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Gubernatorial elections retain power for incumbents, women gain more seats

November 10, 2022
By: Laura Lacy Graham

Thirty-six states held gubernatorial contests in Tuesday’s (Nov. 8) mid-term elections. By the end of the night and as of this writing Thursday morning, winners in 32 states had been chosen, with votes still being tallied in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon.

Voters in 27 states re-elected the incumbent; while in eight states (Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Oregon), voters chose a new governor to replace a term-limited incumbent. In two states, Connecticut and Georgia, the incumbent governor successfully faced a re-match with their 2018 opponents; while in Alaska and Maine, the incumbent faced and defeated his/her predecessor. Meanwhile, until this election, voters in Michigan and Wisconsin have not elected a governor of the same party as the sitting president since 1990; and in Kansas and New Mexico, voters have not done so since 1968 and 1986, respectively.

In five states — Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon ­— women incumbent governors and/or opposing candidates competed to either retain or gain the executive seat. Three states (Arkansas, Massachusetts, and New York) have elected their first female governors — Massachusetts and Arkansas will have women serving both as governor and lieutenant governor.  Beginning in January, 13 states will be headed by a female governor.  Maryland voters elected Wes Moore, the state’s first and the nation’s third, Black governor, and Massachusetts elected the nation’s first lesbian governor, Maura Healey.

As races are called over the coming days, Democrats and Republicans could have an equal number of governors for the first time since 1967, dependent on the final electoral outcomes in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. SSTI previously reported on many of the candidates’ innovation and technology-based economic development platforms prior to the election. The following is a review of the unofficial election results from Tuesday night and a preview of policy priorities or actions involving science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship each governor may take in their new or next terms (to the extent those positions were spelled out).


Incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Ivey easily won reelection Tuesday. Shortly after the polls closed in Alabama, Ivey was projected the winner having received 67.4% of the vote compared to her challenger, Yolanda Flowers’ 29.4%. For the governor’s second term, Ivey seeks to build upon her first term accomplishments, which include continuing to promote legislation and initiatives that helped to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship, supporting rural businesses, while also advancing education and access to tech skills that will drive a modern workforce.


Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is vying to become the first governor in the state to be electedto back-to-back terms since former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles won reelection in 1998. Alaska’s election is a ranked choice election — in which a candidate can win outright with more than 50% of the vote in the first round. With 75% of the vote counted, Dunleavy was beating his challengers, Democrat candidate state lawmaker Les Gara, and former governor and Independent candidate, Bill Walker. Dunleavy garnered 52% of the vote to Gara’s 23.1% and Walker’s 20.1%, respectively. If Dunleavy retains his 52% lead, he will win without additional tabulation rounds. In a second term as governor, Mike Dunleavy says he will continue to advocate for the shrinkage of state government and holding the line on spending and reduce government excess while prioritizing programs that increase efficiency, and provide better outcomes for the state.


Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs leads Republican newcomer Kari Lake 56% to 44% in the race for governor, but the race remains too early to call as of this Nov. 10 writing.


Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) defeated Chris Jones in the race for the open gubernatorial seat in Arkansas. Her victory represents some important firsts for the state: Sanders will be the first Republican governor to succeed another one since Reconstruction (Gov. Asa Hutchinson is term-limited), and she will be the state’s first woman governor. As governor, Sanders seeks to build a stronger workforce pipeline, provide greater opportunities for employment, and expand the state’s job training programs. Her proposed initiatives and goals will involve partnerships with the state’s education system and private sector.


Democrat incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom beat his GOP challenger, state lawmaker Brian Dahle, garnering 58% of the vote to Dahle’s 42%. The re-election follows on the heels of Newsom’s recall election in September 2021. The governor will continue to prioritize building an upward economy for the state of California as well as continue to address the state's income inequality and unequal opportunities through continued focus on policies and programs geared toward renewable energy and clean energy technologies in order to grow jobs.


Democrat incumbent Gov. Jared Polis defeated Heidi Ganahl, a former member of the Board of Regents at the University of Colorado, 57.6% to 40.3%.  In the governor’s second term, Polis is focused on five priorities: affordability, the environment, safety, education, and freedoms, which build on his first term.


In a rematch of the 2018 gubernatorial contest, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) once again defeated his GOP challenger, Bob Stefanowski, 55.6% to 43.3%, respectively. The governor’s double-digit win is the first since former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s election in 2006, and a more decisive Lamont victory than his single digit win four years ago.  In a second term, Lamont will continue to prioritize reduction in taxes, job creation and affordability.


Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis soundly defeated former Gov. Charlie Crist, in his bid for a second term. The governor was declared the winner shortly after the race was called, receiving 59.4% of the vote to Crist’s 40%. DeSantis has identified eight priorities for his second term, all of which seek to build on his first term accomplishments.


Facing his 2018 challenger, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) once again defeated Stacey Abrams to win second term as governor. Kemp received 53.4% to Abrams’ 45.9%.  The governor’s second term will include initiatives and priorities related to economic development and innovation such as continuing to develop a skilled workforce and expanding Georgia’s role as a hub for global commerce. Kemp also seeks to further strengthen rural Georgia by continuing to increase access to rural broadband and healthcare, as well as expand economic growth and educational opportunities.


Josh Green (D), the current lieutenant governor, easily won election on Tuesday, beating former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in their race for Hawaii’s open gubernatorial seat. Green, an emergency room doctor garnered 64.8% of the vote to Aiona’s 35.2%. As governor, Green has pledged to address the state’s lack of affordable housing, and identifies the housing crisis as affecting every other priority issue (education, healthcare, workforce, and economic development). He has developed a 10-point “Emergency Housing Plan” to address the housing crisis on day one of his administration. His campaign website says a Green administration will advocate for a living wage; offer every high school graduate in Hawaii a free community college education and provide job training so residents can gain valuable skills; and seeks to create and grow jobs in healthcare, IT, green energy, and sustainable tourism that will continue to increase demand for high-wage skilled Hawaiians.


Republican Gov. Brad Little secured a second term by a wide margin on Tuesday, beating Stephen Heidt 60.5% to 20.4%. In his new term, Little seeks to build on the accomplishments of his first term, including cuts or streamlining of Idaho regulations, and easing the burdens on small businesses and citizens; providing historic tax relief, stable budgeting, and historic education funding increases; and, historic investments in the state’s transportation, water, broadband, and agriculture.


Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker defeated Darren Bailey, a state senator backed by former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday. Pritzker garnered 54.3% of the voter to Bailey’s 42.9%. A top priority of the governor is to position his state for the future by building on several initiatives enacted in his first term, including the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan and the Illinois Apprenticeship Program.


Incumbent Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds handily won re-election — capturing 58.1% of the vote. Reynolds beat her Democratic challenger, Deidre DeJear, who received 39.6%. In her second term, the governor’s top priorities will remain job creation, cutting taxes, and investing in Iowa's public education.


Incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly (D), considered one of the most endangered governors in this election cycle, eked out a single-digit victory in her bid for a second term. Kelly defeated Derek Schmidt, the Trump-endorsed state attorney general, 49.2% to 47.7%, respectively. Kelly made her re-election campaign about bringing stability to the state and positioned herself as willing and able to work across the aisle. Her vision for a second term is focused on making Kansas more affordable by enacting new tax cuts and expanding the economy by attracting more businesses to come to Kansas. She is the first Democratic governor to be re-elected to a second term since 1968.


Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, won re-election against her predecessor, former Gov. Paul LePage, by receiving 55.6% of the vote to LePage’s 42.2%. During the campaign, Mills touted her record of pushing ahead the state’s Medicaid expansion, shoring up school funding, and embracing the transition to clean energy.


Political newcomer Wes Moore (D) easily beat the Trump-endorsed state Delegate Dan Cox for governor of Maryland, 59.8% to 37.1%. Moore will be Maryland’s first Black governor. He succeeds the popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term-limited. During Hogan’s reign, Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature were routinely able to override his vetoes, so the change in the governor’s office may not lead to any dramatic changes in policy. A Moore administration will work to address the state’s workforce shortage, especially in areas such as probation and parole, and seeks to help boost entrepreneurship among women and minorities; and will oversee the implementation of the massive overhaul of early childhood and K-12 education enacted last year.


State Attorney General Maura Healy (D) defeated the Trump-endorsed state Rep. Geoff Diehl to become the first woman governor of Massachusetts.  Her almost 30-point victory (63.4% to Diehl’s 35%) also broke the string of former Massachusetts’s Attorney General — six since 1958 — who have sought the governor’s office and failed.  She will succeed Gov. Charlie Baker, who chose not to run for a third-term. A Healey administration will focus on preparing workers to participate in the clean energy economy and activities to spur clean tech job growth. She is looking to bring new resources to Massachusetts’ robust network of vocational and technical high schools, coordinating those assets with regional community colleges and industries to maximize their impact.


