Previewing Alaska’s ranked-choice gubernatorial election

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R), Les Gara (D), Charlie Pierce (R), and Bill Walker (I) are running for governor of Alaska on Nov. 8, 2022. They advanced from the top-four primary on Aug. 16, 2022.

Dunleavy was first elected in 2018, succeeding Walker, who had served as governor since 2014. Walker withdrew from the 2018 gubernatorial race in October and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich, saying, “Alaskans deserve a competitive race, and Alaskans deserve a choice other than Mike Dunleavy.” Gara served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 2003 to 2018. Pierce has served as mayor of Kenai Peninsula Borough since 2017.

Permanent Fund dividends (PFD) are a major issue in the race. The state invests oil and gas revenues and distributes a portion of the investment earnings to residents annually. The statutory formula for calculating the dividend was last followed in 2015. Starting in 2016, a portion each year went toward funding government services.

Dunleavy says he’s working to guarantee the PFD in the state constitution and is calling for a 50-50 split between payments to residents and funds for government services.

Gara said Dunleavy changed his promises regarding the PFD. Gara said he pushed in the state House to return to the statutory formula with revenue gained from ending what he called an “oil tax giveaway.”

Pierce said he would restore the statutory funding formula.

Walker said Dunleavy had made unrealistic promises regarding the PFD. Walker said he would support “the largest dividend the state can afford but not at the expense of high taxes and weakened government services such as education and public safety.”

This is the first gubernatorial election in Alaska to use top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting for the general election, a system voters voters approved in 2020.

A state government trifecta refers to a situation where one party controls a state’s governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Alaska has a divided government, with a Republican governor and Republican numerical majorities in both chambers of the legislature but a power-sharing agreement in the state House that splits control between parties.

As of Sept. 9, there were 23 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

This is one of 36 gubernatorial elections taking place in 2022. The governor serves as a state’s top executive official and is the only executive office that is elected in all 50 states. There are currently 28 Republican governors and 22 Democratic governors. Click here for an overview of all 36 gubernatorial elections taking place in 2022.

Incumbent Janet Mills (D), Paul LePage (R), and Sam Hunkler (I) are running in the general election for governor of Maine

Incumbent Janet Mills (D), Paul LePage (R), and Sam Hunkler (I) are running in the general election for governor of Maine on November 8, 2022.

Mills was first elected governor in 2018 and is seeking a second term. LePage served as governor from 2011 to 2019 and is seeking a third term. Mills is the state’s first female governor and a LePage win would make him the longest-serving governor in state history.

Mills was elected governor after serving as Maine’s attorney general for eight years during LePage’s administration. Mills also served four terms as the district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. She was the first woman elected to each of these positions. Mills says that she has worked across the aisle to deliver progress as governor and would continue to address the following issues in a second term: expanding health care, fully funding Maine’s public schools, preserving Maine’s lands and waters, and fighting climate change.

LePage was elected governor after serving as the mayor of Waterville, Maine, for seven years. He also served two terms on the Waterville City Council. LePage criticizes Mills’ performance as governor and highlights his own record, saying that his vision for Maine is “to create prosperity through a lower overall tax burden for residents and businesses; a smaller, more efficient state government that we can all afford; protecting our most vulnerable populations (our children, our seniors and persons with disabilities), empowering parents’ rights to decide their children’s future, and managing a welfare system that serves as a safety net for the truly needy – not a free for all.”

Both candidates responded to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision on abortion by clarifying their positions on the issue. Mills says, “Maine, our only chance at defending the right to safe and legal abortion will be this November at the ballot box. If given a chance, my opponent will dismantle reproductive rights across Maine. We must vote like our freedom to choose is on the line — because it is.”

LePage says, “As the child of a severely dysfunctional family, with domestic abuse that left me homeless, I know my mother faced difficult decisions and I am glad she chose life. The federal government has regularly prohibited taxpayer abortion funding, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger; and I have supported that policy and would continue to do so.”

