Over the past decade, Republicans have made historic gains on the state level. Heading into the election, they control two-thirds of the governors’ mansions. But this year the GOP is playing defense.
In the two years since President Trump’s election, Democrats have found their energy. Party turnout during the primaries was high, and looking forward to the general election, Democrats could pick up more than a dozen gubernatorial seats and have the chance to become the majority.
And there is more than state policy on the line. With the 2020 census, new congressional districts will be drawn and in most states, whichever party is in control can decide where the lines go.
Also, some Democrats could make history as “firsts.” In Georgia, the state could elect Stacey Abrams who would be the country’s first female African-American governor. Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum could be Florida’s first African-American governor. And in Colorado, Jared Polis could be the first openly gay governor elected in the country.
Here, we tapped our network of political reporters and editors across the country to bring you an analysis of every gubernatorial race in 2018.
At the heart of this election is Connecticut’s money problem. The very unpopular current governor is leaving behind a $2 billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year, and voters in Connecticut are ready for a change. Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski, a former business executive, has emphasized cutting taxes to increase economic growth. He says he will phase out the state income tax and immediately cut state spending. Democrat Ned Lamont, the leader in the polls, is also a businessman and has proposed tax breaks of his own, but he also proposed highway tolls on trucks and taxes on sports betting and recreational marijuana. Lamont made national headlines in 2006 when he defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Senate primary, but he ultimately lost to Lieberman in the general election. Also in the mix is Oz Griebel, a former Republican running with no political affiliation, who petitioned his way onto the ballot. He recently retired as the head of Hartford’s business alliance, is positioning himself as a moderate and running a distant third. — Tucker Ives, Connecticut Public Radio
Florida’s race is one of the nation’s most watched. The stakes are high for Republicans, as Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, tries to “flip Florida blue” after 20 years of Republicans holding power in state government. Gillum’s opponent is former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is backed by President Trump. Late-in-the-race polls show Gillum holding as little as a 1-point lead. The candidates stand as polar opposites ideologically. DeSantis wants to cut the corporate income tax, while Gillum hopes to raise it 2 percent to boost education funding. Gillum wants to expand Medicare. DeSantis says he doesn’t support “government takeover of health care.” The Democratic candidate, who has been ahead in most public polls since his surprise win in the Democratic primary, has drawn crowds in historically red strongholds in rural parts of the state. A Democratic victory would be doubly historic as Gillum would become Florida’s first black governor. Gillum may have a hurdle to overcome after a Tampa Bay Times report published text messages showing he received tickets to a Broadway show from an FBI agent in 2016. At the time, Tallahassee government was the subject of a probe by the agency. Gillum maintains he got the ticket from his brother. — Ryan Dailey, WFSU
A battle over “literally the soul of our state” is how Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has described the race in Georgia. Sure, that’s hyperbole, but it’s hard to overstate the significance of this election. Kemp’s opponent, Stacey Abrams, is a former Democratic leader in the GOP-controlled state Legislature. Abrams has called herself an “unapologetic progressive.” She would become the first female African-American governor in the country, about 50 years after Georgia’s white leaders argued in Congress against the Voting Rights Act. Voting is the most contentious issue in the race between Kemp and Abrams. They’ve fought over it for years. Claims have intensified recently that Kemp is trying to suppress the votes of people of color. The Republican, who oversees the state’s elections, calls it a manufactured crisis meant to energize Democrats. Late in the race, Former President Jimmy Carter urged Kemp to resign from his position overseeing the state’s elections. A Kemp win would mark a major shift in Georgia politics away from the rule of a moderate GOP averse to cultural fights that threaten the state’s business-friendly reputation. Kemp has called himself a “politically incorrect conservative.” In one primary ad Kemp pointed a shotgun in the direction of a teenage actor; in another, he spoke about using his truck to “round up criminal illegal aliens.” — Johnny Kauffman, WABE
