As midterms arrive, these are key governor races to watch

Politics

(NewsNation) — There are nearly three dozen governor races nationwide this year, including elections in some battleground states that could have consequences on issues such as abortion rights, voting rights and gun control.

Here is a rundown of some of the key governor races to keep an eye on in the 2022 midterm elections:

New York

Crime and the economy have both dominated the race for governor of New York between incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, a congressman from Long Island.

Hochul, the state’s former lieutenant governor, took office last year after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned over sexual harassment allegations. She would be the first woman elected governor of New York if she wins.

If Zeldin wins, it would be the first time in 20 years a Republican has risen to the seat of power in Albany. To do this, he would have to convince 35% of voters in the boroughs that a change of party leadership is the answer in a blue state.

During his campaign, however, Zeldin was able to narrow a significant gap in the polls, making this race a competitive one.

Zeldin has previously said New York is “in crisis,” because of crime, the economy and other issues, while Hochul has criticized Zeldin’s ties to former President Donald Trump, and warned that her opponent would roll back abortion rights in New York if elected.

Texas

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is looking to defend his seat against Democratic challenger and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking an upset in America’s biggest red state.

It’s one of the most expensive and competitive midterm races in the U.S, with the candidates’ campaigns spending more than $200 million combined.

Emotions are running high, as many voters are angry over the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde that left 19 children and two teachers dead in May. O’Rourke has focused his campaign on stricter gun policies in the wake of Uvalde (which Abbott has waved off), abortion rights and legalizing marijuana. Abbott, on the other hand, has focused on the southern border and illegal crossings. This past summer, Abbott started busing migrants to Chicago, New York and Washington, with his office saying he’s sent nearly 13,000 people to these cities.

Illinois

Illinois incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker is running against Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey. The two have sparred on issues such as COVID-19, abortion, school funding and crime in the state, including the SAFE-T Act, which eliminates cash bail and sets up a scenario in which a public safety evaluation determines whether a person should be released.

Pritzker, in multiple polls, is seens as having a formidable lead with voters.

Arizona

The gubernatorial race in Arizona between Republican Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs, who has served as secretary of state for four years, is one of the closest in the country. Hobbs and Lake, a former TV journalist, are just three points apart, according to Real Clear Politics, with the latter candidate slightly ahead.

Lake, who has campaigned on border security, gun rights and opposing COVID-19 mandates, has embraced Trump’s false voter fraud claims from the 2020 presidential election. She received Trump’s endorsement. Meanwhile, Hobbs rose to national prominence when she defended Arizona’s election results against these fake claims, Reuters reported.

Florida

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is aiming to be re-elected for his second term. His opponent Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor in Florida who is now running as a Democrat, has criticized DeSantis as divisive, and at a recent debate, despite rules against candidates directing questions at their opponents, repeatedly asked the incumbent to commit to serving a full term if elected. DeSantis refused to answer, fueling speculation that he is a potential 2024 Republican presidential nominee.

DeSantis has made a name for himself by rejecting COVID-19 restrictions, as well as for his backing and eventual signing of a law that prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools for students in kindergarten through third grade.

Georgia

Current Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is again facing off against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. The News-Observer reports that Abrams, who would be the first Black woman to serve as governor in the U.S., is a lawyer whose 2018 loss to Kemp “launched” her into Democratic stardom. She has criticized Kemp for using his previous position as secretary of state to raise barriers to voting.

Kemp, though, is leading according to recent polls, as he has leveraged his incumbency to campaign on lifting pandemic restrictions and using a surplus in the budget to give teachers a $5,000 raise.

Michigan

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Tudor Dixon, who is backed by Trump, have gone head-to-head on reproductive rights.

Dixon supports a near-total ban on abortion, including for child victims of rape and incest, Reuters reports, while Whitmer has made protecting access to the procedure a central theme of her campaign.

Whitmer has previously accused Dixon of “stoking violence” with conspiracy theories, as the Republican has echoed Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, according to the Associated Press, while Dixon said voters “deserve better.”

Should Dixon win, Republicans would have total control of the state government, as they already hold majorities in both legislative chambers. Reuters has reported that Whitmer’s lead over Dixon has shrunk from double digits, and recent polls show her only 1% to 2% ahead.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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