First-term Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) won a competitive race, defeating Tudor Dixon, a conservative media personality, after receiving 54.5% of the vote to Tudor’s 43.9%. The governor campaigned heavily on the state’s manufacturing strengths and praised workers as the “backbone of Michigan's economy.” Whitmer’s second term will build upon the accomplishments of her first, including the continued attraction of business projects and investments to the state, as well as the creation of good-paying jobs in the state’s burgeoning electric vehicle sector.


DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) Gov. Tim Walz won a second term following a race for governor that featured deep socio-economic divisions that stemmed from the pandemic shutdown and the subsequent economic recovery. Walz garnered 52.3% of the vote to Jensen’s 44.6%. Walz’s “Vision for One Minnesota,” builds upon his previous platform that invested in workers and small businesses by expanding access to training opportunities and community college programs to create good-paying jobs and a skilled workforce. During his first term, Walz established the Governor’s Council on Economic Expansion, which brought together labor, business, philanthropic, and non-profit leaders from across the state to provide recommendations on expanding Minnesota’s economy, which will be rolled out and implemented under his second term.


The heavily favored Jim Pillen, a Republican and a member of the University of Nebraska’s Board of Regents, defeated state Sen. Carol Blood for governor on Tuesday. Pillen, who received slightly more than 60% of the vote, is succeeding Gov. Pete Ricketts, who is term-limited, and is anticipated to follow in Ricketts’ footsteps in terms of the state’s policy course. As governor, education will be his prime focus, but he will also devote much of his attention to changing the state’s tax structure.


Clark County Sheriff and Republican candidate Joe Lombardo currently leads Gov. Steve Sisolak  50.6% to 45.8% in one of the closest races for governor. The race remains too early to call as of Nov. 10 and final results will not be available until Nov. 18 at the earliest.

New Hampshire

Incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) cruised to a fourth two-year term in New Hampshire defeating challenger state Sen. Tom Sherman (D) by a 15-point margin. Sununu captured 56.8% of the vote with Sherman earning 41.5%.  A fourth Sununu term is expected to look a lot like his previous terms — with the governor continuing to build on his platform of protecting personal freedoms and practicing fiscal responsibility.

New Mexico

Incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) won a second term Tuesday. She defeated GOP challenger Mark Ronchetti with 51.9% of the vote. In her first term, Lujan Grisham said she, “has reimagined New Mexico economically by investing in the state’s growing industries, as well as creating completely new ones, like cannabis and outdoor recreation, which has resulted in the state’s best years for new job growth." Her second term, similar to the first, will prioritize and continue to be committed to growing and diversifying the state’s economy, through its support of small businesses and attraction of entrepreneurs, and continued investments in vocational training, higher education and certificate programs.

New York

On Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, became the first woman to be elected governor of New York. Seeking her first full term as governor after succeeding former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hochul beat U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who was looking to be the first Republican to win the governor’s seat in 20 years. Hochul won a single-digit victory, capturing 52.8% of the vote to Zeldin’s 47.2%. In her first term, the governor was an advocate for the Green CHIPS Act and has prioritized policies and initiatives that will build on CHIPS, seeking to “make New York a hub for high tech manufacturing.”


Gov. Mike DeWine (R) easily defeated former Dayton mayor, Nan Whaley, for a second term. DeWine  garnered 62.8% of the vote and emphasized economic development wins under his watch — notably a planned investment by Intel of upwards of $20 billion in semiconductor plants. He also played up tax cuts and state spending reductions in his re-election bid. His next term seeks to build on the accomplishments of his first term.


Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) was able to win a second term on Tuesday, beating his challenger and former Republican Joy Hofmesiter, capturing 55.5% of the vote. When elected in 2018, Stitt described himself as a conservative outsider with a vision to make Oklahoma a top-10 state, and offered a five-pillar plan to reform the state's education system and expanding economic prosperity. In a second term, the governor is committed to building upon the successes during his first term, while continuing to provide fiscally conservative leadership and policies.


