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36 States To Elect Governors Next Month


Those who do vote in 36 states have a chance to vote for governor this fall. Governors' races tend to be a little less partisan than races for Congress. They're often more about what the guy in the statehouse, or the woman in the statehouse, can get done.

NPR's senior Washington correspondent Ron Elving has been following this year's governors' races. Hi, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So the electorate, according to polls, is unhappy with the direction of Congress, unhappy with the direction of the country, but how do they feel about their governors right now?

ELVING: Well, they generally feel better about their state capital than they do about Washington, Steve, but this is a time of general discontent, especially with the rate of economic recovery and job creation. And that's created some problems for quite a few of the incoming governors.

INSKEEP: And there's quite a few of them on the ballot - 36. That's a big year, and it includes a bunch of the big states - California, Texas, Florida, New York - in fact, all the biggest states there.

ELVING: Yeah and Pennsylvania, Illinois, nearly all the top 10. And some of the incumbents in those states are riding high in the polls right now -Democrats Jerry Brown in California, Andrew Cuomo in New York. And around the country, Republicans are doing well in some states too - John Kasich in Ohio, Terry Branstad in Iowa.

INSKEEP: Now, this is really interesting though, Ron. I want to ask about this because you mentioned Andrew Cuomo in New York, you mentioned Jerry Brown in California. These are people with nationally-known names who could be cutting a huge national profile, but both of them seem to be ducking the national spotlight because that would make them - is that because that would make them partisan, perhaps? And they're focusing on state issues and you're telling me that they're quite popular, at least at home?

ELVING: That's right and they each have their own reasons for sort of shrinking back from the national limelight, particularly in the age of, you know, sun goddess Hillary Clinton going into 2016. It doesn't really make much sense to compete with her. But there are a lot of other incumbents around the country who are not riding high in the polls, and when you look around, Democrat Pat Quinn is fighting for his life in deep blue Illinois. Dannel Malloy in Connecticut, John Hickenlooper in purple Colorado.

And on the Republican side, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania is looking very much like a goner already; he's down by double digits. And he's got Republican colleagues in tight races - these are incumbent Republicans - in Maine, Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas and even way up in Alaska.

INSKEEP: Now, I'm just counting back and realizing - 2014, it's been four years since the big Republican election year of 2010. So these are these governor seats coming up again. It sounds like some Republicans who won then are going to have trouble now.

ELVING: It's not 2010. We do still expect the Republicans to gain in Congress, as you know, five, six, seven seats in the Senate. Maybe even more. But in the statehouses, the Republicans may actually lose a few more than they win and see their advantage diminish. Right now it's 29 seats to 21 in the State Houses.

INSKEEP: Why would there not be more of a parallel between what's happening in national races and state races?

ELVING: Probably because of incumbency. The Republicans have a lot more governorships to defend, just as the Democrats have more Senate seats to defend. And while our elections are not strictly referenda, as you know, we don't have vote of no confidence in our system, you have to beat the governor with an alternative. But still, the voters do tend to hold their governors accountable for conditions in their state and that means voters' own individual well-being.

INSKEEP: And because the governor's a little bit closer at hand, they can make a little more detailed judgment about what that person's performance is.

ELVING: Yes and especially, regardless of party, where governors have made big promises and big changes have been made, but so far they haven't been able to deliver.

INSKEEP: Ron Elving, one other thing - there have been record numbers of women running for governor's offices in recent years. What about this year?

ELVING: Well, the record for major party nominees is 10 and we've hit that three times - 2002, 2006, 2010. This year there are almost as many women nominated by major parties. The number is nine. And with a little luck, we may see an increase in the number of women actually serving as governor next year, from five right now to six or seven.

INSKEEP: OK. Ron, thanks very much.

ELVING: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That NPR's Ron Elving.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.