Taggubernatorial

Dan McKee (D) sworn in as governor of Rhode Island

Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee (D) was sworn in as the state’s new governor after former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) resigned on March 2. Raimondo, who was first elected in 2014, resigned after being confirmed as secretary of commerce in the Biden administration.

McKee was first elected as lieutenant governor in 2014, before he served as the mayor of Cumberland, Rhode Island, for six terms. He was in his second of two possible four-year-terms as lieutenant governor. 

According to the state’s constitution, gubernatorial vacancies are filled by the lieutenant governor, who serves until the next regularly-scheduled election in 2022. While McKee has not yet announced his successor, he began taking applications for the position several weeks ago. According to his communications director, he has received 62 applications and will be releasing the names of the candidates that are interviewed.

McKee will be the 76th person and 34th Democrat to serve as the governor of Rhode Island. Of the previous officeholders dating back to 1921, 14 were Democrats, and 10 were Republicans. Rhode Island is currently one of 15 states with a Democratic state government trifecta.

There will be a public swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, March 7.

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Incumbent governors had a 100% re-election rate in 2020

Eleven states held elections for governor this year, including nine where the incumbent ran for re-election. All nine governors up for re-election won another term this year.

Republicans had greater partisan risk in 2020; the eleven states electing a governor included seven with Republican governors and four with Democratic governors. Republicans won eight of those races to Democrats’ three. The only state where control of the governorship changed was Montana, where Greg Gianforte (R) was elected to succeed Steve Bullock (D).

Gianforte is the first Republican to win election as governor of Montana since 2000. His election gives the Republican Party its first trifecta (unified control of the governorship and legislature) in the state since Democrats flipped the governorship in 2004. Montana’s 16 years without a state government trifecta is the longest among any state currently without one.

Outgoing Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) was the only governor prevented from running for re-election by term limits this year. The other outgoing governor, Gary Herbert (R-Utah), chose not to run for a third full term. Herbert, who took office in 2009, is the nation’s longest-serving governor currently in office.

Both parties were defending the governorship in two states where the other party’s presidential candidate won in 2016. Republican governors won re-election in New Hampshire and Vermont, which both went to Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016 and Joe Biden (D) in 2020. Democrats were defending governorships in both Montana and North Carolina, which President Trump (R) carried in both elections. While Republicans flipped the governorship in Montana, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) won a second term.

After Governor-elect Gianforte is sworn in Jan. 4, Republicans will hold 27 governorships nationwide to Democrats’ 23; the same totals both parties held after the 2018 election (Democrats flipped the Kentucky governorship in 2019). Democrats last held a majority of governorships nationwide in 2010.

In 2016, the same eleven states (and Oregon) held gubernatorial elections. That year, Republicans gained three governorships (in Missouri, New Hampshire, and Vermont), while Democrats gained one, in North Carolina.

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Greg Gianforte elected governor of Montana

Greg Gianforte (R) defeated Mike Cooney (D), Robert Barb (G), and Lyman Bishop (L) to win election as governor of Montana. Gianforte is the first Republican elected to the office since 2000. Gianforte is the state’s current representative in the U.S. House, while Cooney is the current lieutenant governor. This is the first of the 11 governorships up this year to flip partisan control.

Montana was one of two states with a Democratic governor up for election this year in a state Donald Trump (R) won in 2016. In the other, North Carolina, incumbent Roy Cooper (D) won election to a second term. In 2016, Gianforte was the Republican gubernatorial nominee and lost to incumbent Steve Bullock (D) 50% to 46%.

Although final control of the state Senate and House is too early to call, they were not among the 24 battleground state legislative chambers Ballotpedia identified as having a chance of changing control this year. Should Republicans maintain their majorities in both chambers, Gianforte’s victory would give Republicans a trifecta in Montana for the first time since the 2004 election. Heading into the election, Montana had been under divided government longer than any other state.