Tina Kotek, the former Oregon state House speaker, is attempting to retain the Democrats’ 36-year hold on the governorship in the race for the open seat; meanwhile, GOP candidate Christine Drazan is vying to become the first Republican governor since 1986. While Kotek is leading Drazan 46.2% to 44.3%, the race remained too close to call as of Nov. 9. The Willamette Week reports that Kotek is poised to defeat Drazan as her lead is widening and will continue to grow based on the outstanding ballots, while The Oregonian called the race for Kotek late Wednesday morning.


State Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) defeated GOP state Senator Doug Mastriano in the race to succeed Gov. Tom Wolf, who is term-limited.  Shapiro garnered 55.8% of the vote to Mastriano’s 42.4%. Shapiro campaigned on a platform of economic equity, expansion, and security. He has prioritized further lowering the state’s corporate net income tax, and embraces Pennsylvania’s role as a natural gas producer while investing in green technology for the future. As governor, Shapiro pledges to expand access to quality, affordable broadband to rural communities, as well as increase efforts to develop the commonwealth’s broadband infrastructure.

Rhode Island

Seeking his first full term, Democratic Gov. Dan McKee, the state’s former lieutenant governor who replaced Gov. Gina Raimondo last year when she became commerce secretary, defeated Republican challenger Ashley Kalus, 58% to 39.1%. In a second term, McKee has committed to maintaining Rhode Island’s recovery by investing in projects that create construction jobs, and expanding the Wavemaker Fellowship program, which encourages students to earn their degree and enter the workforce in Rhode Island. The governor is also working to reduce barriers to employment and connect skilled workers with good-paying career opportunities, and continue investments in the state’s blue economy and life science industries.

South Carolina

Incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster (R) won a second term on Tuesday, winning 58.1% of the vote – an 18-point victory over his opponent, Joe Cunningham. If McMaster serves his entire second term, he will be the longest-serving executive in state history, and will have served 10 years (McMaster finished two years of former Gov. Nikki Haley’s term, before being re-elected twice). A second McMaster term is expected to look a lot like his previous term — with the governor continuing to build on his platform of job and technical training programs, along with attracting and expanding manufacturing companies and operations in the state.

South Dakota

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem defeated state Sen. Jamie Smith with 62% of the vote. In her second term, Noem is seeking to grow the state’s workforce through: investing in the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship, the first needs-based scholarship in the state; expanding apprenticeship programs to assist in on-the-job training and skills development; and, bolstering the state’s technical colleges. Additionally, she continues to advocate for the investment in high-speed broadband connectivity state-wide; and, pursuing licensure reform, including making it easier for military spouses to transfer out-of-state licenses to South Dakota and recognizing out-of-state licenses for medical professionals. 


Republican Gov. Bill Lee secured a second term Tuesday night, winning his re-election by more than 20 points, beating his opponent Jason Martin 65.3% to 32.6%.  Lee’s next term will build upon his first term achievements including: tax cuts, job creation and the attraction, investment, and securing of additional economic development megaprojects akin to the Ford Motor Company in the megasite of west Tennessee, which marked the largest private sector investment in the state’s history.


Securing a third term, Gov. Greg Abbott defeated Beto O’Rourke, who was vying to become the first Democratic governor in Texas in more than 25 years. Abbott won with 54.8% of the vote to O’Rourke’s 43.8%. The governor’s policy proposals, “Bicentennial Blueprint: Framing Our Future,” seek to build on the successes achieved during his two terms, and pledges to continue to grow the state’s prosperity, jobs, and the workforce while reducing regulations and cutting taxes.


Similar to New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Gov. Phil Scott (R) secured a fourth two-year term, when he was  reelected defeating challenger Brenda Siegel (D) by a margin of 71.3-24.1%. Scott seeks to continue to improve the coordination between the state’s Department of Labor and key workforce development partners to support training opportunities, which will assist Vermonters to gain new skills for advancement in or securing good-paying jobs.


Gov. Tony Evers (D) was reelected to a second term defeating Tim Michels, capturing 51.2% of the vote to Michel’s 47.8%. In his first term, Evers prioritized workforce development, manufacturing, and innovation, all of which will also be priorities in his next term.


Incumbent Gov. Mark Gordon (R) secured a second term, when he beat challenger Theresa Livingston in an over 60-point victory — 78.7% to 16.8%, respectively. While his first term was dominated by the pandemic and economic downturn, which created one of the state’s most difficult budget situations in its history, in a second term, the governor is committed to continued fiscal responsibility and attracting new industries to Wyoming as part as the state’s continued economic diversification efforts.

elections, governors, innovation