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has never run for governor. She assumed the role when former Gov. Terry Branstad became ambassador to China, and now she faces a tough race against Democrat Fred Hubbell, a retired businessman who has never held public office. Most polls show the race a toss-up. Democrats have lost a lot of ground in Iowa in the past decade and this race for governor is seen as the last chance for the party to keep the state purple. Republicans took full control of the Iowa statehouse in 2016 and ushered in a lot of conservative priorities such as abortion restrictions and gutting collective bargaining for public sector workers. Reynolds, who is embracing the president, is working to paint Hubbell as out of touch. She touts the state’s low unemployment rate and $127 million budget surplus as her successes. Hubbell is working to frame Reynolds as mismanaging Medicaid and the state’s budget. — Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio
In Kansas, it’s complicated. The latest polls in the governor’s race show Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach — a firebrand conservative in the mold of Trump — in a dead heat with Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly. Kelly would most likely have a slight lead without independent Greg Orman in the race, the numbers show. And despite polling just barely above single digits, Orman is refusing to abandon his campaign for governor. Meanwhile, several big-name Republicans are urging moderate GOP voters to cross party lines for Kelly. Former Gov. Bill Graves says he hopes his first-ever endorsement of a Democrat “encourages people to stop and think about what they’re planning to do with their vote.” Other Republicans backing Kelly include former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and former Gov. Mike Hayden. Trump is stumping for Kobach and at a recent rally in Topeka called him a “tireless champion for border security.” The president told a cheering throng of supporters, “He’ll fight for you every single day.” — Jim McLean, Kansas News Service/KCUR
After eight tumultuous years, Republican Gov. Paul LePage is term-limited and leaving office. He became nationally known for his incendiary statements and use of executive power that transformed Maine’s placid political landscape. His longtime nemesis, Democratic state Attorney General Janet Mills, wants to take his place and make history as the state’s first woman elected governor. Behind her, she has a lot of financial backing. Also after the job is Republican Shawn Moody, the owner of a chain of auto body repair shops. Moody has vowed to continue LePage’s conservative policy agenda. And Mills has tried to use that to her advantage, saying that LePage was unpopular for exactly the kind of decisions that Moody says he would continue making. Mills’ path is also complicated by the independent Terry Hayes; Alan Caron recently dropped out of the race. Some Democrats fear Hayes could pull just enough center-left votes to diminish Mills’ chances. — Steve Mistler, Maine Public Radio
Nevada’s tight election is, in some respects, a vote to determine the future of the state’s identity. In recent years, Nevada has seen significant shifts in demographics with a growing immigrant and Latino population and a diversifying economy becoming less reliant on tourism and gaming. Steve Sisolak, Clark County commissioner, is hoping to capitalize on that shift to become the state’s first Democratic governor in 20 years. Sisolak’s opponent is Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s Republican attorney general who, over the course of the campaign, has portrayed the Democratic agenda as an attempt to convert the state into “East California.” It’s a message that resonates with many of the state’s older, white residents — especially those living in rural areas where industries like ranching and mining are still king. Nonpartisan candidate Ryan Bundy, whose family led two armed standoffs against the federal government in 2014 and 2016, could also add an interesting wrinkle to this year’s election. Some consider the Bundys folk heroes in Nevada’s rural counties, key for Laxalt’s win. — Paul Boger, KUNR
Although Ohio is a presidential swing state, the GOP controls all statewide offices and holds a majority in the General Assembly. Democrats hope to regain power after voters swept them out of office eight years ago. Their man is Democrat Richard Cordray, who is up against Republican Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator currently serving as the state attorney general. Cordray, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has campaigned on health care, criticizing DeWine for joining an unsuccessful lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. DeWine has attacked Cordray for supporting a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the ballot that would lower penalties for drug possession. It would also allow many prison inmates to reduce their sentences by taking part in education or work programs. Both candidates have said they would expand state support for early childhood education and would back Medicaid expansion in Ohio, although DeWine has proposed adding work requirements to the program. — Nick Castele, WCPN ideastream
