Democrats Make Marginal Gains in Secretary of State Races

They flipped two seats.
by | November 7, 2018
Jena Griswold was elected as secretary of state in Colorado, the first Democrat to win that position in 60 years. (AP/David Zalubowski)

Last Updated at 1:03 p.m. ET

In the race to control the nation’s secretary of state offices -- a key position that oversees elections and voting procedures -- the Democrats made some incremental gains in Election 2018.

The Democrats flipped two seats, making the breakdown 27 for the Republicans and 19 for the Democrats. 

In Michigan, Democrat Jocelyn Benson defeated Republican Mary Lang for an open seat previously held by a Republican. We had previously rated the race lean Democratic, and Benson won by about nine points.

And in Colorado, Democrat Jena Griswold defeated Republican incumbent Wayne Williams -- the first time the Democrats have won the office in six decades. Griswold won by about five points as Democrats won the gubernatorial and state attorney general races.

The Democrats fell short in a chance to flip a third seat -- in Nevada, where Republican Barbara Cegavske narrowly defeated Democrat Nelson Araujo.

Going into Election Day, Republicans held 29 secretary of state offices to the Democrats' 17. This tally doesn't count Pennsylvania's nonpartisan office or the three states that lack the position altogether -- Alaska, Hawaii and Utah. Of the 35 states where voters elect the secretary of state, 27 had contests this fall, including a special election in Louisiana.

The other seats that Governing had considered competitive going into Election Day were either held by the Republicans or had a Republican leading by early Wednesday morning. 

The GOP successfully defended an open seat in Arizona, though they did it by a narrower margin of victory than Republican Gov. Doug Ducey received in his reelection bid. 

In Iowa, Republican Paul Pate won reelection by a larger margin than fellow Republican Kim Reynolds had in her gubernatorial race.

Republicans also protected an open secretary of state seat in Ohio, where Frank LaRose defeated Democrat Kathleen Clyde. And the GOP easily defended the secretary of state seat in Kansas that had been vacated by Kris Kobach, who lost his bid for governor and whose tenure as secretary of state had been controversial for his pursuit of hard-line policies against alleged voter fraud. In the race to succeed Kobach, Republican Scott Schwab defeated Democrat Brian McClendon.

In Georgia, a Republican was leading in a close secretary of state race, but it will go to a runoff. Republican Brian Raffensperger was ahead of Democrat John Barrow by about one percentage point. The winner will succeed Republican Brian Kemp, who is leading in the race for Georgia governor.

Finally, the Louisiana special election will go to a runoff between Republican Kyle Ardoin, the appointed incumbent, and Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup. They were the top two finishers in a seven-way race. Previous Secretary of State Tom Schedler resigned after a sexual harassment scandal.