For Lieutenant Governors, Midterms Look Predictable

In the 10 states holding races, only one looks competitive.
by | July 13, 2018
Like other lieutenant governors, Texas' Dan Patrick is expected to easily be reelected. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

This fall, 10 states will hold independent elections -- meaning they are separate from the governor’s race -- for lieutenant governor. But don’t expect the partisan lineup to change very much.

At this point, only one seat -- Nevada’s -- is at serious risk to flip parties. Another race or two could become competitive as the election approaches.

Republicans currently hold the office in seven of the states with elections in November: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas. Democrats hold the other three seats, in California, Rhode Island and Vermont.

We aren’t providing a specific rating for each of these races, as we do for gubernatorial, attorney general, secretary of state and legislative races. But we are evaluating how competitive these races are.

We break down the races below:

 

Where Republicans Are Expected to Win

Alabama: Open seat; held by Kay Ivey (R)

Two Republicans are on the hunt in Alabama, where a runoff is scheduled for July 17. The winner will succeed Gov. Kay Ivey, who was elevated from lieutenant governor in April 2017 after the resignation of Robert Bentley. The position has been vacant ever since.

In the GOP primary, state Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh finished first with 43 percent, ahead of state Rep. Will Ainsworth with 37 percent. Both are strong Trump supporters and Christian conservatives, and the race is considered close.

In solidly Republican Alabama, either of the two candidates would be a heavy favorite against Democrat Will Boyd, a pastor and former city councilmember.

 

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (R)

Griffin is the overwhelming favorite against Democrat Anthony Bland, a political novice who recently dropped out of the secretary of state race. If he wins another term, Griffin could get a leg up for the gubernatorial primary in 2022.

 

Georgia: Open seat; held by Casey Cagle (R)

In Georgia, the GOP starts out with the advantage, but this race could become more competitive.

Republicans first must get through a runoff between state Sen. David Shafer and state Rep. Geoff Duncan. Shafer, who won nearly 49 percent of the primary vote, is the favorite in the runoff.

Meanwhile, the Democratic primary winner was Harvard-trained businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico. She is starting out as the underdog, but Amico will have more time to introduce herself.

If Duncan, a strong Trump supporter, happens to win the runoff, the chances of an upset by Amico increase.

 

Idaho: Open seat; held by Brad Little (R)

Republican Janice McGeachin won the crowded GOP primary, but on the Democratic side, Army veteran Kristin Collum -- who swept the Democratic primary with 88 percent of the vote -- is getting some attention. With two women running in the general election this fall, Idaho will have its first woman as lieutenant governor next year.

 

Oklahoma: Open seat; held by Todd Lamb (R)

Democrats in this red state have regained some energy, thanks to low approval ratings for GOP Gov. Mary Fallin and an energized corps of K-12 teachers who have recently been fighting for more education dollars. But Republicans are favored to hold the open-seat lieutenant governorship.

The leader in the first round of primary voting was Dana Murphy, a statewide elected corporation commissioner. In the runoff, she’ll face Matt Pinnell, a former state party chair. Either would be favored against state Sen. Anastasia Pittman, who narrowly won the Democratic nomination.

 

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Patrick faces Democratic businessman Mike Collier. But while the state’s lieutenant governor arguably has the most power of any such official in the country, the contest is being overshadowed by the closely watched U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. In a state as populous and Republican-leaning as Texas, it will be hard for Collier to generate enough publicity to seriously challenge Patrick.

 

Where a Seat Could Flip

Nevada: Open seat; held by Mark Hutchison (R)

This race pits two veteran politicians in the state against each other: Republican Michael Roberson, the state Senate minority leader, and Democrat Kate Marshall, the former state treasurer. A March poll paid for by Marshall’s campaign found her leading, 43 to 37 percent, with 20 percent undecided. The race looks like it should be close.

 

Where Democrats Are Expected to Win

California: Open seat; held by Gavin Newsom (D)

This is the one state where the Democrats are guaranteed to win the lieutenant governorship. A pair of Democrats finished first and second in the state’s top-two primary. They are former ambassador Eleni Kounalakis, who won 23.7 percent of the vote, and state Sen. Ed Hernandez, who won 20.6 percent.

Kounalakis is a first-time candidate from a wealthy family in the real estate development business. She’s been endorsed by women’s organizations and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris.

Hernandez is an optometrist and longtime chair of the Senate Health Committee who has been endorsed by several influential unions.

Neither candidate mustered the 60 percent vote necessary to gain the official endorsement of the state Democratic Party.

 

Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee (D)

The Democratic primary is considered close between McKee and his challenger, state Rep. Aaron Regunberg. At the state party convention, McKee won the nonbinding roll call vote, but Regunberg, bolstered by endorsements from unions and progressive groups, mounted a strong showing for a challenger. Regunberg also has a fundraising edge.

The Democratic contest for lieutenant governor is considered one battle for control in the state’s dominant party between a moderate-to-conservative wing and a more progressive wing. Either Democrat would be favored over Republican Paul Pence, an engineer and the publisher of Rhode Island Roads magazine.

 

Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D)

While Vermont seems poised to reelect Republican Gov. Phil Scott, it also seems likely to give his Democratic lieutenant governor, David Zuckerman, another term. Zuckerman will have the advantages of incumbency and being a progressive Democrat in a state where there is likely to be a strong Democratic showing this fall. He will face Don Turner, the Republican leader in the state House.