Following a two-week-long teacher walkout in April, education is the issue dominating the race in Oklahoma. Republican Kevin Stitt, the CEO of a mortgage company, is vying to become a first-time politician and has made his name as a disruptor, running in the vein of Trump. The Democrat is former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who says he is returning to politics in an effort to restore Oklahoma after years of Republican leadership. Edmondson wants to roll back taxes to previous levels to fund education. Stitt says he wants Oklahoma to be No. 1 in the country for education but has been sparse on funding details, which has frustrated some educators. The race is setting up the education voting bloc against the agricultural voting bloc. As attorney general, Edmondson sued poultry companies for polluting Oklahoma’s water and later led the campaign against the failed “right to farm” state constitutional amendment in 2016. Polls show Stitt with a narrow lead over Edmondson. Chris Powell is the Libertarian candidate running a distant third. — Rachel Hubbard, KOSU
It’s been more than three decades since Oregon elected a Republican governor, but Knute Buehler could be within striking distance. The Republican state lawmaker and orthopedic surgeon has leveraged a moderate voting record to mount a formidable challenge to Democratic incumbent Gov. Kate Brown. Buehler is hoping to win over undecided voters — and even some Democrats — by pronouncing his belief in climate change, his pro-abortion-rights stance and his support for modest gun control policies. At the same time, he has been hammering Brown for failing to address a housing crisis, failing schools and a troubled public pension system. Brown can hang her hat on the success of many progressive policies, including an increased minimum wage, climate change legislation and laws extending reproductive health care access to undocumented women. She has accused Buehler of misstating a conservative voting record to woo voters. The race has become the most expensive in Oregon history, with candidates raising upwards of $12 million apiece. Most notable: the $2.5 million Buehler received from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, by far the Oregon billionaire’s largest donation to a state politician. Polls suggest Brown holds a slight edge, with a large number of voters still undecided. — Dirk VanderHart, Oregon Public Broadcasting
Either way, the winner of the race in South Dakota will make state history. If Republican Kristi Noem wins, she will be the first female governor of South Dakota. If Billie Sutton wins, he will be the first Democrat to win a governor’s race in the state in four decades. Sutton, a state senator, grew up in rural South Dakota and was a top saddle bronc rider in the world. His life changed in 2007 when his horse flipped over in the starting chute, paralyzing Sutton from the waist down. Three years later, Sutton was elected to the state Senate. He is a pro-gun, anti-abortion-rights moderate Democrat. Noem, a Republican member of the U.S. House, took over her South Dakota family farm operation after her father died in a farming accident. That experience, she says, ultimately got her involved in politics with a focus on reforming government and the tax code. Noem was instrumental in repealing the estate tax during recent federal tax cuts. While no independent polling exists at this point, most signs point to a tight race. — Lee Strubinger, South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to defy the odds in 2018, seeking a third term at a time when the political winds may be shifting against his party. In a close race, Walker faces Democrat Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s state superintendent of public instruction, who has been elected three times to that nonpartisan statewide office. Education is a big issue in this election. Evers has attacked Walker for the deep cuts he made to public schools when he first took office. In turn, Walker has bragged about the big increase in school aid he signed just last year, a budget Evers himself praised. Evers has focused his campaign on health care, criticizing Walker for approving Wisconsin’s participation in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Walker has closed by focusing on Evers’ willingness to raise a variety of taxes, including Wisconsin’s gas tax. He has also warned that Evers would undo Walker’s conservative accomplishments, like his landmark law that restricted union bargaining rights. Polling suggests Evers has an edge with independents in this race, but Wisconsin’s Republican Party has a proven record of getting its voters to turn out. — Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio
How does a governor overcome low approval ratings to emerge as a favorite for re-election? For Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, the answer includes good timing, a big campaign account and Rhode Islanders’ dislike for Trump. A series of polls show Raimondo as the favorite in the race, but she has been a polarizing figure since spearheading a controversial pension overhaul as state treasurer in 2011. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate has fallen to 3.9 percent from 6.6 percent since Raimondo took office in 2015, though, and she takes credit for helping to improve the state’s economy through attracting new businesses and for workforce training. The 2018 race is a rematch of 2014 when Raimondo became the state’s first female governor by beating Republican Allan Fung, the mayor of Cranston, by fewer than 5 points. Fung is running again and has accused Raimondo of mismanaging the state. But Raimondo, a prodigious fundraiser, has spent more than $5 million on her campaign. Then there’s former GOP lawmaker Joe Trillo, a Trump enthusiast, who is running as an independent, helping Raimondo by drawing conservative voters. — Ian Donnis, The Public’s Radio
