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Democrats Make Gains in Secretary of State Races

They flipped at least three seats.

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 Nov. 19 at 4:02 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 at least three seats, making the latest breakdown 26 for the Republicans and 20 for the Democrats. A runoff in Georgia is still to be determined.

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. 

In Arizona, Democrats flipped a Republican-held open seat, as Democrat Katie Hobbs defeated Republican Steve Gaynor, 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.

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 held by the Republicans. 

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. 

Two states will have runoff elections.

In Georgia, Republican Brian Raffensperger was ahead of Democrat John Barrow 49.1 percent to 48.6 percent but short of the required 50 percent. The winner will succeed Republican Brian Kemp, who won 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.

Zach Patton -- Executive Editor. Zach joined GOVERNING as a staff writer in 2004. He received the 2011 Jesse H. Neal Award for Outstanding Journalism
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