2024 Electoral Preview: Key State Elections
From Arizona to Wisconsin
Welcome to the next installment of our electoral preview for 2024. Our previous posts looked at key congressional open seats and primaries and at North Carolina’s statewide races. Let’s now look at other key state elections across the nation.
In her first year in office, Democratic governor Katie Hobbs has issued a record-breaking number of vetoes, blocking 143 bills sent to her by the extremist Republican legislature, including proposals to deregulate transmission lines, deprioritize clean energy deployment by utilities, and restrict responsible investing. Republicans hold only a 31-29 edge in the state House, and a 16-14 majority in the Senate. Flipping two seats in both chambers would give Democrats their first trifecta in state history. Arizonans elect one senator and two representatives from each of 30 legislative districts (LDs), and the most competitive races are likely to be in LDs 2, 9, 13, and 16. Democrats’ strategy will hinge on defending incumbents in these districts, while also defeating Republican representatives Justin Wilmeth (LD 2), Julie Willoughby (LD 13), and Teresa Martinez (LD 16). Democrats may also try to win the seat of Republican state representative Michelle Pena, who won an upset 2022 victory in LD 23 surrounding Yuma. In the Senate, the most competitive elections will likely be challenges to Republican senators Shawna Bolick (LD 2), Javan Daniel Mansard (LD 13), and Thomas Shope (LD 16).
With centrist Democratic governor John Carney termed out in a state where progressives have made legislative gains in recent years, a competitive primary may dictate the future of the party here. Carney has endorsed Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long, who shares the governor’s business friendly orientation. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer has also been in the race for months. In early December, the Republican-friendly National Wildlife Federation president Collin O’Mara, who was previously a state environmental regulator, suggested that he might enter the race and bring a focus on climate.
After months of delay, Democrats finally used the trifecta they won in 2022 to send a 100% clean energy bill to governor Gretchen Whitmer. State senate seats are not up in 2024, but Democrats will need to play effective defense to maintain their majority in the evenly divided state House.
The Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party won a trifecta in 2022, and kicked off a strong series of progressive policy accomplishments with a 100% clean energy law and a transportation policy overhaul. As in Michigan, state senators will not be up in 2024, but the DFL will need to defend seats to hold its 69-64 edge in the state House.
Much of the focus in the Big Sky State will be federal, as Democratic Senator Jon Tester defends one of the most competitive Senate seats, and utility critic Monica Tranel seeks a rematch against Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, a climate villain. Democrats tried to hold the governor’s office here in 2020, but Republican governor Greg Gianforte prevailed. The only declared Democrat challenging Gianforte so far is Ryan Busse, a firearms manufacturer turned gun safety advocate.
Republican governor Chris Sununu—whose father played an early and key role in cementing the GOP’s status as climate obstructionists—has made weak gestures to posture as a moderate in the MAGA era, though he hasn’t strayed from the ecofascist line of climate change denial. Sununu will not seek another term in 2024, creating a competitive open seat race. The Republican primary is between former state senate president Chuck Morse, and former Senator Kelly Ayotte, whose acknowledgement of basic climate science caused the Koch brothers to cut her off in 2016. Ayotte’s stance is that Republicans should embrace renewable energy, although that has not prevented her from supporting climate foe Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court or the spread of misinformation by News Corp.
On the Democratic side, the primary will be between Manchester mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington. Democrats will try to flip Republicans’ 14-10 majority in the state Senate, as well as Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the 400-seat state House.
2024 will be a critical year for determining the fate of climate goals that Democratic governor Josh Shapiro campaigned on, as well as the uncertain future of the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and any further progress away from the grip that fossil fuel interests have historically held over state government. In order to secure the first Democratic trifecta in the Keystone State since 1993, Democrats must maintain or expand their one-seat state House majority and flip at least three seats in the state Senate.
There are also going to be competitive elections for state attorney general and auditor. After winning by a narrow margin in 2020, Republican Treasurer Stacy Garrity is likely to face a competitive re-election. Garrity has been an active member of the State Financial Officers Foundation (or SFOF, the organization of Republican treasurers leading the charge against responsible investing/ESG/Biden climate policy). Garrity’s opponent will likely be state representative Ryan Bizzarro, who announced his candidacy in late September.
Politics in the Beaver State moved to the right somewhat in 2022, as Democrats lost ground in the legislature and Tina Kotek narrowly won the governorship. Kotek had a volatile first year in office, as she fended off association with a scandal that prompted the resignation of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. Meanwhile, the legislature tried to protect consumers (somewhat) against the havoc that fossil-fueled wildfires are causing in insurance markets, and Republican walkouts once again impeded climate policy. (The Oregon Supreme Court will soon rule on whether a voter-approved ballot initiative bars some of those Republican senators from running in 2024.)
Treasurer Tobias Read has pushed back against Republican attacks on responsible investing, but he is otherwise viewed with skepticism by Oregon's climate left, which helps explain his loss in the 2022 primary campaign for governor. Part of the story there was his decisive 2017 vote to sell off public land to a logging company while serving on the state lands commission. Now Read is running for secretary of state against state senator James Manning, who has an A rating from Climate Cabinet. The secretary of state’s duties also include serving on the state lands commission alongside Governor Kotek and whoever replaces Read as treasurer. The Democratic candidates for treasurer are state senator Elizabeth Steiner, who has an A+ rating from Climate Cabinet, and Lake Oswego Councilmember Jeff Gudman, who previously sought the office as a Republican.
Governor Jay Inslee, long one of the nation’s most prominent climate hawks, announced that he will not seek a fourth term in 2024, and has laid out an ambitious climate agenda for his final year in office. The frontrunner to replace Inslee is Attorney General Bob Ferguson, known as a leader among state AGs in challenging corporate monopolies. Also running are former Rep. Dave Reichert, a moderate Republican who caucused with the feckless Climate Solutions Caucus while in Congress, and state senator Mark Mullet, who barely won a 2020 Democratic primary challenge over his refusal to raise the capital gains tax.
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has been in office since 2001, and alongside former California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, he was an early leader in the work to get better climate risk disclosure and integration of climate into insurance regulation. Facing accusations of misconduct and calls for his resignation, Kreidler announced he would not run for another term, creating the first vacancy in this office in over 20 years. So far, the only declared candidate is state senator Patty Kuderer, a seemingly well-liked Democrat with an A+ Climate Cabinet rating. Although wildfire risk is proving enormously disruptive to Washington's insurance markets, Kuderer’s stated reason for being interested in the office seems to be health insurance.
Gerrymandered legislative maps in the Badger State are deeply unrepresentative, and Democratic governor Tony Evers has been forced by Republicans’ large legislative majorities to veto right-wing legislation and take climate action via executive order. In late December, the new Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court struck down Republicans’ gerrymander. In the likely event that the legislature and Evers cannot agree on new maps, the Court will draw maps in March, paving the way for competitive legislative elections in Wisconsin for the first time in over a decade. Only half of the state Senate is up this year, but the Democrats have a legitimate shot of flipping the state Assembly.