In Colorado, it’s been an expensive race for governor. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis made millions in e-commerce and backs single-payer health care, set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, supports greater distances between oil and gas drilling operations and homes and schools, and wants the state to fund preschool and full-day kindergarten. And, if he wins, Polis would be the first openly gay governor ever elected in the U.S. He’s up against Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who has been elected twice to statewide office and is staking out mainstream Republican positions. Stapleton has criticized Polis for making promises that he believes are too extreme for a purple state like Colorado. Stapleton is comfortable with Colorado’s current regulations on oil and gas drilling and pledges to put existing state and federal money into transportation funding, a top priority for him. He has, at times, distanced himself from Trump, despite supporting the recent federal tax changes. Recent polls show Polis leading Stapleton by a comfortable margin. — Bente Birkeland, Colorado Public Radio
Michigan’s “blue wall” for presidential elections crumbled in 2016 when the state went for Trump. For statewide elections, though, Michigan hasn’t been reliably blue for years. Currently, the state is a Republican trifecta, meaning the party holds the governor’s office and both chambers of the statehouse. But in a year when a record number of women are running for office, polls have consistently put Democrat Gretchen Whitmer ahead of Republican Bill Schuette, the state’s attorney general. Schuette hitched his star to Trump long ago, but the president has not been popular in Michigan and Schuette hasn’t clung as tightly to him in the general election as he did in the primary. While he hasn’t been invited to debates, Bill Gelineau will also be on the ballot as the Libertarian candidate. This is the first year in Michigan’s history that Libertarians were able to hold a primary in the race. — Cheyna Roth, Michigan Radio
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was a rising star in the Republican Party as the nation’s first Latina governor when she took office eight years ago. Now term-limited, the former prosecutor has been a polarizing figure, at odds with the Legislature and even her own party. Two congressional representatives are vying to take her place this year. Republican Rep. Steve Pearce made his money in the oil business. He says the recent state surpluses from rising oil prices should go to one-time infrastructure projects, not recurring expenses. Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who led state health agencies under three previous governors, says the state also needs more social workers, as New Mexico languishes near the bottom in child well-being. She also supports an increase in the state minimum wage and more gun control laws, both of which Pearce opposes. Looming over all of this are the state’s pension liabilities and high Medicaid enrollment, which prompted Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade the state’s bond rating this year. — Megan Kamerick, KUNM
The election in Alaska recently became more competitive when incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, the nation’s only independent governor, dropped out of the race just weeks before Election Day. Walker withdrew after his running mate, the lieutenant governor, resigned following what Walker described as an “inappropriate overture” toward an unnamed woman. Walker has thrown his support behind Democrat Mark Begich, a former U.S. senator — a move that has already narrowed the race between Begich and Mike Dunleavy, the Republican candidate. Dunleavy is one of Alaska’s most conservative lawmakers. He left the state Senate majority caucus over his concerns about cuts to the annual payments from Alaska’s oil wealth made to every man, woman and child in the state. Begich, meanwhile, is the only Alaska Democrat to serve in Congress since 1981. He has received endorsements from advocates for organized labor, the environment and women’s rights. Libertarian and hotel concierge Billy Toien is also running. — Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO/Alaska Public Media
Governors in New Hampshire face election every two, not four, years. Typically, incumbents win second terms, though, and that’s the way it is looking for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Molly Kelly, a former state senator who is not well-known. The state’s economy is strong and Sununu has a knack for self-promotion, but the race isn’t a lock. Sununu had GOP majorities in the statehouse but couldn’t always pass priority legislation during his first term. The governor suffered high-profile defeats on issues including right-to-work and school choice. But Sununu did preside over tax cuts and is casting the election as a referendum on the state’s business climate, which he says he has improved. Kelly, meanwhile, has tried to tie Sununu to Trump on issues ranging from climate change to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She has also played up their contrasting biographies: Sununu is the son of a governor and brother of a former U.S. senator; Kelly worked her way through college as a single mother. She has focused on a single issue: paid family leave. — Josh Rogers, New Hampshire Public Radio