This is one of 36 gubernatorial elections taking place in 2022. The governor serves as a state’s top executive official and is the only executive office that is elected in all 50 states. There are currently 28 Republican governors and 22 Democratic governors. 

Maine has had both a Democratic trifecta and a Democratic triplex since 2019. As of September 6, 2022, there are 23 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

A state government trifecta refers to a situation where one party controls a state’s governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. A state government triplex refers to a situation where the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state are all members of the same political party.

Evers, Michels tied in polls for governor of Wisconsin

Incumbent Tony Evers (D) and Tim Michels (R) are running in the general election for governor of Wisconsin on Nov. 8, 2022.

Recent polls have not shown either candidate to have a statistically significant lead. The Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections rate the election as a toss-up.

Evers was elected in 2018, defeating then-incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) by a margin of 1.1 percentage points. Evers’ campaign website says he has “worked to bring people together around common sense solutions that make Wisconsin stronger” and names “signing a bipartisan income tax cut, fixing thousands of miles of roads and bridges, investing in apprenticeships and job training programs, and increasing resources for our public schools” among his accomplishments. “While Republicans want to divide us, I’m focused on delivering results that matter,” Evers said.

Before being elected governor, Evers served as Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction for 10 years and as deputy superintendent for eight years before that.

Michels is co-owner and vice president of an energy and infrastructure construction company. He previously served in the U.S. Army for 12 years. Michels describes himself as “a businessman, not a politician.” After winning the Republican nomination, Michels said, “[T]his race has always been about … standing up for the hard-working people of Wisconsin. They’ve been left behind by the Democratic Party that just wants to focus on the social issues. From my first day in office to my very last day as governor, jobs and the economy are going to be my number one priority.”

Michels won the August 9 Republican primary with 47% of the vote to former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch’s 42%. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Michels in June 2022. In 2004, Michels was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin and lost to then-incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold (D) 55% to 44%.

Joan Ellis Beglinger (Independent) withdrew from the gubernatorial election on Sept. 4, 2022, and endorsed Michels.

The Associated Press‘ Sara Burnett and Scott Bauer wrote of the election, “The person elected governor this fall will be in office for the presidential election and will be able to sign or veto changes to election laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The next governor … also may sway decisions on issues from abortion to education and taxes.” Burnett and Bauer described Wisconsin as “a state that is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and where 2022 will be seen as a bellwether for the 2024 presidential race. … Biden won the state by nearly 21,000 votes, four years after Trump narrowly won the state by roughly the same margin.”

Heading into the 2022 election, Republicans have majorities in the Wisconsin State Senate and the Wisconsin State Assembly. When Evers was elected in 2018, Republicans had held trifecta control of Wisconsin state government for eight years. Before that, Democrats had a trifecta for two years.

Wisconsin is one of seven states where the lieutenant governor is nominated in a separate primary but runs on a single ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in the general election.

Whitmer, Dixon, and five others running in Michigan’s gubernatorial contest

Incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Tudor Dixon (R), and five other candidates are running in the general election on November 8, 2022, for governor of Michigan.

Whitmer was first elected governor in 2018. She served as a member of the state House from 2001 to 2006 and the state Senate from 2006 to 2015. Whitmer has highlighted her experience as governor, saying she “has created jobs, led the way for business investment, moved dirt to fix the damn roads, and invested in education.”

Dixon worked in steel sales from 2002 to 2017 before entering news media and joining America’s Voice News as an anchor. Dixon said she was “running for governor to get us back on track,” saying she would create a “family-friendly Michigan, one with good careers, better schools, safe communities, and … roads you can actually drive on.”

Whitmer won the office in 2018 by defeating Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) 53% to 44%. Whitmer succeeded Rick Snyder (R), switching partisan control of the governorship to Democrats, who had held the office from 2002 to 2010.

In the 2020 presidential election, Michigan was one of five states that voted for Joe Biden (D) after voting for Donald Trump (R) in 2016. Trump’s 2016 win in the state was the first time Michigan supported a Republican for president since 1988. In 2016, Trump won Michigan by a margin of 0.3 percentage points. Biden won Michigan by 2.8 percentage points in 2020.

