Governors' Ratings

The University of Virginia’s political prognosticator Dr. Larry Sabato released his 2021-22 Governors’ race ratings late last week, which appear to be the first in the public domain for the early election cycle.

Currently, Republicans hold a 27-23 advantage in Governorships. A total of 38 races are on tap in the 2022 election cycle, two of which will be decided this year (New Jersey; Virginia).

Surprisingly, Dr. Sabato rates the Democrats as completely safe in only one state, Hawaii, while nine Republicans are placed in the commensurate category.

We believe the Democrats are in better position in many of the states, but with a gubernatorial recall election likely to occur in California and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s problems in New York, these two normally secure seats now yield a more uncertain political climate.

Below are the Sabato ratings:

Safe Democratic

Hawaii – open

Gov. David Ige (D) term-limited

Expect a crowded and contested Democratic primary in Hawaii with the winner easily claiming the 2022 general election.

Safe Republican


Gov. Kay Ivey (R) – has not yet committed to a re-election effort 

Arkansas – open

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) term-limited


Gov. Brad Little (R) is expected to seek re-election

Nebraska – open

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) term-limited


Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is seeking re-election

South Carolina

Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is seeking re-election

South Dakota

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is seeking re-election


Gov. Bill Lee (R) is seeking re-election


Gov. Mark Gordon (R) is seeking re-election

Republicans are expected to have a competitive open nomination contest in Nebraska.

It appears that former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the early GOP leader in Arkansas.

Likely Democratic


Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) facing recall election before regular vote


Gov. Jared Polis (D) is seeking re-election


Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is seeking re-election


Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is seeking re-election


Gov. Tim Walz (D) is seeking re-election 

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is favored for re-election in the 2021 campaign

New Mexico

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is seeking re-election

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) may be impeached or forced to resign

Rhode Island

Gov. Dan McKee (D) is seeking election to his first term

At this point, we would move Colorado (Gov. Polis), Connecticut (Gov. Lamont), and Illinois (Gov. Pritzker) into the Safe Democratic category, at least based upon the present campaign status.

California will almost assuredly elect a Democratic Governor, but whether that individual is again Gov. Newsom remains a bit of a question mark. The recall effort is likely to qualify later this month which allows the removal election to be scheduled.

New York, once the Cuomo situation is determined, is likely to return to the Safe Democratic column before the 2022 election.

In Rhode Island, new Gov. McKee assumed office after elected Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) resigned to accept her appointment as US Secretary of Commerce. Election year 2022 will feature a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary, but the party will remain in control regardless of who eventually wins the primary election.

Likely Republican


Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) may face a recall election


Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is seeking re-election


Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is seeking re-election


Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has not yet committed to a third term


Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is seeking re-election


Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is running for a third term


Gov. Phil Scott (R) expected to seek re-election

The Alaska situation could move to Lean Republican. Gov. Dunleavy has been under attack but so far avoided a recall movement largely due to legal proceedings.

Iowa is moving toward the right but is still competitive. Lean Republican might be a more realistic rating for Gov. Reynolds’ re-election prospects.

Though Massachusetts and Vermont are two of the most Democratic states in the country, they have both been easily re-electing Republican Govs. Baker and Scott. They will likely do so again, assuming both ultimately seek re-election.

Lean Democratic


Gov. Janet Mills (D) expected to seek re-election

Maryland – open

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) term-limited


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) seeking re-election


Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) seeking re-election

Oregon – open

Gov. Kate Brown (D) term-limited

Virginia – open

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) term-limited

Maryland is the only state with a Governor of one party already projected to move in the opposite direction. Without Gov. Hogan on the ballot, Democrats return to the political driver’s seat even after a crowded and competitive party primary.

Nevada Gov. Sisolak’s shutdown policies and the closeness of the 2020 elections here suggest this race could eventually move into the Toss-Up category.

Both Oregon and Virginia have moved steadily toward the Democrats with the GOP relegated to winning a relatively small number of strongly Republican seats in both states. Oregon and Virginia should be moved to Likely Democratic. The Virginia open election will occur in 2021, and the Republican nomination process has hit repeated snags in attempting to exercise their convention option.

Lean Republican

New Hampshire

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) may run for Senate

New Hampshire is one of the top swing states in the country, but Gov. Sununu has done well in winning three consecutive two-year terms. He may eschew a fourth bid in order to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D). Early polling shows him running ahead. If he again runs for Governor, Mr. Sununu will be favored. If he chooses the Senate race, the Governor’s race will be open and quickly moves to the Toss-Up category.


Arizona – open

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) term-limited


Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is expected to seek re-election


Gov. Laura Kelly (D) is running for re-election

Pennsylvania – open

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) term-limited


Gov. Tony Evers (D) is expected to seek re-election

Georgia Gov. Kemp is on the political ropes after Republicans turned on him regarding the election security issue during the presidential campaign. It would not be a stretch to actually favor Democrat Stacey Abrams even at this early time.

Kansas Republicans are heading to a crowded and highly competitive August 2022 primary before having a chance to unseat Democratic Gov. Kelly. In the GOP race so far are former Governor and Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Pennsylvania’s voting history has favored more Democrats than Republicans in the modern era. Therefore, in an open seat situation, this race is better positioned in the Lean Democratic category.

Wisconsin Republicans have strong candidate options, but an August crowded primary could put their eventual nominee in a weakened position. For now, we would rate Wisconsin’s Gov. Evers’ re-election prospects as Lean Democratic.

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