California might be leading the “resistance” against Trump, but you might not always know it from watching term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown, who hasn’t always taken a hard line on the president. But California’s next governor could be far more confrontational. Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, perhaps best known nationally for performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples as mayor of San Francisco years before it became legal, has big leads both in polls and in fundraising. And he has made no bones about his plans to “defend the values of this state.” He said, “I will not be timid. I will not be shy in that respect. I’ll push back aggressively.” His Republican opponent, San Diego businessman John Cox, isn’t talking about Trump. Rather, he is focusing on California’s housing crisis and its high poverty rate, while backing a ballot measure to repeal last year’s gas tax increase to fund transportation projects. Democrats “have been making this state unaffordable and unlivable,” he argues, “and I think most people in this state have had enough of it.” — Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio
The first point to understand about Hawaii state politics is that it is dominated by the Democratic Party. In August, incumbent David Ige won more than 51 percent of the vote and fended off a challenge from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who took more than 44 percent. Pollsters and pundits expect the general election to be far less competitive than the primary. Ige has the support of the 14,000-member Hawaii State Teachers Association, and though he is not an especially gifted speaker, he has done well in campaigning, defeating an incumbent governor in his first primary and Hanabusa in his second. Ige’s challenger is Andria Tupola, a two-term Republican state House minority leader. Tupola is a relative unknown outside of her own district in rural Oahu, but she is a charismatic Generation X/millennial who is knowledgeable about state issues, family-oriented, a former music teacher and daughter of a state judge. Unfortunately for Tupola, Hawaii is a lopsided Democratic state with no GOP state senators and only four House members. She may fare better than many GOP gubernatorial contenders, but not enough to overcome the more than 4-to-1 Democratic Party majority. — Wayne Yoshioka, Hawaii Public Radio
Illinois is witnessing a clash of financial titans and political novices. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is among the least popular incumbents in the country, and he has consistently trailed Democrat J.B. Pritzker in the polls. Both men have vast personal fortunes — Rauner from a career in private equity; Pritzker, as an heir to the Hyatt hotel empire. Like other blue states, Illinois has been willing to flirt with moderate Republican governors, but after running as a can-do fixer, Rauner tried to push anti-union policies through a Democratic Legislature and a two-year budget stalemate followed. Then Rauner alienated conservatives by signing bills expanding abortion access and immigrant protections. Pritzker, who has never held office before, is completely self-financing his campaign to the tune of $171.5 million. His main policy proposal calls for replacing the state’s flat tax with a graduated tax. But he has spent much of his time fending off miniscandals over removing toilets from a mansion to lower his property taxes; his comments caught on leaked FBI wiretaps; and a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by 10 of his own campaign staffers. Regardless of who wins, one thing is certain: Illinois will continue its experiment of having megarich neophytes run state government. — Brian Mackey, WUIS
In a time of political division, the candidates in Minnesota say they like each other and have run relatively civil campaigns. They have clear differences on a variety of issues, though, from abortion to gun control and taxes. The Democratic candidate is Tim Walz, who has represented southern Minnesota in Congress for the past 12 years. He is facing Republican Jeff Johnson, a county commissioner and former state legislator who was the party’s candidate four years ago. Polls have shown Walz with a lead. Trump came close to winning Minnesota in 2016; had he succeeded, he would have been the first Republican president since 1972 to win the Gopher State. Johnson has embraced the president, although his button-down style is miles away from Trump’s bombast. Still, the Trump base helped Johnson knock off better-known and better-funded former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the Republican primary. Republicans are hoping Trump will help them turn Minnesota red. The next governor, after all, will have veto power over a 2020 redistricting plan. — Mike Mulcahy, MPR News
