Election 2014: Spotlight on the Gubernatorial Races

By Nick Blazer, Manager, Social Media Services and the 2014 Elections Project

2014 Gubernatorial RacesWhile national pundits keep their eyes fixated on the Congressional elections, 2014 is the critical year for state elections in the United States. There are 36 gubernatorial seats up for grabs and 29 out of the 36 governors are seeking another term. This is in addition to the 31 attorneys general elections and over 6,000 state legislative elections—many of which will determine legislative majorities for 2015 and beyond. Not since 2010 has there been so much potential for great change in the political landscape after the November elections.

The gubernatorial election season officially kicked off in March with the Texas and Illinois primary elections. April featured a brief pause in primary elections for the gubernatorial races, but the cycle accelerates in May with a wave of primaries. The Ohio primary election was held yesterday, May 6; the Nebraska primary is next week on May 13; and Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Oregon and Pennsylvania will hold primary elections on May 20 (in addition, the following states held or will hold primary elections in May, but will not elect a governor in 2014: Indiana and North Carolina: May 6; West Virginia: May 13; Kentucky: May 20). Also, Texas will hold a primary runoff election on May 27, but the gubernatorial candidates were set in the March primary election. Since the field is about to narrow in a number of the key races, this is as good of a time as any to provide a brief update on the gubernatorial candidates in nine of either the most competitive races or stated party target states this year.

More campaign updates like this one, including information on the latest polls and news headlines plus searchable elections charts for all of the candidates, can be found on our companion elections websites 2014governorsraces.com and 2014attorneysgeneral.com. As the election season kicks into overdrive, more and more updates will be posted on a daily basis, so be sure to check back for all of the latest elections news.


The Arkansas gubernatorial race remains competitive. Governor Mike Beebe (D) is term-limited. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson (R) and Curtis Coleman (R) are vying for the Republican Party nomination and former Congressman Mike Ross (D) and Lynette Bryant (D) are competing for the Democratic Party nomination. Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross are the front-runners of the respective primary races.

The results of an April 29 poll by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College and released on May 5 revealed strong support for Asa Hutchinson in the Republican primary election. The poll reported 70% intended to vote for Asa Hutchinson, 20% intended to vote for Curtis Coleman and 10% were undecided.

On the general election front, the latest poll performed by Public Policy Polling and released at the end of April reported Asa Hutchinson moved into an eight-point lead over Mike Ross, to the tune of 46% versus 38%. Mike Ross still held an advantage over his other potential rival Curtis Coleman (43% vs 33%). The growth in support for Hutchinson is a new development. The two front-runners ran neck-and-neck throughout the month of April. The New York Times / Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in mid-April placed Hutchinson at 41% and Ross at 40%, while a Talk Business/Hendrix College poll conducted at the beginning of April showed Ross at 44% and Hutchinson at 43%.

The two front-runners received help from big names in the last three weeks. Former President Bill Clinton (D) recently appeared at a fundraiser to help Mike Ross build his war chest; he also endorsed Mike Ross earlier this April. In addition, the National Rifle Association endorsed both Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson.

Mike Ross possessed the largest amount of cash on hand in the latest official fundraising reports and raised the most money in the month of March. This could change when the results of the April report appear later this month. Ross raised $222,274 and possessed $2,050,015 cash on hand, while Hutchinson raised $200,079 and held $1,243,409 in cash on hand. Curtis Coleman raised $38,345 and held $16,446 in cash on hand.

The Arkansas primary election is May 20.


Governor John Hickenlooper (D) is seeking re-election in 2014. He will face one of four possible Republican candidates in the general election. Former Congressman Bob Beauprez (R), Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R), former State Senator Mike Kopp (R) and former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R) are competing for the party nomination.

The field of Republican candidates narrowed between a mid-March and mid-April poll: the Colorado Republican Party Convention in conjunction with the state filing deadline reduced the field of primary candidates to just four Republicans. Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo qualified by submitting signatures, while attendees at the Republican Party Convention approved Scott Gessler and Mike Kopp.

