Ratings Roundup: 2014 Statewide Elections

Our final pre-election handicapping of the gubernatorial, attorney general and legislative contests.
by | October 30, 2014

Election Day isn't just a day of reckoning for candidates, it's a day of reckoning for us, too.

Over the past 24 months, we've been publishing periodic ratings that handicap the nation's gubernatorial races, state attorney general contests and partisan control in the state legislative chambers. Now, before Election Night, we're putting them all together in one final frenzy of ratings that readers can use as a guide to watching the returns.

Over the past few weeks, we've noticed a modest breeze blowing in the direction of the Republicans in some select states. In gubernatorial races, we've decided to shift two states' ratings in the GOP's favor -- New Mexico and Rhode Island. In state AG races, three states are moving into the GOP's camp -- Texas, Utah and Nevada. And in the fight to control the nation's legislatures, we're shifting two states in the Republican direction, the Connecticut Senate and the Nevada General Assembly.

The only race we're shifting towards the Democrats is the New Mexico AG race.

Given that we have been tracking more than 150 races or chambers, that's a pretty strong degree of stability in the electoral picture. This, despite how close this year's gubernatorial races have been. We currently rate no fewer than 18 of the 36 seats being contested as "competitive," meaning they're either tossups or leaning to one party or the other. One additional race -- in Pennsylvania -- is already considered likely to switch parties.

Of these 18 competitive seats, 12 are considered tossups. That's a huge number. In 2010 -- the last cycle with so many governors races contested -- we counted only seven tossup contests. This large number of tossups greatly complicates the job of handicapping for us, due to the methodology we use for our ratings.

For the gubernatorial and AG races, we not only offer a rating, such as tossup or lean Democratic, but also a rank ordering. That is, the list can be viewed as a continuum between the states or races most likely to go Republican (at the top) and the states most likely to go Democratic (at the bottom). The idea is that, once the results are in, we should be able to draw a line somewhere in the middle of the tossup category and divide the seats won by the GOP from the seats won by the Democrats.

For the gubernatorial races, we achieved this result in 2012 and were off by just one contest in 2010. But with 12 tossup races clustering around the middle this year, there's a much higher chance that the middle of our list will end up being jumbled between Republican-won and Democratic-won seats.

Currently, the Republicans hold the lead in governorships: 29 seats to the Democrats' 21. The range of possible Election Day outcomes for gubernatorial races is broad -- a net gain of nine or 10 seats for either party is possible. However, if a strong national wave doesn't materialize and the contests are decided more or less on their own merits, than a net gain of one or two seats for the Democrats seems likeliest.

Similarly, with attorney general contests, it's possible that either party could net up to five seats on Election Day, but without a strong wave, the likeliest outcome would be either no net change or a gain of one seat in either party's direction. Currently, the Democrats hold 26 seats to the Republicans 24. The Democrats' lead in popularly elected AGs is narrower -- 22 seats to 21.

Finally, in the state legislatures, the GOP is poised to pick up three to four chambers, though the outcomes could range from a Democratic gain of one or two to a Republican gain of eight or nine. The current partisan breakdown in state legislatures is 58 Republican-held chambers and 40 Democratic-held chambers.

With that, our latest ratings:

GOVERNORS

Safe Republican

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R)

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R)

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R)

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R)

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R)

Texas: Open seat; held by Gov. Rick Perry (R)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R)

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R)

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) (Shift from likely Republican)

Likely Republican

Nebraska: Open seat; held by Gov. Dave Heineman (R)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R)

Lean Republican

Arkansas: Open seat; held by Gov. Mike Beebe (D)

Arizona: Open seat, held by Gov. Jan Brewer (R)

Tossup

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R)

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R)

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R)

Massachusetts: Open seat; held by Gov. Deval Patrick (D)

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R)

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R)

Rhode Island: Open seat, held by Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) (Shift from lean Democratic)

Lean Democratic

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D)

Maryland: Open seat; held by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D)

Hawaii: open seat, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) defeated in primary

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D)

Likely Democratic

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R)

Safe Democratic

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D)

ATTORNEYS GENERAL

Safe Republican

Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt (R)

South Dakota AG Marty Jackley (R)

North Dakota AG Wayne Stenehjem (R)

Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden (R)