If Whitmer wins re-election, she will be the first governor elected from the same party as the sitting president since 1990. Between 1994 and 2018, Michiganders elected governors from the opposite party as the sitting president. In 1990, voters elected John Engler (R) during the presidency of George H.W. Bush (R).

If Dixon or another candidate other than Whitmer wins, Whitmer will be the first governor to lose re-election to a second term in office since 1962 when Gov. John Swainson (D) lost his first re-election bid to George Romney (R).

Michigan is one of 13 states with a divided government with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both chambers of the state legislature. Since 1992, Michigan has had a divided government for 17 years, and a Republican trifecta for the remaining 14.

Kevin Hogan (G), Mary Buzuma (L), Daryl Simpson (Natural Law), Donna Brandenburg (U.S. Taxpayers), and Evan Space (I) are also running. Minor party and independent candidates collectively received 3.6% of the vote in 2018.

Four candidates running for governor of Kansas

Incumbent Laura Kelly (D), Derek Schmidt (R), Seth Cordell (L), and Dennis Pyle (Independent) are running in the general election for governor of Kansas on Nov. 8, 2022.

This is the only governorship Democrats are defending in 2022 in a state that Donald Trump (R) won in 2020. Major independent observers rate the election as a toss-up.

Kelly was first elected in 2018, defeating Republican Kris Kobach by a margin of five percentage points. Kobach defeated then-incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) in the Republican primary by 343 votes, or one-tenth of a percentage point. At the time Kelly was elected, Republicans had held trifecta control of Kansas state government for eight years, preceded by eight years of divided government. Democrats have not had a majority in either chamber of the Kansas State Legislature since 1992.

Schmidt was elected Kansas attorney general in 2010 and re-elected twice.

According to The Kansas City Star‘s Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, the last time a Democratic governor was elected while a Democratic president was in office was in 1978, and the last time a Democratic governor won re-election under a Democratic president was in 1968. Shorman and Bernard wrote, “Throughout modern Kansas history, Republicans and Democrats have regularly traded control of the governor’s office. But another rule that has also held firm over the past 50 years is that incumbent governors don’t win reelection when their party also holds the presidency.”

On July 26, 2022, the Topeka Capital-Journal‘s Andrew Bahl wrote that the election was “shaping up to be the most expensive in state history,” with Kelly and Schmidt having spent a combined $3.7 million at that time. According to Shorman and Bernard, Kelly and Schmidt have been “running a general election-style race since September 2021,” and “[b]oth Republicans and Democrats have centered the race about Kelly’s record.”

In Kansas, the lieutenant governor is elected on a joint ticket with the governor. Kelly’s running mate is incumbent Lt. Gov. David Toland (D), Schmidt’s running mate is Katie Sawyer (R), Cordell’s running mate is Evan Laudick-Gains (L), and Pyle’s running mate is Kathleen Garrison (Independent).

This election is one of 36 gubernatorial elections taking place in 2022. There are currently 28 Republican governors and 22 Democratic governors. The office of governor is the only executive office that is elected in all 50 states.

Alaska holds first top-four primary for governor

Alaska held its first top-four primary for governor on August 16. Based on unofficial returns on election night, three candidates—Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R), former state Rep. Les Gara (D), and former Gov. Bill Walker (I)—appeared likely to advance. Dunleavy received 42.3% of the vote, followed by Gara with 21.7% and Walker with 21.4%. The fourth candidate to advance will be Charlie Pierce (R), who had 7.2% of the vote, or Christopher Kurka (R), who had 4.1%.

This is the first use of the top-four primary system for governor of Alaska since voters approved it in November 2020. Regardless of party affiliation, all candidates run in a single primary election. The four candidates to receive the most votes advance to the general election. The four-candidate general election will use ranked-choice voting.