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to match his father’s record and win a third term in office. He is facing Republican Marc Molinaro, a former small-town mayor and state assemblyman who has been the county executive in exurban Dutchess County since 2012. Cuomo has tried to make his campaign a referendum on Trump and congressional Republicans — particularly their approach on taxes, health care, immigration and reproductive and LGBT rights. He has been relatively silent about what he would do for the next four years. Instead, he has run on a liberal record that includes legalizing same-sex marriage, restricting the sale of assault rifles and capping the growth of Medicaid and property taxes. Molinaro wants to lower taxes by relieving local areas of what he says are unfunded mandates from the state capitol. He has also lambasted Cuomo for the bribery convictions of two of his top aides. But despite his pledge to make Albany less corrupt, Molinaro isn’t widely known, and Cuomo has wildly outspent him. In the latest disclosures, Cuomo had around $6.8 million to Molinaro’s $900,000 cash in hand. Lagging 23 points in the most recent survey, Molinaro frequently wears a lapel pin featuring the cartoon character Underdog. — Fred Mogul, WNYC
At first blush, the candidates in Pennsylvania might appear similar. Incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf and his Republican challenger, former state Sen. Scott Wagner, are both independently wealthy business owners from York County, about two hours from Philadelphia. But Wolf is a professorial type known for his mild temperament and aloof presence in legislative battles. One of his first acts as governor was putting a moratorium on the death penalty, and in leaner budget years, he has run afoul of the GOP-controlled state House and Senate in his quest to raise taxes. One of the most common descriptors of Wagner, meanwhile, is “Trumpian.” The owner of a waste-hauling company, his time in Harrisburg was marked by calls to slash spending and winnow the state budget to essentials. He recently made headlines when he said he would stomp on Wolf’s face while wearing golf spikes (for which he has since apologized). Education spending has been a key point in the race — with Wolf touting spending increases, and Wagner accusing Wolf of not committing to rural schools. — Katie Meyer, WITF
Vermont, the home of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, has one of the bluest electorates in the country. But in 2016, voters here sent a Republican to the governor’s office. And Gov. Phil Scott hopes the socially liberal, fiscally conservative platform that propelled him to victory two years ago will earn him a second term on Nov. 6. Standing in Scott’s way is Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist, the first transgender major-party gubernatorial nominee in U.S. history. Hallquist is trying to energize her Democratic base with the same issues that have worked so well for Sanders: tuition-free public college, a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, all of which Scott opposes. But Scott’s support for new gun laws earlier this year, as well as his forceful resistance to the Trump agenda, have earned him significant support among traditionally Democratic voters. A public poll taken earlier this month revealed that 26 percent of Democrats say they plan to vote for Scott. Hallquist, meanwhile, wins only 3 percent of Republicans. And with independents also leaning strongly for Scott, Hallquist faces a steep climb to victory on Election Day. — Peter Hirschfeld, Vermont Public Radio
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey is running for her office for the first time. Former Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, dubbed the “Love Gov,” was involved in a sex scandal. On the brink of impeachment, Bentley was forced to resign, catapulting Ivey into the governor’s seat. Since her appointment last year, Ivey has spent much of her term touting her steady presence in a state mired in turmoil. Like many Republicans in the Deep South, Ivey has touted her alliance with Trump. She did break with Trump over his proposed tariffs on the automotive industry. Ivey has kept a famously low profile, denying numerous media requests for interviews and refusing calls to debate challengers, including her Democratic opponent, Walt Maddox. In recent months, Maddox has seized on that. Maddox is the mayor of Tuscaloosa, a city ravaged by a tornado in 2011, and says his successful efforts to rebuild qualify him to be governor. He says he is focused on expanding Medicaid and creating a lottery, but that hasn’t been enough for Maddox to stand out in voters’ minds. Recently, he has begun lashing out at Ivey, calling into question her health and whether she covered up a 2015 hospitalization in Colorado. — Gigi Douban, WBHM
Arizona’s race looked like it was going to be a battle over the future of education in the state, but Democrat David Garcia is falling further behind after a crush of spending from incumbent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and his allies. Garcia is an education professor at Arizona State University who narrowly lost a statewide race for superintendent of public instruction in 2014. He has tried to make the race a referendum on Ducey’s education record, which includes a teacher walkout in the spring and a controversial new law expanding a program that gives public money to parents who put their children in private schools — something Ducey pushed. A repeal of that law is on the ballot. But Ducey is trumpeting a strong state economy, as well as his solution to the teacher walkout: a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. (It’s been pointed out, though, that the legislation does not require that every teacher get a 20 percent raise.) Ducey has received endorsements from the editorial boards of major newspapers in Phoenix and Tucson. — Bret Jaspers, KJZZ
