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6 Gubernatorial Races With Potential Congressional Consequences

Barber is running as a Democrat in Arizona, where there is a competitive gubernatorial race. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Barber is running as a Democrat in Arizona, where there is a competitive gubernatorial race. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The lines separating gubernatorial and congressional candidates on the ballot could blur in several states this cycle, as the top of the ticket proves to be a driving force downballot in a half-dozen states.  

Typically, competitive gubernatorial races impact one key factor for victory: turnout. As a result, state parties ramp up their efforts to turn out their base, which could also boost candidates all over the ballot, including congressional races.  

Gubernatorial races have less of an impact on Senate contests, where candidates are similarly well known by voters. But they often can make a difference in a close House race.  

In alphabetical order, here are six states where the impact of a gubernatorial race could drip down the ballot:  Arizona: Republicans hope efforts to turn out the vote for their gubernatorial nominee, Doug Ducey, will help their candidates vying to pick up a pair of House seats held by Democrats. Ducey holds a small advantage in the statewide race (The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the race  Leans Republican ), and one GOP operative told CQ Roll Call the gubernatorial contest is “giving a real life to our candidates.” But one Arizona Democratic operative pointed out their gubernatorial nominee, Fred DuVal, is a Tucson native, which could boost vulnerable  Rep. Ron Barber in the 2nd District.  

Colorado:  At the start of the cycle, Republicans expected GOP Rep. Mike Coffman to have the only competitive race in Colorado this year. That’s not the case anymore: Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has a competitive re-election (Tilts Democrat ) fending off former Rep. Bob Beauprez, a Republican, and there’s a top-tier Senate race  too (Tossup ) in the Centennial State. These top-of-the-ticket campaigns have boosted get-out-the-vote efforts in Coffman’s 6th District in the eastern Denver suburbs, a key area for any statewide campaign to win. These efforts, especially the Senate race, could spill over and help Coffman fend off Democrat Andrew Romanoff. But Democrats argue two well-organized statewide races — in particular Hickenlooper’s advantage in the gubernatorial race — will help their challenger in this swing district.  

Florida: As Democrat Gwen Graham works to oust GOP Rep. Steve Southerland II, the vulnerable incumbent could benefit from GOP Gov. Rick Scott working to turn out the vote in the panhandle’s 2nd District — a key area for Scott’s re-election too  (gubernatorial race rating: Tossup ). Democrats argue Graham’s extensive field operation offsets any increased GOP turnout from Scott’s race (2nd District rating: Tossup ). They also see their gubernatorial nominee, former Gov. Charlie Crist, helping turnout for Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia in the 26th District, located in a statewide party stronghold in Miami (Tilts Democrat ).  

Illinois: As CQ Roll Call’s Emily Cahn reported , Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is dragging down his party’s House candidates outside of Chicagoland. Specifically, Democratic Reps. Brad Schneider, north of Chicago, and Bill Enyart, downstate are some of the cycle’s most vulnerable incumbents . Both could both face trouble if Republicans turn out against Quinn for their nominee, Bruce Rauner. The governor’s unpopularity also helped sink Democratic hopes of picking up the competitive 13th District, where freshman GOP Rep. Rodney Davis is cruising to victory over a once highly-touted challenger, Ann Callis.  

Kansas:  When a competitive race took Republican Sen. Pat Roberts by surprise  earlier this year, he was able to hop on the GOP’s existing statewide campaign infrastructure for his former Senate colleague and current Gov. Sam Brownback. The first-term governor has a tough race ahead of him (Tilts Republican ), but not as tough as Roberts (Tossup ). But both Brownback and Roberts are targeting middle-of-the road Republicans this cycle, so the two-fold effort could increase turnout among those voters, especially in the Kansas City suburbs.  

Michigan: The close gubernatorial race between GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and former Rep. Mark Schauer (Tilts Republican ) could increase turnout in the state’s only contested congressional race in the 1st District  (Tilts Republican ). “The governor’s race will determine who wins that race,” said Michigan pollster Ed Sarpolus. But Republicans point out that Snyder is more popular in the conservative-leaning district, which could help GOP Rep. Dan Benishek fend off his highly-touted challenger, ret. Gen. Jerry Cannon, a Democrat. Mitt Romney carried the district with 54 percent in 2012.  

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