Quinnipiac University surveyed the playing field in mid-April and discovered Governor Hickenlooper remains secure against all four of his opponents, placing at 47%+ support against each one with a minimum of a seven-point advantage. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo was his closest competitor in the poll – Governor Hickenlooper held a seven-point advantage at 47% versus 40%. In addition, more than half of respondents reported not knowing enough about Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former State Senator Mike Kopp and former Congressman Bob Beauprez to voice a favorable or unfavorable opinion about the three candidates. The Republican candidates may be able to reduce Governor Hickenlooper’s lead as their visibility increases. The results of this survey are similar to the results released by Public Policy Polling in mid-March where Governor John Hickenlooper held roughly the same amount of support. It should be noted that despite the Governor’s consistent advantage in the polls, the Republican candidates increased support since mid-March as well.

According to the newest campaign finance reports, Governor Hickenlooper raised the most money in the first quarter and has the largest war chest. Governor Hickenlooper raised $984,564 and possesses $1.65 million in cash on hand. Former Congressman Bob Beauprez raised more than $443,000 and holds more than $118,000 in cash on hand. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo raised more than $279,000 and possesses $111,000 in cash on hand. The results for Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former State Senator Mike Kopp have yet to be released.

In recent news, three of the four Republicans debated on April 24 and May 3. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo skipped both debates. Additionally, Steve House, a former candidate in the race, endorsed Bob Beauprez.

The Colorado primary election is June 24.


Governor Rick Scott (R) is seeking a second term. He is challenged by former State Senator Nan Rich (D) and former Governor Charlie Crist (D) who are seeking the Democratic Party nomination. Former Governor Crist is the Democratic front-runner.

While the Florida gubernatorial election is still competitive and Governor Scott just kicked off his re-election campaign, Charlie Crist is the front-runner as indicated by most polls released in the past month. The newest results unveiled on May 4 by SurveyUSA, which conducted the poll on behalf of WFLA-TV, show Charlie Crist at 44% compared to 41% for Governor Rick Scott. This is within the margin of error (+/- 4.3%). However, this is substantially different compared to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll released on April 30 and conducted in late April. Charlie Crist placed at 48% compared to Governor Scott’s 38% within the sample population and was well outside of the margin of error (+/- 2.6%).

Five days earlier, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. revealed the results of a poll conducted in mid-April and the two candidates tied at 42%. In addition, the favorability, unfavorability and neutrality ratings for name recognition of Charlie Crist and Governor Rick Scott were very close in each category. Rasmussen Reports conducted a poll from April 21-22 and revealed its findings on April 24: Charlie Crist led Governor Scott at 45% vs 39%. Finally, SurveyUSA surveyed Floridians in mid-April and reported on April 15 that Charlie Crist ranked at 46% compared to Governor Scott at 41%. Again, Crist consistently appears to be the front-runner, but the numbers oscillate too much to provide a clear idea by how much. They may also reverse now that Governor Scott can fully focus on his re-election campaign.

The Florida primary election is August 26.


Governor Nathan Deal (R) is defending his seat in 2014. He is challenged by former Dalton Mayor David Pennington (R) and State School Superintendent John Barge (R) in the Republican primary election and will face State Senator Jason Carter (D) in the general election. Jason Carter is the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter (D).

Governor Nathan Deal polled at a four-point advantage in support over State Senator Jason Carter in two April surveys. SurveyUSA interviewed Georgia residents on behalf of WXIA-TV in late April and discovered 41% of respondents backed Governor Deal while 37% supported State Senator Carter. Additionally, 64% of respondents who were likely to vote in the Republican primary supported Governor Deal, while 11% chose David Pennington and 10% selected John Barge. Earlier in the month, Landmark Communications and Rosetta Stone questioned Georgia voters on behalf of WSB-TV. The poll reported 43% supported Governor Deal and 39% supported State Senator Carter. Also, the results were within the +/- 4% margin of error.

There will be a Republican primary debate on May 14, but Governor Nathan Deal declined to join due to outstanding commitments.

The Georgia primary election is May 20.


Governor Pat Quinn (D) is defending his seat against Bruce Rauner (R) in the general election. The Illinois primary election occurred on March 18 and Bruce Rauner defeated three other rivals for the Republican nomination.

