Next year will see three very important governor’s races in the deep South. Since we are a Southern news and politics site, we will likely have our eyes on all three.
If Democrats run the table in all three races, which is not out of the question, they will tie Republicans for the number of governorships they hold across the country at 25. But if Republicans run the table, which again is not out of the question, they will increase their gubernatorial lead to 28-22.
Why are these governor’s races important? First and foremost they are important in that they will determine the course of governance in all three of these states. But they are also important for redistricting, both for Congress and the state legislatures.
Here’s how I see all three states as of now:
Kentucky: Toss up
Republican Governor Matt Bevin is highly unpopular. The most recent poll released in October by Morning Consult shows Bevin with only 30% approval with 55% disapproval. Bevin also has history against him. No Republican governor in Kentucky has ever been reelected.
Given Bevin’s weakness in the polls, some powerful Democrats have already lined up to challenge him. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has already announced his bid as has Kentucky House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins. They are not the only high profile Kentucky Democrats looking at the race.
Much of what will happen in this race will be settled by who wins the Democratic nomination. Kentucky Democrats have a habit as of late of picking highly unpopular nominees. But for now, I will hold this as a toss-up.
Louisiana: Tilt D
Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards is having a great day. U.S. Senator John Kennedy has passed on the race. The Republican field is now in chaos. Edwards also has a 60% approval rating in the latest poll.
So far on the Republican side, we have one declared candidate in businessman Eddie Rispone. But Rispone is unknown outside of conservative and Republican circles. We also have U.S. Congressman Ralph Abraham is likely going to enter the race. But Abraham is virtually unknown outside of northeast Louisiana.
If the election was held today, Edwards would likely cruise back to the 4th Floor. But the election is less than one year from now and Louisiana is the reddest state of the three that will have elections this year. So right now it is tilt D but it could and probably will move to tossup.
Mississippi: Tilt R
The only open governor’s race is in Mississippi as Republican Phil Bryant is term-limited. Right now, it seems the favorite in the Republican primary is Lt. Governor Tate Reeves. But conservative firebrand State Sen. Chris McDaniel or his allies are likely going to challenge Reeves.
On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jim Hood is already in and will likely clear the field. Hood is a popular statewide Democrat with 50% approval and 27% disapproval in the latest polling in the state.
Despite a poll showing Hood defeating Reeves in a hypothetical general election, I’m going to hold this race at Tilt R for a couple of reasons. The first is that Tate Reeves is pretty good on the stump. The second reason is that Mississippi is a red state, as shown in last week’s U.S. Senate runoff. But that could easily change if Reeves is upset in the Republican primary.