The Senate losses that many Democrats prepared for were borne out in the 2014 midterm election. But less expected was the extent to which those losses filtered down to the state level. Governors’ mansions across the country either turned red or are staying red in substantial numbers this election cycle.
Wendy Davis, the progressive hero running for governor in Texas, was projected to lose by a double-digit margin. NBC News also predicted a clean sweep for Ohio governor and rumored Republican 2016 candidate John Kasich. And in Maryland, the Republican candidate Larry Hogan seized the governorship. Even in Kansas, Republican incumbent Sam Brownback, who appeared early on to be in deep trouble, managed a narrow victory. And in deep blue Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker defeated Democrat Martha Coakley.
Some of the most high-profile close races were defined more by local issues than broad national currents. In Michigan, where Republican Gov. Rick Snyder faced a tough re-election battle, the race mainly revolved around his state’s economic performance and issues such as his handling of the Detroit bankruptcy. Still, Snyder was reelected Tuesday. Republican incumbent Paul LePage also won a three-way race in Maine, a stunning surprise given that he had seemed in trouble just weeks ago.
In a year generally considered to be unfavorable for the Democratic Party, some candidates did manage to hold or take key races. Prominent incumbents, including New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo, and California Democrat Jerry Brown, won reelection handily as did South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley. Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett was unseated by Democratic challenger Tom Wolf. NBC News projected additional Democratic victories for governors in New Hampshire and Minnesota. In Vermont, NBC News projected that none of the seven candidates would cross the 50% threshold required to prevent a runoff.
The gubernatorial races have been particularly unkind to organized labor. With the exception of in Pennsylvania, most of the contested races where labor had a vested interest have broken in favor of conservatives. In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker – who signed into law an anti-collective bargaining law and had to a survive a public sector union-backed recall election as a result – was reelected. Snyder’s survival in Michigan is bad news for the labor movement that fought his anti-union right-to-work laws. And in Illinois, efforts by organized labor to prevent the accession of Republican candidate Bruce Rauner failed. Rauner was projected to win the governorship there as well.
In Rhode Island, Democrat Gina Raimondo emerged victorious Tuesday. But she, too, has had a troubled relationship with the local labor movement. As state treasurer, she presided over significant pension cuts in the state, costing her some union support.