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is one of the country’s most popular governors, with a 58 percent approval rating, according to one recent poll. And it’s popularity that has given Hutchinson an advantage over his challenger, Democrat Jared Henderson, in the governor’s bid for re-election. That is despite Hutchinson’s most unpopular policies — the state’s first-in-the-nation work requirement for some Medicaid recipients and a proposed income tax cut for the state’s highest earners. Hutchinson, a former U.S. representative and DEA administrator, has enjoyed a relatively quiet first term, overseeing efforts to streamline state government and push for computer science education in high schools. Henderson, a Harvard grad and former Teach For America director, has made high-quality public education and access to affordable health care hallmarks of his campaign. Though Henderson’s progressive approach has excited some, he has struggled to poll over 25 percent in the race against Hutchinson. Libertarian Mark West, a pastor and office manager from rural northeast Arkansas, has also struggled to find widespread support in the face of Hutchinson’s consistently high approval ratings. — Daniel Breen, KUAR
For the first time in 12 years, Idaho’s governor won’t be C.L. “Butch” Otter. His lieutenant governor, Brad Little, may be next. Little is a pragmatic Republican who has, for the most part, waged an un-Trump-like campaign over the past two years. On the other side is former state Rep. Paulette Jordan, who has electrified Idaho Democratic Party voters. If elected, she would be the state’s first female governor and the first Native American governor in the U.S., as well as the first Democrat to lead blood-red Idaho since 1990. Her progressive agenda would almost certainly face a combative Legislature that is overwhelmingly Republican-controlled. Jordan wants to spend more money on education, invest in renewable energy and establish a state-controlled bank to cut down on borrowing costs. Little, the Republican, prioritizes higher teacher pay and tax cuts and wants to improve early childhood literacy rates. Jordan’s campaign has, at times, been tumultuous with high staff turnover and questions about her link to a federal PAC. Experts say it will be an uphill battle for Jordan, despite possible record turnout for a midterm election in Idaho’s most populous county. — James Dawson, Boise State Public Radio
Massachusetts voters — 55 percent of whom are unenrolled in either party — can be notorious ticket-splitters and have a long history of supporting liberals like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy to fight on national issues in the Senate while picking moderate Republicans to work alongside the Democratic-dominated Legislature back home. The Bay State’s sleepy gubernatorial race was energized to an extent recently when incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker waffled during his second debate with Democratic nominee Jay Gonzalez over whether he would support fellow Republican Geoff Diehl’s challenge to Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Gonzalez, once a top aide to former Gov. Deval Patrick, has tried to link Baker to the deeply unpopular policies of Trump and the national GOP. He’s had little success, as Baker runs on his bipartisan reputation and a war chest that outpaces Gonzalez’s 10 to 1. Polls suggest this pattern will repeat itself, as Baker has led Gonzalez by over 30 points all year, roughly the same margin as Warren’s lead in the Senate race. — Mike Deehan, WGBH
In these polarized political times, Maryland is something of an outlier: a blue state with a very popular Republican governor who seems headed toward a second term. Larry Hogan has done it by distancing himself from Trump and working with the Democratic state Legislature. He has a high approval rating, even among the Democrats, who have a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage in the state. If he wins in November, he will be the first Republican governor in more than a half-century to serve a second term in the state. But Democratic challenger Ben Jealous is himself trying to make history as the state’s first African-American governor, and he is doing so with a solidly progressive agenda: Medicare for all, debt-free college, a $15 minimum wage and legal recreational marijuana. Every poll shows him trailing Hogan, but Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, says a relentless focus on turning out unlikely voters will pave the path to the governor’s mansion in Annapolis. If that works, Maryland could become a testing ground for big progressive policies. If it doesn’t, it may suggest something else interesting: evidence that moderate Republicanism can still succeed in a blue state. — Martin Austermuhle, WAMU