Rasmussen Reports conducted the only major poll since the March 18 primary election. Rasmussen surveyed likely Illinois voters in mid-April and discovered 43% of respondents sided with Bruce Rauner, while 40% backed Governor Pat Quinn. It is within the margin of error (+/- 4%).

In recent news, the federal government is examining the contracts and payments for Governor Pat Quinn’s $55 million anti-violence program and this drew an attack from his opponent. Bruce Rauner’s political action committee dedicated to the adoption of term limits in Illinois filed its petition for a constitutional amendment with 591,092 signatures. Governor Pat Quinn publicly sided with the idea of term limits in late April. Lastly, Governor Quinn and Bruce Rauner squared off in a debate on April 11 and traded jabs over the topic of education.

Campaign finance reports filed in April indicate Governor Pat Quinn holds close to $9 million in cash on hand and he raised close to $5 million in the first quarter. Bruce Rauner raised more than $9 million in the first quarter, of which $5.3 million was self-funded, and spent more than $8 million in the same time frame. This was necessary due to the Republican primary; Rauner faced three other opponents, while Governor Quinn coasted to victory and only spent $631,000 in the first quarter.

The general election is November 4.


Governor Paul LePage (R) is seeking a second term. He is challenged by Congressman Mike Michaud (D) and former 2010 rival Eliot Cutler (I). Governor LePage narrowly defeated Cutler in 2010.

Maine is one of the most competitive gubernatorial races out of the 36 at the moment in terms of poll results. In a recent Rasmussen Reports survey unveiled on April 29 and conducted in late April, Governor LePage and Congressman Michaud tied at 40% and Eliot Cutler ranked at 14%. This is a shift from the Pan Atlantic SMS Group survey in early April, where Governor LePage placed at 39%, Congressman Michaud at 37% and Eliot Cutler at 20%.

As of the April campaign finance reports, Congressman Mike Michaud holds $813,000 in cash on hand and raised $462,000 in the period between January 1 and April 22. Governor Paul LePage possessed $618,000 in cash on hand and raised $123,000 since January 1. Eliot Cutler raised more than $389,000 from January 1 and April 22, although more than $200,000 was self-funded. The campaign held $109,000 in cash on hand.

The Maine primary election is June 10.


Governor John Kasich (R) is running for re-election. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D) defeated Larry Ealy in the Democratic primary election and will face Governor Kasich in the general election.

Governor Kasich’s position appears strong in the latest poll and he received an apparent boost in support between the February and April polls. A SurveyUSA poll conducted on behalf of WCMH-TV in late April reported Governor Kasich held a ten-point lead over Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald at 46% versus 36%. This is a three-point growth from the Quinnipiac University survey conducted in February where Governor Kasich polled at 43% and Ed FitzGerald ranked at 38%. Also, while a majority of voters did not approve of Governor Kasich’s performance, more respondents approved (46%) than disapproved (39%) in the April poll.

Governor John Kasich possesses more than $8.5 million in cash on hand as of the last campaign finance report. Governor Kasich raised more than $1.4 million between January and the middle of April. His rival Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald raised $642,000 and held more than $1.5 million in cash on hand during the same fundraising period. Also, Governor Kasich spent $475,000 on television commercials between January and mid-April.

The general election is November 4.


Governor Tom Corbett (R) is running for re-election in 2014. He was challenged by Bob Guzzardi (R) until very recently in the primary election. The Democratic field features four contenders: State Treasurer Rob McCord (D), former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty (D), Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D) and former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Tom Wolf (D).

The last major poll to question respondents about hypothetical races between Governor Corbett and the Democratic candidates was conducted in February, so the jury is out on this front. However, new surveys in April did take the pulse of the competition between the Democrats and “Teflon Tom” is the front-runner despite attacks made by his three rivals throughout April. A late April The Morning Call / Muhlenberg College poll discovered Tom Wolf clocked in at 38% of support in the Democratic primary election, while Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz placed at 13%, State Treasurer Rob McCord ranked at 11% and Katie McGinty polled at 2%. The number of undecided primary voters was 33% of respondents, so it is possible one of these candidates might surge forward for a surprise upset in the impending primary. The results are similar to the Franklin & Marshall College Poll released at the beginning of April. In the survey of registered Democrats, the poll reported 33% of respondents favored Tom Wolf, 7% favored Congresswoman Schwartz, 6% backed State Treasurer McCord, 4% sided with Katie McGinty and 4% chose some other candidate.

