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First Race Ratings for Gubernatorial Contests Revealed

Vitter will run for governor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Vitter will run for governor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With a wide-open race for the White House and the Senate majority in play in 2016, it can be hard to make the case to donors that gubernatorial races belong in the conversation.  

But that’s not dissuading some partisan strategists — or the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, which revealed its first race ratings for these contests Friday.  While Republicans and Democrats disagree on which candidate is best able to govern a particular state, there is some consensus on the importance of electing a chief executive.  

“At a time when Americans see so much gridlock in Washington, they’re recognizing the state level is where things are getting done — and that Democratic governors are on the ground creating new jobs and new opportunities for the middle class,” said Elisabeth Pearson, the incoming-executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.  

Less than a dozen blocks away, Republicans are singing a similar tune.  

“States run by Republican governors are the only places in the country where real conservative change is occurring,” said Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson. “While Washington remains gridlocked, Republican chief executives have proven they know how to get results that directly affect the lives of their citizens.”  

For people anxious for the next race, three states will elect host a race for governor this year. Republicans are likely to hold Louisiana and Mississippi, while Democrats will try to hold Kentucky, where Gov. Steven L. Beshear is term-limited, in 2015’s premiere contest. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call initial rating of that latter is Tossup/Tilts Democratic.  

Eleven states will have a gubernatorial election in 2016. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, will be a top Democratic target in a state which will be a presidential battleground and likely host a competitive Senate race. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the race as Tossup/Tilts Republican. Democrats could struggle to hold Missouri and West Virginia, where their incumbents are term-limited. Both states start the cycle as pure Tossups.  

Gubernatorial races were not immune from the Republican rout of 2014. Even though Democrats had multiple opportunities to win blue or competitive states, Republicans gained two governorships and now have the chief executive in 31 of 50 states. Holding that line in the next two years could be priority one for Democrats.  


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