It’s the governors, mind – Part II

29. October 2018, 11:30 Uhr

This year’s midterms are only a week away – hence, it’s time for the second part of our analysis of those often overlooked elections, the races for the individual states’ governor’s mansions (see last week’s instalment if you haven’t already, too).

Here we go:

Michigan: Still one of the centres of the US automobile industry, Michigan is home to many other manufacturing industries, too. Originally just as stagnant as the car industry itself, the state’s economy has begun to bloom ever since the Republicans captured both the state’s legislature as well as the governor’s mansion. Republican incumbent Greg Snyder is term-limited, so the state’s former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) are slugging it out. Schuette is the archetypical establishment Republican aiming for business-friendly policies, i.e. low taxes, low regulation etc.; his expressed aim is to make Michigan “a growth state, a jobs state”, whereas Whitmer is the classic Democrat striving to expand Medicaid and to support public institutions. One of her particular concerns after the nationwide scandal of contaminated public water supply in Flint is water quality. All in all, there can be no doubt that Schuette is the more business-friendly candidate of the two, even though Whitmer’s campaign is more differentiated and nuanced. Schuette, too, would have the advantage to work with a Republican-controlled state house which is rather unlikely to flip.


Nevada: The Silver State pits Adam Laxalt (R) against Steve Sisolak (D), with Jared Lord running as an independent, libertarian (and inauspicious) candidate. Neither Laxalt nor Sisolak are the incumbent; that’s Republican Brian Sandoval. Laxalt, the state’s current attorney general, won his primary far more decisively than did Sisolak, which together with the state’s recent preference for Republican office holders provides Laxalt with a comparative advantage. Interestingly, though, Sisolak is the businessman of the two, campaigning on a pronounced education reform platform with the aim of creating more knowledge-based jobs in the structurally weak Nevadan economy; also, he is famously opposed to property taxes. His election thus appears to be economically preferable over Laxalt who rather boasts his military credentials; Jared Lord’s presence on the ballot, anyway, is probably more harmful to the Republican than the Democrat. Sisolak, too, would probably enjoy a Democratic-controlled state legislature which is more likely to stay that way than not.


New Mexico: In the Southwest, Republican Steve Pearce and Democrat Michelle Grisham strive to follow Susana Martinez (R) as the state’s 32nd governor. Grisham was Secretary of Health in the state’s government and continues to fight against the repeal of Obamacare, while Pearce is a long-time legislative warhorse in both Washington and Albuquerque, and a former oil businessman, too. Pearce is all in favour of slashing regulation, not least because he denies the existence of climate change. Grisham, by contrast, is all about diversifying the state’s structurally weak economy (see Nevada), primarily by means of education and public-private partnerships. Preference, hence, for one the two candidates from a business point of view very much depends on one’s trade or industry (apart from the candidates’ other characteristics, that is). Both candidates would have to work with a state house controlled by the Democrats not likely to flip.


Ohio: The Buckeye State sees an interesting race for the succession of nationally famous Republican incumbent John Kasich, who ran for the Presidency in 2016 and was among the last to concede to Donald Trump. Richard Cordray is a rather peculiar Democratic candidate: The former Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Ohio Treasurer is an economist and lawyer by training and boasts an outstanding focus on fiscal and economic affairs. That’s the core of his campaign, too, aiming for lowering taxes for the middle classes, lowering health-care costs, and improving vocational training which makes him an attractive candidate from the business point of view. His Republican opponent Mike DeWine is a former US Senator and, most recently, the Attorney General of Ohio. His campaign platform appears a bit tilted to the law and order side of affairs, which seems just as well with regard to Ohio’s ranking among the states hit worst by the so-called Opioid Crisis. However, that makes his campaign a tad weak on the business and economic side of affairs, so Cordray’s election would appear to be preferable here. However, he would be facing a Republican-controlled state legislature which is nearly certain not to flip in his favour.


Oregon: The Democratic incumbent, Kate Brown is running against her long-time opponent, Republican Knute Buehler – long-time, because Brown defeated Buehler already once back in 2012 in the election for Secretary of State. Brown is a known proponent of minimum wage legislation whilst Buehler is a professed foe of business taxes (and advocate of the death penalty whose moratorium he vows to end). Thus, Brown’s defenestration by the Republican (if rather unlikely) might be seen conducive to the state’s business climate, particularly in the vast, sparsely populated hinterland to the east of Portland; yet the state’s relatively decent economic record speaks for Brown. She, too, would enjoy the support of Democratic-controlled state house which rather likely will stay that way.


Wisconsin: The Badger State boasts one of the few gubernatorial races with guaranteed national attention, at least from the US media. That’s because it pits one of the country’s most well-known governors, the Republican Scott Walker, against a hopeful Democratic challenger, Tony Evers. Walker has always been one of the poster boys of the Republican establishment and gained national notoriety in his 2011 “Budget Repair Bill” in which he successfully limited the trade unions’ collective bargaining power for state employees drastically. Always a proponent of small government and a limited state, he even laid the axe to education spending by and large. By contrast, his Democratic opponent Evers, as so many of his Democratic colleagues in other gubernatorial races, puts a particular emphasis on public education and its reconstruction from Walker’s infringements. A third candidate on the ballot, the libertarian Phil Anderson much more threatens the base of Walker than that of Evers, because it used to be libertarians pushing Walker safely over the line. The governor’s extremely combative, divisive style has not exactly helped the state’s economy, with the marked exception of formerly downtrodden, racial conflict-ridden Milwaukee having re-emerged miraculously as one the most dynamic economic centres of the state and indeed the Midwest. A more even-handed touch to the state’s affairs, thus, might not prove to be harmful. Evers, though, would have to co-operate with a state legislature controlled by the Republicans, of which only the Senate might flip in his favour.


And that’s it. Should the Democrats manage to win most of these eleven races, they stand to rule in the majority of governor’s mansions, giving them a very effective tool to control economic policy across the Union, no matter what the President does.

[Picture by DonkeyHotey, use according to Creative Commons license 2.0]