South Carolina AG Alan Wilson (R)

Nebraska: Open seat; held by Jon Bruning (R)

Kansas AG Derek Schmidt (R)

Texas: Open seat; held by Greg Abbott (R) (Shift from likely Republican)

Likely Republican

Alabama AG Luther Strange (R)

Ohio AG Mike DeWine (R)

Utah AG Sean Reyes (R) (Shift from lean Republican)

Lean Republican

Colorado: Open seat; held by John Suthers (R)

Florida AG Pam Bondi (R)

Georgia AG Sam Olens (R)

Michigan AG Bill Schuette (R)

Tossup

Arkansas: Open seat; held by Dustin McDaniel (D)

Arizona: Open seat; held by Tom Horne (R)

Wisconsin: Open seat; held by J.B. Van Hollen (R)

Nevada: Open seat; held by Catherine Cortez Masto (D) (Shift from lean Democratic)

Lean Democratic

New Mexico: Open seat; held by Gary King (D) (Shift from tossup)

Rhode Island AG Peter Kilmartin (D)

Likely Democratic

New York AG Eric Schneiderman (D)

Iowa AG Tom Miller (D)

Illinois AG Lisa Madigan (D)

Safe Democratic

Massachusetts: Open seat; held by Martha Coakley (D)

Minnesota AG Lori Swanson (D)

Maryland: Open seat; held by Doug Gansler (D)

Connecticut AG George Jepsen (D)

Delaware: Open seat; held by Beau Biden (D)

California AG Kamala Harris (D)

Vermont AG Bill Sorrell (D)

STATE LEGISLATURES

Alabama

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Alaska

Senate: Projected likely R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Arizona

Senate: Projected likely R; currently R-held

House: Projected likely R; currently R-held

Arkansas

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected lean R; currently R-held

California

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Assembly: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Colorado

Senate: Projected tossup; currently D-held

House: Projected lean D; currently D-held

Connecticut

Senate: Projected likely D; currently D-held (Shift from safe Democratic)

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Delaware

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Florida

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Georgia

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Hawaii

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Idaho

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Illinois

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Indiana

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Iowa

Senate: Projected tossup; currently D-held

House: Projected lean R; currently R-held

Kansas

Senate: No races; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Kentucky

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected tossup; currently D-held

Louisiana

No races, both chambers R-held

Maine

Senate: Projected lean D; currently D-held

House: Projected likely D; currently D-held

Maryland

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Massachusetts

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Michigan

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected lean R; currently R-held

Minnesota

Senate: No races; currently D-held

House: Projected tossup; currently D-held

Mississippi

No races, both chambers R-held

Missouri

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Montana

Senate: Projected likely R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Nebraska

Senate: Unicameral/nonpartisan

Nevada

Senate: Projected tossup; currently D-held

Assembly: Projected tossup; currently D-held (shift from Likely Republican)

New Hampshire

Senate: Projected lean R; currently R-held

House: Projected lean R; currently D-held

New Jersey

No races, both chambers D-held

New Mexico

Senate: No race; currently D-held

House: Projected tossup; currently D-held

New York

Senate: Projected rossup; currently R-held

Assembly: Projected safe D; currently D-held

North Carolina

Senate: Projected likely R; currently R-held

House: Projected likely R; currently R-held

North Dakota

Senate: Projected safe R; Ccurrently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Ohio

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Oklahoma

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Oregon

Senate: Projected lean D; currently D-held

House: Projected likely D; currently D-held

Pennsylvania

Senate: Projected likely R; currently R-held

House: Projected likely R; currently R-held

Rhode Island

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

South Carolina

Senate: No races; currently R-held

House: Projected Safe R; Currently R-held

South Dakota

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Tennessee

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Texas

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Utah

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

House: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Vermont

Senate: Projected safe D; currently D-held

House: Projected safe D; currently D-held

Virginia

No races, both chambers are R-held

Washington

Senate: Projected lean R; currently R-held

House: Projected likely D; currently D-held

West Virginia

Senate: Projected likely D; currently D-held

House: Projected tossup; currently D-held

Wisconsin

Senate: Projected lean R; currently R-held

Assembly: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Wyoming

Senate: Projected safe R; currently R-held

Assembly: Projected safe R; currently R-held