky (Andy Beshear, Democratic) – Incumbent Democrat Andy Beshear is running for a second term. In a very good sign for Democrats, Beshear is wildly popular – polls show him with an approval rating upwards of 60%. It’s almost unheard of for a popular governor to lose re-election. That being said, Kentucky’s statewide lean is clearly Republican, and Republicans have a competent recruit themselves in Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Cameron, a protege of Mitch McConnell, was the first African-American elected to statewide office. Polling for this election has been limited, but shows a close race so far. We’re rating this as a Tossup at the moment, and will be closely following as we approach the November election.
- Louisiana (Open, Democratic) – Incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards is term-limited. While Edwards is quite popular, his polling numbers don’t appear to have translated to any other Democrat in the state. Shawn Wilson, a former official in the Edwards administration, appears to be the favorite candidate for the Democratic Party. A wide field of Republicans has already announced, but Attorney General Jeff Landry has the party endorsement and seems set to advance through the jungle primary
Polling for both the runoff has been limited, but consistent; the Republican candidate leads the Democratic one by double-digits. We simply don’t see a path to victory here for Democrats. Safe Republican.
- Mississippi (Tate Reeves, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Tate Reeves is running for re-election. Reeves narrowly won in 2019 against popular Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and has had a tumultuous term as governor, but his approval ratings are still broadly at or above water. Democrats have consolidated around Brandon Presley, a Mississippi Public Service Commissioner. We think this race has the potential to be relatively close – perhaps in the eight to ten-point range – but we don’t think Presely, a relative unknown statewide, has a real shot at winning right now. We’re rating this at Safe Republican, but will be keeping an eye on how this race progresses.
2024 Gubernatorial Ratings
- North Carolina (Open, Democratic) – Without a doubt, North Carolina is set to have the most competitive gubernatorial race of the 2024 cycle. Popular incumbent Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is term-limited. Uniquely, both parties appear to have consolidated around their likely nominees. On the Democratic side, two-term attorney general Josh Stein is the odds-on favorite. Stein isn’t a well-known figure statewide, and he only won his two terms by 0.4% and 0.1%, respectively. However, he’s an inoffensive, if uninspiring, figure and has support from both moderates and liberals within the party.
Republican leadership has united around lieutenant governor Mark Robinson, a firebrand popular among the party’s conservative base. The first black lieutenant governor in state history, Robinson has acquired a statewide profile for himself – and not in a good way. Robinson is a staunch social conservative; he’s described “transgenderism and homosexuality” as “filth”, complained about the influence of Jewish writers on Hollywood, and most recently, confusingly complained that dictators like Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, and Adolf Hitler were being taken out of context. Despite this, Robinson easily won a first term in 2020, and he’s led in all but a handful of polls so far.
We’re opening this race as a Tossup. North Carolina’s Republican lean is consistent and fairly stable, and Robinson has shown no unique vulnerabilities in polling. However, it remains to be seen how he’ll function as a forward-facing statewide candidate for a major office. Stein also can’t be underrated; his margins in both of his wins were slim, but were both during years Republicans won most statewide offices.
- New Hampshire (Chris Sununu, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Chris Sununu isn’t running for President, but hasn’t made a decision on whether or not to run for a fifth two-year term. For now, we’re holding this race at Likely Republican. If Sununu opts for another term, we’ll likely shift it to Safe Republican; if he declines, we’ll be moving this race to the Tossup column.
- Vermont (Phil Scott, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Phil Scott hasn’t announced if he’ll be running for a fifth two-year term. Despite Vermont’s status as one of the nation’s bluest states, Scott is insanely popular. He won re-election in 2022 with 71% of the vote, carrying every town in the state in the process. If he runs, we’ll be shifting this race to the Safe Republican column. If he decides not to run, this becomes a Likely Democratic or Safe Democratic race.
- Delaware (Open, Democratic) – Incumbent Democrat John Carney is term-limited. The only real contest in the election is likely to be for the Democratic nomination; Republicans don’t really have a bench in this reliably blue state. Safe Democratic.
- Indiana (Open, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Eric Holcomb is term-limited. While Indiana gubernatorial elections have been competitive in recent memory, we have no reason to believe this election will be. Senator Mike Braun is the odds-on favorite for the gubernatorial nomination, and state Democrats lack anything resembling a competent bench. Safe Republican.
- Missouri (Open, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Mike Parson is term-limited, making this office an open one for 2024. In 2020, polls showed a close race for the whole cycle, only for Parson to defeat Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway by an unexpected 16-point landslide. Like other outlets, we assumed the race would be competitive; we won’t be making that mistake again. Safe Republican.
- Montana (Greg Gianforte, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Greg Gianforte hasn’t announced his plans for the 2024 cycle yet. However, whether he runs or not, this gubernatorial race is unlikely to be competitive. Gianforte won is 2020 by a 13-point margin, and with all eyes likely to be on the Senate contest, we don’t think Democrats will be able to field a real challenge here. Safe Republican.
- North Dakota (Doug Burgum, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Doug Burgum is running for president, potentially leaving this seat open for the 2024 cycle. We don’t feel like the nominee will matter much here, though; North Dakota is an exceptionally red state, and no Democrat has won a gubernatorial election in the state since 1988. Safe Republican.
- Utah (Spencer Cox, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Spencer Cox is running for a second term in one of America’s reddest states. Cox was first elected in 2020, accomplishing the impressive feat of winning Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County. Since then, Cox has governed as a moderate, especially on social issues, attracting the ire of hard-right social conservatives. Despite this, Cox has high approval ratings from Republican, Democratic, and unaffiliated voters. Cox might face a primary, but regardless of the outcome we have this race as Safe Republican.
- Washington (Open, Democratic) – Incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee isn’t running for re-election, leaving this seat open. Republicans haven’t won a gubernatorial race in Washington since 1980, and we don’t expect this to change this time around. Dave Reichert, a popular former Congressman, is likely to be the Republican nominee, while a slew of Democrats are set to run.
Republicans have typically overperformed in Washington gubernatorial elections; they nearly nearly won in 2004 and 2012, and finished within 10 points in 2008 and 2016. Even 2020 saw a slight Republican overperformance despite a subpar nominee. If this were a decade ago, a candidate like Reichert would be enough to place this seat on our radar. However, we simply don’t see a viable path for a Republican win here. We expect Reichert to overperform the Republican baseline, but overcoming a Democratic presidential margin likely to be around 20 points just isn’t going to happen. We’re rating this as Safe Democratic.
- West Virginia (Open, Republican) – Incumbent Republican Jim Justice is term-limited and running for Senate, a race we have him as the prohibitive favorite in. Justice was initially elected in 2016 as a Democrat, but an already weak party has outright imploded since then. The party has been reduced from 12 state senators (35%) to 3 (9%), and from 43 state representatives (43%) to 11 (11%) since 2016. Needless to say, we have this race as Safe Republican; the only question is whether the state’s next Governor will be Attorney General Patrick Morrissey or delegate Moore Capito.