2018 midterms

Democrats Pick Up 7 New Governorships: All the Key Results

Georgia candidates Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp (top), and Florida candidates Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis (bottom), are engaged in two of the closest and most consequential gubernatorial contests this year. Photo: Getty Images

Thirty-six governorships were at stake in the 2018 midterms, with Republicans holding 26 of these positions, Democrats nine, and one independent. Exactly half of these seats were open due to retirements, term limits, and primary defeats. Thanks to this skewed landscape, Democrats were almost certain to make significant gains in governorships, which will also have implications for the next round of congressional and state legislative redistricting after the 2020 census. But there were an extraordinary number of close races: 12 toss-ups according to the Cook Political Report, plus six other competitive contests. In the end Democrats picked up seven Republican-held gubernatorial seats, with one race (Georgia) still unresolved. Here’s how the results in key states rolled out in real time.

11:56 a.m. EST: Democrat Stacey Abrams is trailing Brian Kemp in Georgia, and will not win outright – but a runoff is still possible. Georgia’s tense, important, and very close gubernatorial race ended with Republican Brian Kemp holding a small but steady lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams. But late returns narrowed his lead to the point where it’s possible provisional and late-counted mail ballots could deny him the majority required by Georgia’s eccentric election laws (he’s currently at 50.4 percent), triggering a December 4 runoff. It will probably be some time before we know for sure.

9:20 a.m. EST: Ned Lamont – the anti-Iraq War candidate who beat Joe Lieberman in a Democratic Senate primary in 2006 (only to lose to him in the general election) – will be the next governor of Connecticut. While the Nutmeg State is deep blue, Republicans had cause for thinking it might follow the example of its New England neighbors and elect a moderate GOP governor. Incumbent Democrat Dannel Malloy is deeply unpopular, and Connecticut’s deepening fiscal woes seemed to open the door to a rightward turn. But Democratic enthusiasm – and inspiring House candidates like Jahana Hayes, who became the first African-American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress last night – proved just enough to get Lamont past Republican Bob Stefanowski. Lieberman would have been a member of Stefanowski’s transition team.

7:34 a.m. EST: Steve Sisolak is the first Democrat to win the Nevada governor’s race since 1994. Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission, defeated Republican Adam Laxalt, the state attorney general. While Trump made several visits to the state, it wasn’t enough to boost Laxalt (or Senator Dean Heller), who was not endorsed by incumbent GOP governor Brian Sandoval, or several members of his own family.

2:42 a.m. EST: In a huge win for Democrats, Tony Evers has defeated longtime Republican governor and conservative icon Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Walker was first elected in 2010, then survived a recall in 2012, and a tough reelection fight in 2014. The race this time was close from beginning to the end, but under state school chief Tony Evers, Democrats have finally brought down Walker and his harsh conservative policy machine.

1:16 a.m. EST: Maine’s Janet Mills gives Democrats another flip of a Republican-held governorship. After two terms of being governed by abrasive conservative Republican Paul LePage, Maine voters turned to Democrat Janet Mills, who won by a comfortable margin over LePage protégé, Shawn Moody. She will certainly abandon LePage’s efforts to obstruct a voter-endorsed expansion of Medicaid.

12:31 a.m. EST: Iowa’s incumbent Republican Kim Reynolds turns back a tough challenge from Fred Hubbell. In a major consolation prize in the wake of the loss of two House districts in the state, Iowa Republicans hold onto the governorship for the third straight election. Kim Reynolds, who ascended to the position when Terry Branstad was appointed ambassador to China, defeated self-funder Fred Hubbell, who led in most of the general election polls.

11:25 p.m. EST: Oregon Democratic governor Kate Brown reelected after a scare against Republican moderate Knute Buehler. Brown, who ascended to the position when former governor John Kitzhaber resigned in semi-disgrace in 2015, won a special election in 2016, but ran into some controversies around a failed corporate tax initiative and a difficult state budget. Buehler was well-suited for Oregon as a social moderate, and some observers predicted an upset, but Brown hung on to win.

10:52 p.m. EST: Florida Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum has conceded to Republican congressman Ron DeSantis after a close, bitter contest. In a major blow to Democratic expectations, Gillum, who had led in most polling after his surprise win in an August primary, narrowly lost to GOP congressman DeSantis, a close ally of the president. Gillum, like Stacey Abrams in Georgia (whose race is too close to call as of the moment) had excited African-American voters and national progressives alike.

10:38 p.m. EST: Democrats flip another governorship in New Mexico as Michelle Lujan Grisham defeated congressman Steve Pearce. Unpopular Republican incumbent Susana Martinez was term-limited, and Grisham was a modest favorite to beat the very conservative Pearce.

10:00 p.m. EST: In a big victory for Democrats, Laura Kelly has defeated Kansas’s famous voter-suppressing, immigrant-bashing Secretary of State Kris Kobach. This race was supposed to be razor-close, but Kelly is winning by a comfortable margin; it looks like the vote for independent spoiler Greg Orman is falling far below expectations, helping a Democrat retake the governorship of Kansas after the long nightmare of Sam Brownback’s two terms.

9:46 p.m. EST: Democrats hang onto Colorado as Polis defeats Stapleton. Jared Polis will succeed fellow-Democrat John Hickenlooper as governor of Colorado after easily defeating state treasurer Walker Stapleton. Depending on how you view the sexual identity of Oregon governor Kate Brown (who is bisexual), Polis will be the first or second openly gay elected governor.

9:35 p.m. EST: Democrats flip another midwestern state as Gretchen Whitmer has defeated Republican attorney general Bill Schuette in Michigan. Whitmer was a solid favorite to succeed unpopular Republican Rick Snyder, and it’s another sign of buyer’s remorse among midwestern states that voted Republican in 2010 and 2014 and for Trump in 2016.

9:15 EST: Democrat J.B. Pritzker deposes Illinoisgovernor Bruce Rauner in most expensive governor’s race ever. In a contest where an estimated $284 million was raised, $175 million of it by the eventual winner, Republican governor Bruce Rauner was handily denied a second term by billionaire J.B. Pritzker, giving Democrats total control of state government in the Land of Lincoln.

8:30 EST: Rhode Island incumbent Democrat Gina Raimondo wins. After surviving a serious primary challenge earlier this year, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo has defeated Republican Allan Fung by a comfortable margin to win a second term. She’s one New England governor who’s not a trend-bucking Republican.

Democrats Pick Up 7 New Governorships: All the Key Results