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In nation’s gubernatorial races, there are a lot of Capitol Hill connections

Early front-runners for gubernatorial contests feature lots of former members

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, seen here in March testifying before the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, is the frontrunner to be the next governor of Louisiana. He was a member of the House from 2011-2013.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, seen here in March testifying before the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, is the frontrunner to be the next governor of Louisiana. He was a member of the House from 2011-2013. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS | From redistricting casualty to likely governor, it’s been quite a journey for Louisiana Republican Jeff Landry.

The former Acadiana police officer was first elected to Congress in 2010 to Louisiana’s 3rd District. But it wasn’t long before redistricting pitted him against GOP incumbent Charles Boustany in a redrawn seat in 2012. Boustany finished first in the jungle primary and defeated Landry 61-39 percent in the general election runoff.

But Landry bounced back to get elected state attorney general in 2015 and reelected four years later. This year, fellow Rep. Garret Graves and Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy chose not to run for governor, leaving Landry as the early front-runner. 

The race is rated Likely Republican by Inside Elections as Republicans try to take back the governorship from Democrats. Incumbent John Bel Edwards, who defeated U.S. Sen. David Vitter in 2015, is term-limited. 

Louisiana is one of three gubernatorial races on the ballot this fall. GOP Gov. Tate Reeves has the edge in Mississippi, although the race could get more competitive over the next couple months (the race is rated Lean Republican). And Kentucky’s race has potential repercussions for Capitol Hill. 

If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not complete his term, then the governor has a role in the appointment process. Right now, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has a slight advantage to win reelection, even though he presides over a state that Donald Trump carried by 25 points in 2020. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who worked for McConnell on the Hill, is the GOP nominee, but has some work to do to bring down the incumbent. The race is rated Tilt Democratic.

There are also a half-dozen races for governor in 2024 that have a connection to Capitol Hill. 

Republican Sen. Mike Braun is the front-runner to be the next governor of Indiana, where GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb is term-limited. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, son of former Sen. John Ashcroft, is a leading contender for the GOP nomination in the Show Me State. GOP Gov. Mike Parson is also term-limited. 

In Montana, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte is up for reelection. He previously served in the House for nearly four years after winning a special election in 2017 that included his “body slam” of a reporter the day before. 

Former GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte is a top candidate in New Hampshire after Gov. Chris Sununu decided not to run again. Ayotte lost a very close race to Democrat Maggie Hassan in 2016 and declined to run against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2020 or Hassan again in 2022. But she’s back for another statewide bid this cycle. Inside Elections rates the race as a Toss-up. 

The other toss-up race next year is in North Carolina, where Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is term-limited. Former Rep. Mark Walker is running for the GOP nomination, but he’ll have to get past Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. The general election will also be a challenge for the eventual Republican nominee. Although Donald Trump won the state in the last two presidential elections, Democrats have held the governor’s mansion for 26 of the past 30 years.

And finally, former Rep. Dave Reichert gives Republicans a credible candidate in Washington, where Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee (who also served in the House) is not running for reelection. That race is rated Likely Democratic. 

Overall, there are 26 Republican governors around the country, compared to 24 Democrats. A majority doesn’t matter because there’s not a legislative body of governors, but it’s another piece of evidence that the country is closely divided.

While state races often have unique dynamics that don’t translate to future federal contests, there could be some key lessons in this year’s races about the efficacy of attack ads next year. Up to this point, Republican attacks on Beshear on LGBTQ issues haven’t damaged his brand or job approval rating, for instance.

Here are the Inside Elections race ratings for this year and next:

Toss-up
New Hampshire (Open; Chris Sununu, R, not seeking reelection)
North Carolina (Open; Roy Cooper, D, term-limited)

Tilt Democratic
Kentucky (Beshear, D)

Lean Democratic
None

Likely Democratic
Washington (Open; Jay Inslee, D, not seeking reelection)

Solid Democratic
Delaware (Open; John Carney Jr., D, term-limited)

Tilt Republican
None

Lean Republican
Mississippi (Tate Reeves, R)

Likely Republican
Louisiana (Open; John Bel Edwards, D, term-limited)

Solid Republican
Indiana (Open; Eric Holcomb, R, term-limited)
Missouri (Open; Mike Parson, R, term-limited)
Montana (Greg Gianforte, R)
North Dakota (Doug Burgum, R)
Utah (Spencer Cox, R)
Vermont (Phil Scott, R)
West Virginia (Open; Jim Justice, R, term-limited)

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