When Governor Jim Justice switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party at a Donald Trump rally in West Virginia last week, he became the 34th Republican governor in the country. Only fifteen states now have Democratic governors, and one (Alaska) has an independent governor.
Not since 1922 have Republicans had 34 governors. Democrats reached that high water mark in 1986.
Republican dominance in the majority of states goes beyond mere control of the governor’s office. In 26 states, Republicans now hold the governorship and both houses of the state legislature — a state level “trifecta” similar to the current national “trifecta,” where Republicans hold the White House and have a majority in both the House and the Senate.
Only two states hold gubernatorial elections in 2017–New Jersey and Virginia.
In New Jersey, the current Republican governor, Chris Christi, is term limited and one of the most unpopular governors in the country. The latest polls show that Phil Murphy, the Democratic nominee, holds about a 20 point lead over the Republican nominee, Kim Guadagno, so the Garden State looks to be a Democratic pickup.
Virginia, however, is another matter.
The current Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, is term limited, and the Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie, is in a dead heat with the Democratic nominee, Ralph Northam. This race will likely remain too close to call, but three months from election day, it looks to be a possible Republican pickup.