US gubernatorial races carry high-stakes pro-abortion, election
Nov 7 (Reuters) – Competitive gubernatorial races are on the ballot in a dozen states in the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday, with outcomes having far-reaching consequences on issues such as abortion, voting rights and guns.
The high stakes have brought more money and attention to statewide races, which are usually overshadowed in midterm elections by the battle for control of Congress.
President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who have been campaigning for gubernatorial candidates across the country in recent weeks, all spent part of the final weekend before Election Day gathering with their party’s candidates in key condition Pennsylvania.
Democrats are fighting to retain control of the state’s governorship – along with those in Wisconsin and Michigan – to retain the power to veto any legislation from the three Republican-controlled state legislatures that could limit abortion rights and voting access.
At Saturday’s rallies in Pennsylvania, Democrat Josh Shapiro and his Republican rival, Doug Mastriano, each highlighted the impact of their race on the state’s future.
“Your rights are at stake, your future is at stake,” Shapiro said in Philadelphia.
Mastriano told supporters in Latrobe that “a vote for Josh Shapiro is a vote to destroy the future of Pennsylvania.”
Republican victories in presidential battleground states, including Arizona, could have implications for the White House in 2024. The party’s candidates in several such states have bought into Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
In all, 36 of the nation’s 50 states will elect governors on Tuesday, with the majority sure to be in the hands of Democrats or Republicans. Republicans hold 28 governorships nationally, compared to 22 Democratic governorships.
In Florida, polls show Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis poised to defeat Democratic challenger Charlie Crist ahead of DeSantis’ widely anticipated 2024 presidential bid.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to win a third term in Texas despite a spirited campaign by his Democratic opponent, former US Congressman Beth O’Rourke. Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, also looks likely to beat Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 race.
Democrats are expected to unseat Republican governors in Maryland and Massachusetts, but face uphill battles in several other Democratic states.
A three-way race in Oregon could result in a Republican winning the state’s governorship for the first time in 40 years.
Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan are in a close battle for the open seat, and independent candidate Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat, could potentially draw votes from Kotek.
Biden campaigned Sunday in New York, where Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s lead in polls over Republican challenger Lee Zeldin dwindled to single digits as Zeldin hammered the crime issue. No Republican has won statewide office in New York in 20 years.
ABORTION RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
As with congressional races across the country, Democratic gubernatorial candidates warned of threats to abortion-rights Republicans and the election if they win on Tuesday. Republicans have mostly focused on crime and the economy, blaming inflation on Democratic policies.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made abortion a focal point of her re-election campaign in Michigan, where voters will also consider a ballot measure that would protect abortion rights in the state constitution.
Her Republican opponent, Trump-supporting conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, supports a near-total abortion ban but says the issue is not an issue in the governor’s race because of the ballot question.
Wisconsin Democratic incumbent Tony Evers faces a strong challenge from Republican construction magnate Tim Michels, who has vowed to enforce a 19th-century abortion ban that Evers is challenging in court.
Michels has expressed concern about how he will handle future elections, telling supporters at a recent campaign rally that “Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor.”
In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state, who oversees election administration.
Mastriano repeated Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and was present at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to protest the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Shapiro, the state attorney general leading in the polls for the open seat, called Mastrian too extreme for Pennsylvania.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, echoed that sentiment in her race against Republican Kari Lake, a former news anchor, in one of the nation’s closest gubernatorial races.
Hobbs rose to national prominence in 2020 when she defended the results of the Arizona election against Trump’s false claims of fraud. Lake, a Trump supporter, echoed his claims and said she would not endorse a Biden victory in Arizona. She has vowed to ban postal voting if she wins.
“This is a difficult moment,” said Clarence Lusane, who chairs the political science department at Howard University. “If someone like Kari Lake or one of the others does get real power, he’s made it pretty clear what he’s going to try to do, and that’s tip the scales unfairly.”
Reporting by Daniel Trott; Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Daniel Wallis
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