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Rating Gubernatorial Races, 2021-22

Dr. Larry Sabato’s 2022 Gubernatorial Projection


By Jim Ellis

March 16, 2021 — The University of Virginia’s political prognosticator, Dr. Larry Sabato, released his 2021-22 governors’ race ratings late last week, which appear to be the first in the public domain for the early election cycle.

Currently, Republicans hold a 27-23 advantage in governorships. A total of 38 races are on tap in the 2022 election cycle, two of which will be decided this year (New Jersey; Virginia).

Surprisingly, Dr. Sabato rates the Democrats as completely safe in only one state, Hawaii, while nine Republicans are placed in the commensurate category.

We believe the Democrats are in better position in many of the states, but with a gubernatorial recall election likely to occur in California and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s problems in New York, these two normally secure seats now yield a more uncertain political climate.

Below are the Sabato ratings:


Safe Democratic:

• Hawaii – open – Gov. David Ige (D) term-limited

Expect a crowded and contested Democratic primary in Hawaii with the winner easily claiming the 2022 general election.


Safe Republican:

• Alabama – Gov. Kay Ivey (R) – has not yet committed to a re-election effort
• Arkansas – open – Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) term-limited
• Idaho – Gov. Brad Little (R) is expected to seek re-election
• Nebraska – open – Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) term-limited
• Oklahoma – Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is seeking re-election
• South Carolina – Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is seeking re-election
• South Dakota – Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is seeking re-election
• Tennessee – Gov. Bill Lee (R) is seeking re-election
• Wyoming – Gov. Mark Gordon (R) is seeking re-election

We are in agreement with all of these ratings.

Republicans are expected to have a competitive open nomination contest in Nebraska.

It appears that former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the early GOP leader in Arkansas.


Likely Democratic

• California – Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) facing recall election before regular vote
• Colorado – Gov. Jared Polis (D) is seeking re-election
• Connecticut – Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is seeking re-election
• Illinois – Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is seeking re-election
• Minnesota – Gov. Tim Walz (D) is seeking re-election
• New Jersey – Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is favored for re-election in the 2021 campaign
• New Mexico – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is seeking re-election
• New York – Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) may be impeached or forced to resign
• Rhode Island – Gov. Dan McKee (D) is seeking election to his first term

At this point, we would move Colorado (Gov. Polis), Connecticut (Gov. Lamont), and Illinois (Gov. Pritzker) into the Safe Democratic category, at least based upon the present campaign status.

California will almost assuredly elect a Democratic governor, but whether that individual is again Gov. Newsom remains a bit of a question mark. The recall effort is likely to qualify later this month which allows the removal election to be scheduled.

New York, once the Cuomo situation is determined, is likely to return to the Safe Democratic column before the 2022 election.

In Rhode Island, new Gov. McKee assumed office after elected Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) resigned to accept her appointment as US Secretary of Commerce. Election year 2022 will feature a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary, but the party will remain in control regardless of who eventually wins the primary election.
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