Democratic candidates’ conservative positions will be key as the party seeks to add to its current total of 18 governors, down from 29 in 2009. Early polls show pickups in Indiana and purple North Carolina are strong possibilities. But to gain ground, Democratic gubernatorial candidates must also protect governor’s mansions they already hold in red states, where they have to convince voters to ticket-split with Donald Trump, the same way Republican senators are trying to peel off Clinton voters in state after state right now.
“I cannot be a supporter of Hillary Clinton,” said Jim Justice, the coal billionaire-turned Democratic candidate for governor of West Virginia, in a radio interview Monday morning. Justice’s reasoning comes straight from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Republican songbook: “The reason I can’t be is her position on coal is diametrically, completely wrong in many, many different ways.”
In spite of his stumbles in the polls, many of the key states in the gubernatorial map are still Trump country.
“In governors races, close ties with Hillary is proving to be more toxic than ties to Trump,” Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson said.