Three race forecasting outlets rated the general election as Likely or Solid Republican. In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump (R) received 52.8% of the vote in Alaska, while Joe Biden (D) received 42.8%.

According to the Associated Press, no Alaska governor has been re-elected since Tony Knowles (D) in 1998. Sean Parnell (R), who became governor in 2009 following the resignation of Sarah Palin (R), won a full term in 2010 but lost his re-election bid in 2014.

Joshua Green defeats Vicky Cayetano, Kaiali’i Kahele, and four other candidates in Hawaii’s Democratic gubernatorial primary

Joshua Green defeated Vicky Cayetano, Kaiali’i Kahele, and four other candidates in Hawaii’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on August 13, 2022. Incumbent David Ige (D) was term-limited.

Green is Hawaii’s current lieutenant governor and an emergency room physician. He said, “I’m running for Governor because Hawaii needs elected leaders we can trust — to tell us the truth, keep us safe and informed, to care about working families, and to be transparent and accountable to the people.” Green highlighted his role serving as COVID liaison while lieutenant governor. His campaign website said, “Josh led the largest healthcare response in state history, pulling Hawaii together to vaccinate over a million people, protect our kupuna, and save thousands of lives.”

Cayetano co-founded Hawaii’s largest laundry company and served as president and CEO for 34 years. Cayetano said, “My record of building a business of a thousand employees and supporting our community is one of action and results.” She said, “I have a vision, I make payroll, know how to be a CEO. Government should be run like business. We keep talking about the same issues, and we need a new perspective. It’s time for a new perspective to solve the problems.” In 1997, Cayetano married Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano (D), who served as governor until 2002.

Kahele was elected to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in 2020. Kahele is a combat veteran, a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard, and a commercial pilot. Kahele said, “Congress established our great state in 1959 on the condition that the State of Hawaiʻi would establish and manage the ceded Public Land Trust for the benefit of Native Hawaiians and the general public. Ensuring that the state restores its kuleana to manage this public trust is a foundation of my platform for governor.” Kahele said he was “running for governor on a grassroots, publicly funded campaign[.]” He said, “While other candidates are taking corporate money and checks of up to $6,000, I will not accept donations from any individual of more than a hundred bucks.”

Affordable housing was a central theme in the race. Green said he would “[i]mmediately issue an executive order to all state and county housing agencies to speed up construction of affordable housing by eliminating red tape, streamlining processes and approvals, and coordinating efforts to address the crisis.” 

Cayetano’s campaign website stated, “[I]n addition to accelerating housing projects that are specific to Native Hawaiians and are taking place within the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL), I would make the availability of affordable rental housing my highest priority.” 

Kahele said he would “[build] targeted workforce housing; [develop] fee mechanisms through tax-exempt bonds and bond activity caps; and [build] out housing plans specific to urban Honolulu and the rest of the state.”

Cayetano, Green, and Kahele disagreed on the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope project, a plan to construct a $2.65 billion telescope on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano. Cayetano supported the project, Kahele opposed the plans as they stood at the time, and Green said he supported large projects like the telescope if they were done with respect between cultures.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s Dan Nakaso, the candidates also disagreed on the legalization of recreational marijuana. Nakaso wrote, “Kahele and Green support legalizing recreational marijuana, with caveats, while Cayetano is opposed.”

Major independent observers rate the general election as solid Democratic or safe Democratic. Ige was first elected in 2014 and won re-election in 2018 by a margin of 29 percentage points. Democrats have held trifecta control of Hawaii’s state government since 2011.

Lake, Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Kari Lake, who won the Republican primary for governor of Arizona on Aug. 2, completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey in May 2022. The Candidate Connection survey is an opportunity for voters to learn more about candidates through a variety of personal and political questions. 

A selection of Lake’s survey responses are excerpted below. To read Lake’s full survey responses, click here.

Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “Securing our Border is essential for the safety and security of Arizona’s future. I will finish Trump’s Wall & stop Biden’s cartel-controlled flood at our borders”
  • “Secure elections are essential to preserve our Republic, and our state”
  • “Arizona faces enormous challenges, we need a visionary leader to take them head-on”

What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

“Securing our border & our elections while locating and developing a new source of fresh water, reducing inflation and out-of-control housing costs, quality education with a renewed focus on technical education, creating smart economic growth, addressing our homelessness crisis, ensuring our businesses, churches and gyms are never closed again, and putting a stop to spiraling crime rates that are making our cities and towns less safe.” 

What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?

“I am convicted, not held back by political convention. Politics has become the art of saying everything, and accomplishing nothing. I do not accept that outcome. We need a governor with the courage to take on big challenges.”

What legacy would you like to leave?

“A better state than the one we’ve had. But, more specifically, the next governor of Arizona must address our looming water crisis in a sustainable, permanent manner, while also working to fix Arizona’s housing shortage and ensuring our next phase of growth doesn’t make our state and our biggest cities unlivable the way it has on our coasts.”

Kari Lake wins Republican primary for governor of Arizona

Kari Lake defeated Karrin Taylor Robson, Scott Neely, and Paola Tulliani-Zen in the Republican primary for governor of Arizona on Aug. 2, 2022. With 90% of the expected vote counted, Lake had received 47% of the vote, followed by Taylor Robson with 44%. 

Incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is term-limited. 

Heading into the primary, Lake and Taylor Robson led in endorsements, polls, and funding.

Lake, a former news anchor for Fox 10 News in Phoenix, said she was “running … on a platform of common sense conservatism dedicated to individual liberties, low taxes, limited regulation, and protecting Arizona’s great Western heritage.” Lake said, ” The ongoing border crisis is nothing less than a national security and humanitarian disaster.” She said, “After I take my hand off the Bible, we are going to issue a declaration of invasion. We are going to finish President Trump’s wall, and we are going to send our armed National Guard to the border and stop people from coming across.”

Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Lake, as did U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the Conservative Political Action Coalition, and the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police.

Taylor Robson, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents and founder of a land-use strategy firm, said, “We need a leader with a record of accomplishment, not a career talker with the teleprompter.” Taylor Robson said that border security would be her first priority and that she would “surge National Guard troops to the border, equip the Border Strike Force with the latest technology, and finish the wall.” She also said, “I am uniquely qualified to lead this state into the future and to secure and protect Arizona’s water. My experience includes decades managing land, water and other natural resource issues, as well as working with government at all levels.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence (R), Ducey, and former Arizona Govs. Jan Brewer (R) and John Fife Symington III (R) endorsed Taylor Robson, as did Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann (R), Americans for Prosperity, and the National Border Patrol Council. Former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon (R) withdrew from the primary and endorsed Taylor Robson at the end of June.

Lake said she would not have certified the results of the 2020 presidential election. She said that President Joe Biden (D) “lost the election and he shouldn’t be in the White House.” Taylor Robson said, “Joe Biden may be the president, but the election wasn’t fair.”

Patrick Finerd, Carlos Roldan, and Alex Schatz ran as write-ins in the primary.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs won the Democratic nomination on Aug. 2. Major independent observers rate the general election as a toss-up. Republicans have had trifecta control of Arizona state government since 2009.

Dixon wins Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial primary

Tudor Dixon defeated seven other candidates—four on the ballot and three write-ins—in Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial primary on Aug. 2, 2022.

Dixon is a former anchor for America’s Voice News. During the primary, Dixon called herself “the visionary and clear policy leader in the Republican field,” saying she would “rebuild and grow the economy, stop the indoctrination of our school children, … [and] apply common-sense reforms to Michigan’s elections.”

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Right to Life Michigan, and former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Dixon in the primary.

Dixon will face incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in the November general election. Whitmer was first elected governor in 2018, receiving 53% of the vote. Joe Biden (D) won Michigan during the 2020 presidential election, receiving 51% of the vote to Trump’s 48%.

As of Aug. 2, three independent forecasters rated the general election as Lean or Tilt Democratic.