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Policy positions of gubernatorial candidates in 11 states discussed

September 24, 2020
By: Kevin Michel

Eleven states are holding gubernatorial elections this year with nine incumbents seeking reelection, two of which are facing off against their lieutenant governor. Only one governor, Steve Bullock in Montana, is term-limited and unable to seek reelection. In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert is stepping down from the position he has held for 10 years. While many of the races this year will reflect referendums on the current governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the candidates have announced their innovation and economic development initiatives. In the final stretch of the gubernatorial race, here are some of the candidates’ innovation-related policies, positions and prior accomplishments.


In Delaware, Republican Julianne Murray is running against incumbent Democrat John Carney. According to her campaign site, Murray will spur entrepreneurship by cutting taxes, streamlining regulations, and adopting a uniform permitting code to help reopen and grow small businesses. She created the “Small Business Bill of Rights”, a document that outlines the rights and privileges of small businesses in Delaware.  

Carney, with help from his Division of Small Business, launched the EDGE (Encouraging Development, Growth & Expansion) grant program designed to assist Delaware entrepreneurs by providing a 3-to-1 match for each dollar an eligible business invests on qualified expenses. In addition, Carney has created numerous incentive programs designed to grow small businesses including the Angel Investor Tax Credit and the Delaware Strategic Fund. Carney has also pledged to eliminate broadband deserts to help build Delaware’s innovation economy.


Woody Myers (D), a former Indiana State Health Commissioner, is challenging incumbent Eric Holcomb (R) in the Indiana gubernatorial election this year. Myers has been a proponent of a state stimulus program to inject money into small businesses amid the pandemic and supports protecting education budgets from future cuts. The Myers/Lawson Education Plan will work to increase public school funding and reduce achievement gaps for marginalized students.  

Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs Plan is a workforce development and training initiative that he hopes will now help to invigorate Indiana’s economy post-pandemic. As governor, Holcomb worked to bring a $35 million education center headed by tech company Infosys to the state capital which will provide training programs for clients who want to reskill employees at their companies. He also claims credit for bringing over 100,000 new job commitments to Indiana, infrastructure investments, and workforce training.

Both candidates support increasing broadband and technology access at home and across the more rural regions of the state.


In Missouri, Democrat Nicole Galloway faces off against incumbent Republican Mike Parson. Galloway has created an action plan to help the state rebuild following the COVID-19 pandemic. Galloway also seeks to expand broadband access across rural Missouri and create new workforce development opportunities that create pathways out of poverty, according to her campaign site.

Parson is focused on ensuring that workers have the skills to compete for jobs in the modern global economy. He cites the 35,000 new jobs created in Missouri and the passage of what his campaign says is the largest income tax cut in Missouri’s history. Parson claims credit for the expansion of the tech sector in the St. Louis region and has leveraged this into 1,400 new technology jobs over the next five years through partnerships including the Missouri Department of Economic Development and St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. Parson has supported broadband initiatives that will increase access throughout the state.


According to the Montana Economic Outlook for 2020, Montana's high-tech industry is growing at nine times the rate of the Montana economy. Given this, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D) and opponent Congressman Greg Gianforte (R) are unveiling sweeping policy goals to improve and capitalize on Montana’s growing innovation economy. As lieutenant governor, Cooney and Gov. Steve Bullock worked to establish Montana’s ranking consistently near or at the top of the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship. This is due in part to the 2,940 start-ups that have been formed by Montana entrepreneurs and the creation of recent programs such as the University of Montana’s Center for Economic Development. Cooney also developed an initiative called Key Industry Network that identified the priorities that are most essential to the success of a given industry in Montana. According to his campaign site, roughly 80 percent of the priorities have been accomplished or initiated. Cooney promises to expand broadband access, create renewable energy Worker Training Grants, and expand the apprenticeship tax credit.

Gianforte has led initiatives such as Code Montana and Youth Entrepreneurs. His jobs plan, called Better Montana Jobs, is to produce more high wage jobs in Montana through the natural resources, hi-tech, and manufacturing sectors. His campaign website indicates he has also founded the Bozeman Technology Incubator. Recently, Gianforte released his Montana Comeback Plan to spur the Montana economy post-COVID 19, which includes plans to improve rural broadband and place more of an emphasis on trades education to create skilled workers. Gianforte currently serves as Montana’s sole representative in the U.S. House.

New Hampshire

Incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is facing a challenge from State Sen. Dan Feltes (D) in the New Hampshire gubernatorial election. As governor, Sununu has created the Department of Business and Economic Affairs and allocated $400 million to New Hampshire small businesses through the Main Street Relief Fund during the COVID-19 pandemic. His administration has invested $275 million in clean water projects, expanded educational opportunities for students, and signed business tax cuts into law.

