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2018 Gubernatorial Races: An Overview

This election season, 36 Governor seats are up for grabs across the nation. The winning party of a few key states could determine the next decade of Congress’s political layout and change the political landscape of the United States.

Notable races include Florida’s toss-up election to replace term-limited Governor Rick Scott, as well as Michigan’s heated race to replace Rick Snyder and the race in Illinois between incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker. All of these races are in swing states—states that never lean towards a particular party. However, both Florida and Michigan had the most votes for Donald Trump in 2016, albeit by very slim margins, and all of these Governor’s seats are currently held by Republicans. The Cook Political Report considers these three states “toss-up” elections this year. It is also important to note that these specific swing states have very high populations, meaning they have a significant amount of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

These high population swing states are especially important this year because a switch in the governor’s seat would allow the new party to have authority over district maps redrawn after the 2020 U.S. Census, turning the tides of congressional elections for the next ten years. Because 26 of the 36 Governor’s seats are currently held by Republicans, who won big in 2014, Democrats have many more opportunities to flip states blue this year. This means they could veto district lines that don’t favor them and eventually capture and hold onto the U.S. House of Representatives, which the Democrats have not held since the beginning of Barack Obama’s first term.

In Maryland, incumbent Governor Larry Hogan (R) is up for re-election this year. Hogan faces several high profile Democratic candidates but is nonetheless expected to win the election.

“Hogan is polling very well. He’s closely followed the Republican lines, but he’s been able to keep from being associated with Trump,” commented Professor Walter Hill. 61% of Marylanders approve of the job Hogan is doing in the Governor’s house, according to a to a recent Goucher poll. This election, Hogan will likely face high profile Democratic candidates such as Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, or NAACP Executive Officer Ben Jealous.

Hogan, who has pushed redistricting reform since taking office in 2015, is not likely to allow the very-Democratic-controlled state legislature to draw districts that favor Democrats. This a practice is known as gerrymandering, drawing legislative district maps to favor one political party more than another. Maryland is often considered one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. The Washington Post gave Maryland an 88/100 for gerrymandering, a score only as high as matching North Carolina.

The stakes are high this year, and along with the many gubernatorial races, all U.S. House of Representatives seats are on the ballot, as well as 33 of 100 U.S. Senate seats. Students should register to vote before June 5 to vote in the primary election, taking place on June 26, or register by October 16 for the general election, which will take place on November 6.

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