36 Elections That Really Matter This Year
Who will win more governors’ races in 2014?
By LARRY J. SABATO
June 09, 2014
By the looks of the press coverage so far, you’d think the U.S. Senate was the center of the 2014 universe. Of course, we’re all interested in which party wins control of the upper chamber of Congress. But does it matter that much? The 34 states electing senators are simply determining how much more gridlocked Washington will become during the last two years of President Obama’s term.
For a refreshing change of pace, let’s take a look at some contests that actually make a big difference in the lives of many Americans: the 36 elections for governor. It’s not that political polarization isn’t affecting the states, too. There is plenty of gridlock in some states—take a look at the budget and Medicaid deadlock in Virginia, for example. But the more common situation is one-party rule. In 36 states, the same party controls the entire statehouse—the governorship and both houses of the legislature (discounting Nebraska, which has a unique, nonpartisan and unicameral legislature). Most observers would agree that Washington’s toxic level of nastiness and inability to compromise has not yet fully poisoned most state capitols.
I’ve long thought that governor is the best job in American politics. The presidency has been called a “splendid misery,” but the governorship in most places is just splendid. Ask some governors-turned-senators to compare their former and current offices sometime; you’ll see what I mean: Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat and former governor, wants to be “excited to go to work again,” and apparently is considering leaving his current job for his old one. Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat and former governor, contemplated the same thing last year before deciding to run for reelection this year.
The governorship is usually manageable, personally rewarding and filled with energizing challenges in education, transportation and loads of other concrete policy realms. With just a modest amount of cooperation from the legislature, a governor can achieve big things even in a single four-year term. Some of these elected executives like the job so much they basically never leave (see: Branstad, Terry, of Iowa, discussed below).
The ongoing governorship races are scattered from coast to coast (including Alaska and Hawaii) and aren’t nearly as cookie-cutter as Senate contests because local issues seem to matter more. The map below shows the Crystal Ball’s ratings in all 36 contests: