In less than a year, voters in 36 states will decide on their respective governors during the 2018 midterm elections. Many of these contests have already become competitive with a host of Republican and Democratic nominees announcing their candidacy. This month, we’re looking at races and key players out west in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon. Throughout 2018, DMGS will be looking at gubernatorial races across the U.S. with expert commentary and insight.



Primary Election: May 15th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

Governor Butch Otter (R), first elected in 2006, announced he won’t seek a fourth term in 2018 (Idaho does not term-limit their governor). His decision sent shockwaves throughout political circles in the Gem State. As a result, a variety of candidates have emerged to fill the vacancy. For the past two decades, Idaho has enjoyed Republican majorities in both its legislature and governor’s mansion. The state has been solidly Republican in recent presidential elections.

Over a dozen individuals representing Republican, Democratic and third-parties have declared their candidacy. High profile Republicans including Lt. Governor Brad Little and Congressman Raul Labrador (ID-1) have thrown their hats into the ring, along with Boise developer and Physician Tommy Ahlquist.  With roughly six months until the May primary, Little, Labrador, and Ahlquist have maintained close leads, while most registered Republicans still remain undecided.

While the GOP controls every statewide and federal seat, Democrats have confidence they can capture the Governor’s seat in 2018. In early December, State Rep. Paulette Jordan, a three-term legislator and member of the Couer d’Alene Native American tribe announced her candidacy. The 38-year-old will face A.J. Balukoff, a Boise businessman who lost to Otter in 2014.

The last time Idaho elected a Democrat was in 1990 when former Governor Cecil Andrus won a fourth term.



Primary Election: May 15th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

In 2018, Oregon will have several major seats up for grabs, including the entire state legislature, senate, row offices, the congressional delegation, and the governor’s seat. In 2016, Governor Kate Brown (D) was elected in a special election to finish Governor John Kitzhaber’s term. Kitzhaber had resigned amid a corruption scandal. Brown, the former Oregon Secretary of State, won the Democratic primary for the special election with more than 80 percent of the vote, before clearing the general election with over 50 percent. If re-elected in 2018, Brown will begin her first full term in office.

As of now, Brown does not have a Democratic challenger, but the field of Republican nominees continues to grow. State Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend became the first major candidate to officially announce in August 2017.  Brown and Buehler have a deep electoral history together, having first squared off in 2012 when they sought the Secretary of State seat. Brown defeated Buehler with 51 percent of the vote.

With less than six months before the Oregon primary, and more than a year before the general election, the 2018 gubernatorial race is on track to become the most expensive in state history. Both Brown and Buehler have already raised a combined $5.3 million (this figure does not include the handful of other candidates in the Republican primary).

A crowded GOP primary against Buehler could materialize. Sam Carpenter, an entrepreneur and former candidate for U.S. Senate, announced his gubernatorial bid in late October 2017. In addition to Carpenter, Salem real estate broker Bruce Cuff has declared for the primary. Several other Republicans are expected to announce their plans, including the current Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, House Minority Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte and Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer.


Primary Election: June 5th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

California Governor Jerry Brown (D) cannot seek re-election this year due to term limits. First elected in 2010, and subsequently reelected in 2014, Brown held California’s highest executive seat in a state where Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature.

California often has crowded gubernatorial primaries with eccentric “nontraditional” candidates interested in taking advantage of the media frenzy. Notable “outsider” candidates include adult film stars, a former child actor, several media personalities, and a professional athlete. The primary will be no different, with a number of candidates already having announced their intentions. Eleven Democrats, including the current Lt. Governor, a former state treasurer, and the former Mayor of Los Angeles, have announced their bids. Twelve Republicans and over 20 independent and third-party candidates have announced their candidacy. The top two candidates in the primary from any party will advance to the general election.


Six major candidates–four Democrats and two Republicans–have emerged as probable successors. The Democrats include Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsomformer Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Treasurer John Chiang, and former California Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. The two favored Republicans are businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen. A poll conducted by UC Berkeley in September 2017 found that Lt. Governor Newsom leads the field with 26 percent of likely voters, followed by John Cox with 11 percent. Behind Newsom and Cox is Villaraigosa with 10 percent, Allen at nine percent, Chiang at seven percent and Eastin at four percent.  Roughly a third of the poll’s participants were still undecided. Whatever the case, California will be a state to watch in 2018.

New Mexico

Primary Election: June 5th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s term-limited position opens the door for a new governor in 2018. Martinez, who was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, leaves a Democratic-controlled house and senate to her successor. With a growing Hispanic population, New Mexico may appear bluer in 2018.

For the Democratic primary, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1) is the clear favorite to win the nomination. Although Jeff Apodaca, the son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, has begun running television advertisements across the state. State Sen. Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces and alcohol prevention specialist Peter DeBenedittis have also entered the race.

In the GOP, Congressman Steve Pearce (NM-2), who last ran for statewide office in 2008 when he was defeated by Sen. Tom Udall (D), has announced his candidacy. Currently, Pearce is the only serious GOP contender to announce. However, Martinez’s dismal approval ratings coupled with Hillary Clinton success in New Mexico in 2016, makes winning the Land of Enchantment a challenge for any GOP contender.


Primary Election: June 12th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

With Republican Governor Brian Sandoval leaving office due to term limits, the Silver State is expected to have both an active primary and a general election. First elected in 2010 and subsequently re-elected in 2014, Sandoval is leaving office with Democrats in control of both the state house and senate following the 2017 general election. Early projections for the 2018 general election, including the Cook Political Report, indicate that Nevada is a “toss-up” state, meaning either party could gain control at this point.

A handful of Republican and Democratic candidates have already declared their candidacy. On the Republican ticket, State Treasurer Dan SchwartzAttorney General Adam Laxalt, and Tourism Entrepreneur Jared Fisher have sought the nomination. School reform, public lands and job creation have become key issues for the GOP candidates, but the Republican field has significant political differences: Schwartz is seen as a moderate who could work with Democrats if elected. Laxalt has been painted as an “alt-right” mouthpiece with limited legislative experience.

The Democratic primary may become equally dramatic. Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission, is expected to face fellow Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.  Giunchigliani is the former president of the Nevada State Education Association and a former member of the Nevada legislature. Sisolak, a businessman and former member of the UNLV board of regents, and Giunchigliani share similar policy positions and political allies. Indeed, their primary has caused tension within the Nevada Democratic party, but several key party leaders have yet to back a candidate. However, Sisolak has received the endorsement of Las Vegas Congresswoman Dina Titus, a move that signals potential establishment support of the Clark County Commissioner. Polling data for this race is limited and most experts put this race in the category of a “tossup” with over six months to go before the primary.


Primary Election: August 28th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey (R), first elected in 2014, will face reelection in the 2018 general election. Since taking over for former Governor Jan Brewer (R), the Republican party has maintained control over the Governor’s mansion, the legislature, and the Attorney General. With more than eight months before the primary, Ducey has not received a Republican challenger.

With a long history of conservative politicians, Ducey is anticipated to win the Arizona general election.

However, a tumultuous political cycle and the potential for a Democratic “wave” has forced many analysts to rethink Grand Canyon State politics. State Senator Steve Farley and Education Professor Dave Garcia are vying for the Democratic nomination. Farley, who served for 11 years in the Arizona legislature, has been a vocal opponent to Ducey’s agenda. Farley has been described by the Arizona Republic as someone who gives the “sense that he understands the inner workings of state government and politics.” Garcia, who previously ran unsuccessfully for the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, is running on a populist platform that seeks to resist the Republican agenda.

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