The GOP Could Flip Two Democratic-Held Governor Seats

(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 2017 ESSENCE Festival ) / (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images for Concordia )

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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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  • The GOP has the ability to win back two governor seats in conservative states that both have Republican supermajorities with Democratic governors.
  • Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who narrowly won in 2019, is out of touch with Kentuckians, and Louisiana’s moderate Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited, opening the door for a red wave, political experts in both states told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “I would say four years ago, Republicans were hungry to take the governor’s office back from a Democrat,” but now, “Republicans are starving for the opportunity,” Jeremy Alford, an independent Louisiana political analyst and publisher of LaPolitics Weekly, told the DCNF.

The Republican Party has the opportunity to pick up two governor seats this year in red states that are currently under Democratic control – Kentucky and Louisiana.

Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is up for reelection and Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited. The GOP is eager to take back over executive leadership in the two states that both have Republican supermajorities in the Legislature, party leadership and the states’ political experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“The people of Kentucky deserve a Governor who shares their values – and that’s certainly not Andy Beshear. From his approach to schools to his response to COVID, Andy Beshear has put left-wing politics and virtue signaling before what’s best for kids and families. Beshear is out-of-step with Kentuckians, and voters will have a clear choice this November to set the state on a better path,” a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association told the DCNF.

Beshear narrowly won Kentucky’s governorship in 2019 by only 5,000 votes, beating incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who succeeded Beshear’s father, Gov. Steve Beshear, 49.2% to 48.8%. The conventional wisdom surrounding Beshear’s victory – the only blue win on the ballot – is that Bevin was too unpopular among Republicans to win reelection, leaving room for a Democrat to take over, Kentucky political operatives told the DCNF.

“Bevin was one of the most detested people in Kentucky politics, and it showed,” Scott Jennings, a longtime Republican Kentucky adviser and veteran of numerous campaigns, told the DCNF.

Beasher recently vetoed a bill that banned gender reassignment surgeries for minors, but the Legislature overrode him. In 2022, the governor vetoed a bill that barred biological males from competing in women’s sports, which the Legislature also voted to overturn. In 2021, Beshear vetoed two bills that took away his ability to continue to impose mask mandates at schools and other places, and the Legislature, again, overruled, nodding to their displeasure with his COVID-19 policies.

“He wants everyone to believe he’s a nonpartisan technocrat who shows up and hands out water when there’s a disaster. But the truth is, he’s one of the most – if not the most – liberal governors in America when it comes to bedrock, cultural and value issues, and in Kentucky – a conservative state – that’s going to matter,” Jennings told the DCNF. “Some of the advantages of incumbency could be erased by the Republicans if they just commit to telling the true Andy Beshear story – he’s an extremist.”

Edwards became the 56th governor of Louisiana in 2015 and was reelected in 2019, beating Republican Eddie Rispone 51.3% to 48.7%. The governor was able to win in such a red state because he is more of a moderate Democrat, and the Republicans fronted poor candidates in both elections, Ron Faucheux, a nonpartisan political analyst and former member of Louisiana’s state Legislature, told the DCNF.

“It’s very likely that the Republicans will pick up the seat … [Louisiana] clearly has a conservative, Republican orientation,” Faucheux said. “There is a built up demand on the part of the Republicans and conservatives of the state to elect a Republican governor this time, and not elect another Democrat.”

Kentucky’s closed primary is on May 16, where 12 Republican candidates will compete for the chance to take on Beshear, and whoever wins the majority of votes will gain the party’s nomination. There are three candidates who have the best shot at being the GOP nominee – Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft and Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles.

“The Republican Party feels very strongly about our chances of electing a governor this fall who accurately represents our state’s values, unlike incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear,” Sean Southard, spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, told the DCNF.

Cameron, Kentucky’s first black American to be elected to an independent statewide office and first Republican AG since 1948,  already has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and is clearly “in the driver’s seat,” Tres Watson, Kentucky Republican political consultant, told the DCNF. The AG is a “bonafide celebrity in the Republican Party” whose persona and name ID make him the frontrunner, according to Jennings.

Craft served under the Trump administration for four years, first as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada and then succeeded former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as U.N. Ambassador. She has spent millions in advertising both in positive ads and ones targeting Cameron, which has increased her name recognition, slotting her behind the AG, according to Jennings.

Quarles, who previously served in the state’s House, is focusing his campaign more on state topics as opposed to Cameron and Craft running on national issues, according to Watson. The commissioner is the Republican candidate who Watson believes Beshear is the most afraid of.

“He lacks Cameron’s star power and Kelly’s resources,” said Jennings. (RELATED: Kentucky Legislature Overrides Democrat Governor’s Veto On Bill Banning Sex Changes For Minors)

Louisiana’s jungle primary is on Oct. 14 where all of the candidates, no matter their party, will go up against one another, and if no candidate wins the majority of votes, the top two will head to a runoff. Attorney General Jeff Landry, the former President of the Louisiana Business Association Stephen Waguespack and State Treasurer John Schroder are the prominent GOP contenders, and the only significant Democratic candidate is former Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson.

“It’s ours [Republicans] to lose, and we need to make sure that we don’t lose,” Louis Gurvich, chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana, told the DCNF. “I think the state party and most Louisianans are ready for a change. I feel it in the air.”

Landry, who already has the endorsement of the state party, is a “pro-Trump, MAGA conservative” who’s widely perceived as “controversial,” Faucheux said. The real question in this race is whether another Republican candidate will be able to gain enough traction to really challenge Landry, and turn it into a three-way race between him and the Democrat.

“There are a lot of Republicans that are upset that the state party jumped behind Landry so soon,” Jeremy Alford, an independent Louisiana political analyst and publisher of LaPolitics Weekly, told the DCNF. “There could very well be a civil war scenario on the Republican side.”

Waguespack “shook up” the GOP field when he recently entered the race, and has the chance to really make headway, said Alford. The former business president, who served as Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff, could run as the anti-Landry candidate to “knock” him out of the runoff, said Faucheux.

Schroder, a former special agent to the Criminal Investigation Division in the U.S. Army, has already been running advertisements on TV and, like Waguespack, could challenge Landry in the primary, said Alford.

Regardless of who the GOP challenger ends up being, Faucheux believes they will beat Wilson, and Louisiana will once again have a Republican governor.

“Shawn Wilson wants a new job, but based on his decades-long record in government, he’d drive the state of Louisiana right off a cliff. Wilson would be an ally of national far left extremists, and put the people of Louisiana last, just like he did in state government,” the RGA spokesman told the DCNF.

Wilson is more progressive than Edwards, which will make it easier for Republicans to beat him, as Louisiana is a very conservative state, said Faucheux. The Democrat is “running to the left” of where the governor was when he ran.

“I would say four years ago, Republicans were hungry to take the governor’s office back from a Democrat,” but now, “Republicans are starving for the opportunity,” said Alford.

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