It’s looking like Republican Pete Ricketts will have no problem snagging a second term as Nebraska’s governor. He handily won his party’s nomination with 81 percent of the vote in the primary. Now, he is up against Bob Krist, a Democratic state senator from Omaha. Krist spent about eight years in the state Legislature as a registered Republican and says he originally planned to run as an independent. But by February, he decided to enter the fray as a Democrat, proceeding to spar with Ricketts on medical marijuana, the death penalty and one of voters’ most important issues, property taxes. Farmers, ranchers and homeowners have pleaded for property tax relief, and both Ricketts and Krist have promised that it is their top priority. How either would lower property taxes remains to be seen, though. Ricketts has floated changing the way farmland is valued, while Krist has proposed reducing property taxes used to fund education by increasing state aid. It’s unlikely he will have the chance to see it through, though, with most analysts predicting an easy win for Ricketts come Election Day. — Rebecca Ellis, NPR
When South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley traded her office for a role in the Trump administration, her lieutenant governor, Henry McMaster, stepped in. Now he has to win the governor’s mansion for himself, facing off against state Rep. James Smith, a little-known attorney and combat veteran. Throughout the race, McMaster has been laser-focused on job creation, touting a thriving economy and the state’s falling unemployment rate. Meanwhile, Smith has painted himself as would-be “education governor,” focused on stagnating teacher pay and rising college tuition. But it’s unlikely that Smith can pull off a win with the platform. The state hasn’t seen a Democratic governor in more than 15 years and South Carolina voted for Trump in 2016. McMaster was one of the first officials in the state to endorse the president, and in return, Trump has supported the incumbent governor, praising him for being “with me from the beginning.” Though the race is looking like a shoo-in for McMaster, money continues to pour in for both candidates. With total contributions at over $20 million, the race has become the most expensive in South Carolina history. — Rebecca Ellis, NPR
In a red state like Tennessee, Democrats running for office outside major cities like Nashville and Memphis have a hard time securing votes from moderates and undecideds. Neither one of the candidates in Tennessee has statewide political experience. Democrat Karl Dean served as mayor of Nashville from 2007 to 2015. During his tenure, Nashville went through a development boom. Dean also oversaw rebuilding following a massive flood in 2010 and led a successful effort to keep the Nashville Predators, the professional ice hockey team, in town. Dean supports nonprofit charter schools in urban areas but has opposed the use of school vouchers across Tennessee. His opponent is Republican Bill Lee, who was unknown to many Tennesseans before this election. A longtime donor to the GOP, Lee has said his experience as the owner of a big building-services firm gives him the experience needed to run the state. He has said the state needs to focus on vocational programs so that jobs across the state can be filled. Both candidates had run a cordial campaign up until recent days, when Dean started to attack Lee’s stances on education vouchers and arming teachers. Latest polls consistently show Lee significantly ahead of Dean. — Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, Nashville Public Radio
A blue wave may affect races around the country, and even a few in Texas, but so far polls have shown this contest is immune. Incumbent Republican Greg Abbott is seeking his second term in office against Democrat Lupe Valdez. Abbott won election by 20 points in 2014 and polls show him with a similar lead now. Abbott’s popularity allowed him to amass around $29 million cash on hand by this summer burying his Democratic opponent. His lead in the polls and fundraising has allowed him to start spending some of that cash on down-ballot candidates. Valdez, a former Dallas County sheriff, was trumpeted by party faithful when she announced. Along with her law enforcement background, she is also Hispanic and gay, making many think she would be the perfect candidate to connect with parts of the Democratic base. But she stumbled out of the gate, not winning the primary endorsement of the Dallas Morning News, and has never been able to capitalize on the fundraising and national attention brought to Texas by U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke. Libertarian Mark Tippetts is also on the ballot. — Ben Philpott, KUT
In Wyoming, the issues in the gubernatorial election have been revenue, health care and education funding. The Democratic candidate for governor, Mary Throne, says Wyoming is too reliant on taxing the energy industry and argues that across-the-board taxes would even out the boom-bust cycle the state faces when energy prices go up and down. Mark Gordon, the Republican candidate, disagrees. He says government-spending reductions are needed before any taxes should be considered. Because of declining revenues, the Legislature has been reducing spending for education. Wyoming pays more money per student than most states and the GOP has argued that test scores don’t justify the spending. Polls have shown that the public opposes cutting education dollars. Gordon is likely to win the election in this red state, despite the fact that some members of the GOP worry he leans left on some issues. Constitution Party candidate Rex Rammel has tried to stir up the conservative base, but after a primary where vote-splitting helped Gordon win, the majority of Republicans in the state are likely to stick with Gordon. — Bob Beck, Wyoming Public Radio