The core of Feltes’ economic campaign centers on his Green Jobs, Green Futures plan to create living-wage jobs and lead the recovery after COVID-19. In the State House, Feltes has drafted bills relating to the establishment of low-income solar projects (SB 165), increasing investment in the New Hampshire Business and Economic Affairs job training fund (SB 2), and assisting career and technical education programs (SB 104). He has also fought for investments in job training and apprenticeship programs and cites the need for major infrastructure investments in the state.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is facing a challenge from Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R). Cooper created initiatives such as NC Job Ready, Finish Line Grants, and Hometown Strong. His Clean Energy Plan aims to create good-paying jobs, increase the use of renewable energy, and fight climate change. Cooper has worked to support early-stage technology development and has provided grant funding to help small and mid-sized communities transition into an innovation-based economy. He has also proposed funding to ensure the rural regions of North Carolina expand their broadband capabilities.

Forest supports cutting excess government regulation and cutting taxes on businesses. He has emphasized the need for fewer regulations to stimulate entrepreneurship in the state.  He supports vocational education initiatives through community colleges that will bring applicable skills to many of the industry jobs in North Carolina. As Chairman of the Governor’s eLearning Commission and member of the State Board of Education’s Special Committee on Digital Learning, Forest has worked to ensure all K-12 classrooms have broadband access and eventually smart devices for every student.

North Dakota

North Dakota features a race between incumbent Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and challenger Shelley Lenz (D). As governor, Burgum launched five strategic initiatives for North Dakota including the Main Street Initiative, an initiative designed to build smart and energy efficient infrastructure in communities, and the Opportunities in Education Initiative, a broadband expansion and educational transformation initiative. Burgum also cites successful collaboration efforts between Bismarck Public Schools and Bismarck State College to create career academies across the state.

Through her Homegrown Prosperity Initiative, Lenz says she would provide state support for start-ups, increase investments in research, and develop public-private partnerships. In particular, the North Dakota Energy Co-Op Public-Private Partnership would provide infrastructure to improve oil extraction and captured natural gas and create and maintain high-paying, stable jobs within local communities. She supports funding for vocational and technical training programs and additional funding for all state higher education institutions. Lenz has served on a local school board and is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.


In Utah, law professor Chris Peterson (D) is facing off against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R). Peterson plans to expand financing opportunities for small and mid-sized businesses, cut unnecessary red-tape, and create incentives to invest in research and development, training, and employee capacity. He worked as at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and as a Special Advisor in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Cox has overseen the addition of more than 250,000 jobs during his tenure as lieutenant governor, according to his campaign. In addition, he helped lead the 25k Jobs initiative, a program designed to strengthen rural local economies. He has prioritized in-state manufacturing and commerce, built essential supply chains, and incentivized local business growth by cultivating an economic environment founded on low taxes and fewer regulations. If elected, Cox plans to encourage rural business formation, upskill rural workers, and provide companies and workers with the resources to telework more.


The gubernatorial race in Vermont is between Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D) and incumbent Gov. Phil Scott (R). As governor, Scott has led the ThinkVermont Innovation initiative, which aims to accelerate small business growth by making funding available; leveraging federal programs; testing cutting edge broadband deployments; and assisting in the development of co-working and other non-traditional work environments. He has worked with the State Legislature to pass broadband and connectivity improvement initiatives. Scott has also signed Act 69, a bill that created six Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts designed to stimulate private development and support public infrastructure investments.

Zuckerman is a member of the Vermont Progressive Party and plans to expand the broadband innovation grant program and believes that his administration must find ways to encourage and support entrepreneurs. He plans to build on the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative signed into law in 2012, which has funded over 184 projects in Vermont and resulted in the creation of more than 500 sustainable jobs.


In Washington, incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee (D) faces a challenge from Loren Culp (R). Inslee has focused much of his time in office on clean-energy innovation. As governor, he created the Clean Energy Fund, which seeks to align the state’s economic goals with its climate goals. He supports innovation in blockchain, autonomous vehicles, quantum computing, the Cloud, AI, and the Internet of Things. In 2017, Inslee launched the Career Connect Washington initiative to help students pursue careers following high school through education programs. His administration has also worked with state legislators to expand access to rural broadband.

Culp, who currently serves as police chief and the only officer in the small town of Republic, Washington, plans to make programmatic adjustments to the state budget to reduce its spending to 2017 or 2016 levels. He also plans to develop a new school district budget model that provides equal resources to schools with bonuses based upon enrollment numbers. Culp also promises to restructure Washington’s Department of Ecology by reappointing scientists to lead the organization.

West Virginia

The race in West Virginia features current Republican Gov. Jim Justice and Democrat Ben Salango. According to his campaign site, Justice created over 20,000 new jobs in 2019 and worked to ensure small businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators had the investment and support they needed to succeed. If elected, he plans to continue encouraging businesses and federal agencies to work in West Virginia.

As a small business owner, Salango worked to create the Upper Kanawha Business Assistance Program (UKAN), a program dedicated to creating entrepreneurs in a part of the state that has been heavily affected by the loss of coal jobs. If elected governor, Salango says he will expand the program across communities in West Virginia. He plans to strengthen the workforce by expanding skills training for in-demand fields and creating training facilities to upskill out-of-work employees. Salango also plans to expand broadband access across the state. 

Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginiaelections, governors, states