Some Notes on VT, WA, WV Governor

Credit: Tom Arthur

There’s not nearly enough data to properly Model the Gov races in VT, WA or WV. I do wish contests like these got more attention as Gov and Senate races in states that might not get a lot of Presidential attention still greatly shape the American political landscape. But, such is life…

So, to kick off a wave of updates over the next few days, I want to start with at least some comments on these contests.

Vermont

Vermont is an interesting state politically. The home of Bernie Sanders is very independent-minded, and the local parties here don’t necessarily match their national platforms. All politics really are local in a state that is as socialist as it is gun-loving as it is Green Party as it is Libertarian, depending on the context and the location. Gov contests happen every two years here.

While current Dem Governor Peter Shumlin won by a healthy 20%+ in 2012, he generally fares much more poorly in off-year elections, such as his victory by just over 2,000 votes in 2014. He decided not to run this year, and that has led to a potentially competitive race between the state’s Department of Transportation Secretary, Sue Minter (D), and its Lt. Gov., Phil Scott (R). With his apparent crossover appeal, Scott is in position to potentially pick-up a Gov seat for the GOP this cycle. Clinton’s margins here don’t look to be as high as Obama’s 2012 margins were – in part because of 3rd Party candidates – and that may help Scott win a race that is highly localized — though, Clinton is still going to win ‘big’ here. All signs point to Scott being ahead, but in such a blue-leaning state (at the federal level) during a Presidential year, Minter may have a shot if those remaining voters break her way. I’m keeping it a Toss-Up (mostly because of a lack of data and conflicting dynamics), but again, this may be one of the better pick-up opportunities for the GOP this cycle.

Washington

At the Presidential level, Washington is safely in the Clinton column. But, despite Obama’s big victory at the Presidential level here in 2012, current Governor, Democrat Jay Inslee, lost a lot of crossover voters in what ended up being about a 3% victory. Dems have controlled the gubernatorial races for some time, though the margins have been decently close ever since 2004. Inslee is running for re-election against lesser known Bill Bryant, the former Seattle Port Commissioner. Inslee’s margin looks to be a bit healthier this time than last; though, it still looks likely that Dems will do better at the Presidential level than the gubernatorial one. I’m characterizing this as Likely Dem — because it really would be a huge upset if Inslee loses here.

West Virginia

Trump’s victory is likely to be huge here — perhaps one of his biggest margins in the country. But, like Vermont, West Virginia’s state politics are much different than federal parties. Current Dem Gov., Earl Ray Tomblin, can’t run for another term, and his margin was quite narrow in 2012. And, even at the state level, the GOP’s rise has continued, as, in 2014, Shelly Moore Capito(R) took over one of the state’s Senate seats in a landslide, a seat that had previously belonged to long-time Dem Senator, Jay Rockefeller. That would seem to make the Gov race tough terrain for Dems to hold.

But, enter billionaire Jim Justice(D), a long-time Republican who became a Democrat and ran for Governor this year. He is running against State Senator, Bill Cole. Polling has been mixed across the board here, and the fundamentals of the state are equally unclear. Therefore, this one is likely to end as a Toss-Up.

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