In recent news, Governor Corbett will no longer face Bob Guzzardi in the Pennsylvania primary election. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a ruling made in a lower court that allowed Guzzardi to remain on the ballot. The Fix at the Washington Post still lists Governor Corbett as the most vulnerable governor up for re-election in 2014. Leaders in the Pittsburgh region endorsed Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, State Treasurer Rob McCord received an endorsement from The Philadelphia Inquirer, the largest newspaper in Pennsylvania. Rob McCord was also endorsed by 30 Pennsylvania mayors in April. Lastly, Tom Wolf was just endorsed by John Hanger, a former Democratic candidate who dropped out of the race in March.

Attacks on front-runner Tom Wolf are a common theme in the last few weeks. Congresswoman Schwartz called out Tom Wolf’s campaign for plagiarism in his “Fresh Start” plan in April and these claims turned out to be true. The candidates are also very active over Pennsylvania’s airwaves and Tom Wolf is the main target. A controversial ad aired by Rob McCord against Wolf has since been criticized by State Senator Bob Casey and former Governor Tom Rendell. The two called on McCord to pull the ad from the airwaves. Lastly, there was a debate between the Democrats on May 1. The topic was supposed to be education, but Tom Wolf’s rivals seized the opportunity to launch attacks. In spite of the efforts, he still leads the candidates the latest poll and earned the nickname “Teflon Tom.”

Finally, Tom Wolf posted the largest coffers at the beginning of April. He possessed more than $7 million in cash on hand. Governor Corbett reported more than $5.9 million in cash on hand and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz posted more than $5.1 million in cash on hand. Rob McCord entered April with $3.6 million in cash on hand while Katie McGinty held $1.6 million in cash on hand. Allyson Schwartz was the largest fundraiser ($1,554,892), but Tom Wolf was the largest spender ($5,358,259). He used much of these early funds to purchase advertisements and these ads arguably gave him the early boost in the polls and perpetual front-runner status.

The Pennsylvania primary election is May 20.


Governor Scott Walker (R) is seeking a second term. He is challenged by four Democrats seeking the party nomination: former Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce Mary Burke (D), Assemblymember Brett Hulsey (D), Marcia Mercedes Perkins (D) and Hariprasad Trivedi (D).

The dynamics of the race changed slightly in April. Mary Burke was the front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination, but Assemblymember Brett Hulsey joined the race in late April, so this may change. Nonetheless, Governor Walker is still in the lead when compared to Mary Burke, although the distance narrowed since March. Public Policy Polling conducted a poll in mid-April and reported 48% of respondents would vote for Governor Scott in the fall, 45% would vote for Mary Burke and 7% were not sure. The results were just shy of the margin of error (+/- 2.9%) In the same poll, half of respondents approved of Governor Walker’s job performance while 47% disapproved. In late March, Marquette Law School surveyed Wisconsinites and reported 47% of respondents backed Governor Walker while 41% sided with Mary Burke. The poll also reported an equal amount of respondents – 47% – approved and disapproved of Governor Walker’s job performance. Lastly, Human Events and Gravis Marketing questioned Wisconsinites on March 17 and reported 49% of respondents would vote for Governor Walker, 44% for Mary Burke and 7% were unsure.

In recent news, The Daily Beast and U.S. News & World Report printed pieces on Mary Burke’s bid to beat Governor Walker. Assemblymember Brett Hulsey joined the race in late April with the intent “to make this race more interesting” and will need to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by the June 2 deadline. His first plan to attack his rival involved hiring an individual to follow Mary Burke in a chicken suit and he may follow through with this. He drew attention to himself this past weekend when he protested at the Republican Party Convention by dressing as a Confederate soldier. The Wisconsin Republican and Democratic Parties were critical of his actions. Lastly, Governor Scott Walker officially launched his re-election campaign in mid-April. Time Magazine also added him to their 2014 “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” list.

The Wisconsin primary election is August 12.


Nick Blazer is Manager of Social Media Services and the 2014 Elections Project.

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