By Will DeMartinis
As we near almost a year since 2020’s wild presidential election and speed towards an ever approaching midterm season, the gubernatorial elections that take place in-between these two gargantuan years can sometimes be overlooked. Yet, they may show some important patterns or trends that could shape the scope of the midterm elections within these elections. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at Virginia and New Jersey’s gubernatorial elections taking place just next month, and also giving an overview of California’s fiery recall that has already shown us a bit of what the midterms may look like.
California: In 2018, California elected former San Francisco mayor and incumbent lieutenant governor Gavin Newson as their next governor. California, a state which had been rapidly trending towards the Democratic Party since the 1990s, has once again followed its trends and elected another Democrat to the state’s highest office. Which was why when Gavin Newsom had a chance to potentially lose the recall back in early August, it put California the center of political news. If Newsom lost, it would be bad news for Democrats. If Newsom lost in a state that votes for Democrats by more than 20 points on average, what would happen in districts they won narrowly in 2020 in the House? Or states they barely won in the Senate? These fears seemed to dissipate as California’s returns came in, and shortly after polls closed Newsom would be projected to keep his job, and keep it by the same margin he won it by in 2018 – a Democratic wave year. While not uncommon in California, it was a glimmer of hope for Democrats whose turnout traditionally suffers in midterm elections. But, California isn’t the best test of a potential 2022 matchup.
Virginia: When Barack Obama won Virginia in 2008, it sent shockwaves throughout the U.S political system. Since then, no Republican has won Virginia since the 2009 gubernatorial election. While Virginia has moved further into the Democratic support base, it may still have a chance to provide some surprises. Former Democratic governor Terry McAullife is running for his old job this year, meanwhile Republicans selected businessman Glenn Youngkin as their nominee at a convention back in June. Current polls put McAullife narrowly ahead (a lead of three points on average), enough so that he could beat the odds. But, McAullife has beaten the odds before. In 2013, he beat the trends by winning the Virginia governorship as the same party as the incumbent president Barack Obama. This year, Republicans are hoping to capitalize on good turnout and their moderate candidate to beat the odds and win the governorship. This could spell good news for Republicans, as high turnout & energy for them is the key for them to retake the House and the Senate. Democrats on the other hand, are hoping for McAullife to over perform the polls and win (A good range for Democrats would likely be a margin of victory of seven points or higher). A ten point victory would be great news for Democrats, as Joe Biden won the state by 11 points in 2020, and it could point towards a high and energetic turnout that could help them retain their narrow House and Senate majorities. Whatever the case, watch Virginia on November 2nd.
New Jersey: New Jersey, home state of former governor Chris Christie and the neighbor of Joe Biden’s Delaware. A solid Democratic state since 1992, its governor elections have been more of a mixed bag. Incumbent governor Phil Murphy was elected in 2017 by over 17 points against Republican lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno. 2021 will likely be no different. Republicans hope that Murphy’s margin of victory may be around 10 points or under, while Democrats are hoping Murphy wins by 15 points or more. While New Jersey may not give as many clues as Virginia, it’s still a valuable state to look at to give an idea of turnout and results in solid Democratic territory.