All incumbent governors reelected; only Montana sees party switch

November 06, 2020
By: Kevin Michel

After a historic election night, the winners of the gubernatorial elections in 11 states appear to have been chosen. Barring a dramatic swing in votes, all of the nine incumbent governors have been reelected to a second or third term. In Montana, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) has flipped control of the governor’s seat, and in Utah, Spencer Cox (R) has defeated Chris Peterson (D). Many of the incumbent governors held strong approval ratings going into election night and won their voters’ approval for another term as the country tries to inch out of the pandemic and recover economically. SSTI previously reported each of the candidates’ innovation and technology-based economic development platforms prior to the election. What follows is a review of the unofficial election results from Tuesday night and a look and actions each governor may take in another term.


Incumbent Gov. John Carney (D) is winning the Delaware gubernatorial election by a margin of 59.5-38.6 percent. During the campaign, Carney cited the creation of new grant programs, tax credits, and incentive programs designed to promote small business growth and encourage economic development. Carney has said he will focus his efforts in the next term on rebuilding Delaware’s economy post-pandemic and will look to innovative economic policies and small business support to do so.


Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) defeated challenger Woody Myers (D) shortly after the polls closed in Indiana on Tuesday after it was projected that Holcomb received 57.3 percent of the vote compared to Myers’ 30.4 percent. Holcomb’s platform One Indiana for All lays out his five pillars for building the state’s economy. Holcomb has allocated federal stimulus dollars to businesses and created a marketplace to ensure that small businesses had access to personal protective equipment. In his next term, Holcomb will look to stabilize the labor force and incentivize job training to help bounce the economy back through the Next Level Jobs plan. The program offers free job training for high-growth, in-demand careers to citizens in Indiana and incentivizes businesses to hire, train and retain new employees.


In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson (R) has been reelected despite being outspent by challenger Nicole Galloway (D) and a dip in approval ratings due to his administration’s pandemic response. Parson was able to gather an estimated 57 percent of the vote while Galloway received 40.6 percent. After being sworn into office following the resignation of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, Parson will govern for his first full term. During the campaign, Parson emphasized the state’s comparatively low unemployment rate and made support for law enforcement a central theme of his reelection bid. As governor, he will look to expand broadband in the rural areas of the state and continue his initiative to expand the number of programs eligible for the state’s Fast Track grant program.


Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) defeated Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D) in the race for the open gubernatorial seat in Montana. Gianforte beat Cooney with a near 13-point margin capturing 54.2 percent of the vote while Cooney received 41.9 percent. Gianforte will replace Steve Bullock (D) and Republicans will now control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s seat, signifying a state government trifecta. Gianforte will look to improve and capitalize on Montana’s growing innovation economy through his jobs plan Better Montana Jobs and his post-pandemic Montana Comeback Plan.

New Hampshire

Incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) cruised to a third term in New Hampshire defeating challenger Dan Feltes (D) by an estimated 31-point margin. Sununu captured nearly two-thirds of the votes counted with 65 percent with Feltes earning 33.5 percent. During his campaign, Sununu talked about his support for the Department of Business and Economic Affairs and allocating funds to small businesses through the Main Street Relief Fund 2.0 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

North Carolina

In the closest race of the evening, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) defeated Lt. Gov. Dan Forest by a margin of 51.5-47.1 percent. For his second term, Cooper’s top priorities include expanding access to Medicaid, raising wages for public school teachers, and managing the economy post-pandemic. Cooper will likely continue to provide funding opportunities for the rural regions in North Carolina to expand their broadband infrastructure and support early-stage technology development to help small and mid-sized communities transition into an innovation-based economy.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) defeated challenger Shelley Lenz (D) in a landslide earning 69.2 percent of the vote compared to Lenz at 26.7 percent. Like many governors, responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be Burgum’s top priority in his next term. His Five Strategic Initiatives for North Dakota and, in particular, the Main Street Initiative, will help guide the economic recovery through the development of smart infrastructure and by training a 21st century workforce ready to meet the demand for advanced manufacturing and technology jobs. Burgum plans to expand lifetime workforce training opportunities and enhancement to improve academic and career skills for adult learners and provide students with alternative education options.


Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox defeated Democratic challenger Chris Peterson. Cox received 64.2 percent of the vote and Peterson earned 30.6 percent. In the closing weeks before the election, the race drew national attention following the candidates’ commitment to civility in politics. Cox plans to lead the post-pandemic economic recovery through his Utah Leads Together Plan that outlines initiatives such as encouraging rural business formation, upskilling rural workers, and enabling more telework. Cox plans to make increasing funding for education and providing additional resources to teachers a top priority for his first term as governor.


Gov. Phil Scott (R) has been reelected and will serve a third term as governor in Vermont in another landslide win for Republicans. Scott defeated challenger Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D) by a margin of 68.4-27.3. Vermont currently has one of the lowest per-capita infection rates of COVID-19 and Scott has been praised for his handling of the pandemic. Recently, he announced the Adult Career Technical Education (CTE) Scholarship, a grant for eligible Vermonters to support training and other expenses incurred from enrollment in an adult career and technical education certificate program. The ThinkVermont initiative will likely be a way that Scott hopes to lead the economic recovery following the pandemic and will use the initiative to accelerate small business growth and improve broadband accessibility in the state.


Gov. Jay Inslee (D) captured 58.6 percent of the vote in Washington and defeated challenger Loren Culp (R) who earned 41.4 percent, making the first three-term governor in Washington since 1972. His reelection campaign emphasized his response to COVID-19. In terms of policy, Inslee is a strong proponent of clean energy jobs and supports innovation initiatives such as quantum computing and AI in the workplace. To aid in the post-pandemic economic recovery, Inslee is urging the state to increase its capital budget as a way to boost jobs, continue to help small business and grow non-college career education and apprenticeships. His third term will focus on combating climate change while generating jobs in a green Washington economy.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, incumbent Gov. Jim Justice (R) defeated Ben Salango (D) in another landslide gubernatorial election. Justice earned 64.1 percent of the vote compared to Salango’s 30.4 percent. Justice ran on his record of job creation saying that in 2019, he created over 20,000 new jobs in West Virginia’s economy and has worked to ensure that small businesses have had the resources they need during the pandemic. During the campaign, Justice cited the passage of a $2.8 billion road bond amendment and investments in public education, including two pay raises for public school teachers and service personnel. Recently, Justice awarded a $2 million grant to Thundercloud Inc. for broadband expansion in the Huntington area.

elections, governors