US midterms: The governor races you need to watch

On November 6, American voters are slated to head to the ballot and cast their votes in midterm elections that will decide the tenor of the rest of US President Donald Trump‘s term.

The vote will decide all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 of 100 Senate seats and 39 state and territorial governorships, among other local and state offices.

All US governors serve four-year terms, except those in the states of Vermont and New Hampshire, where the terms span two years.

In all 50 states and five territories, governors act as the head of the state or territorial government and the chief executive officer.

Governors wield a significant amount of power and are able to veto state bills; in all but seven states, governors can line-item veto on appropriations bills.

In several states across the country, closely-watched gubernatorial races are heating up as Election Day nears.

Here are some of the races you should keep an eye on: 

Oklahoma: Edmondson v Sitt

In Oklahoma, the incumbent Republican governor, Mary Fallin, cannot run again for reelection owing to term limits.

Now, Democratic hopeful Drew Edmondson and his Republican opponent Kevin Stitt are battling it out in an increasingly tight race.

Stitt, a 45-year-old businessman, garnered the endorsement of Fallin and US President Donald Trump. His platform is focused on “government efficiency” and increased oversight of how government agencies spend tax money. He is a staunch opponent of women’s reproductive rights.

Stitt has been criticised over scandals that allegedly took place while he was CEO of his company, Gateway Mortgage, and this week local media revealed that his claims to have left his company during the campaign were false.

Edmondson, a 71-year-old former four-term Oklahoma attorney general, has attempted to appeal to a broad base, including rural voters, by promising to expand Medicaid, a public-based insurance programme for low-income individuals and others in need. 

The Democrat has also railed against Republican control of Oklahoma’s state capitol by pointing to overcrowded prisons, decreasing quality of schools and hospitals and a public education crisis that has seen many teachers relocate to other states.

Arizona: Ducey v Garcia

In the southwestern state of Arizona, incumbent Republican Doug Ducey is facing off against Democrat David Garcia.

Although Ducey had a double-digit lead over his opponent in early October, Garcia has been narrowing the gap in recent weeks, now four to five points behind the Republican incumbent.

Republicans have attacked Garcia by claiming that he advocates for “open borders”, while Garcia’s campaign messaging has targeted the state’s growing population of Latino voters.

Garcia, an education professor, has gained the backing of Bernie Sanders, the progressive former presidential candidate who lost to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primary elections. On Tuesday, Sanders joined Garcia for a rally in Arizona.

Florida: Gillum v DeSantis

In Florida, African American candidate Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis are gripped in a tight race that has seen a number of ugly incidents.

A recent CNN poll shows Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, with support from 54 percent of likely voters as compared to 42 percent for DeSantis, a former Republican representative.

Another survey, conducted by SEA Polling & Strategic Design, predicted 48 percent for Gillum and 42 percent for DeSantis among registered voters.

On Tuesday, US news outlets reported that Gillum, who is vying to become Florida’s first African American governor, was attacked in racist robocalls describing him as a “monkey” and “negro”.

He has campaigned on raising teachers’ salaries and expanding Medicaid under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, among other progressive proposals.

In a recent debate, DeSantis praised Trump as a good “role model” for children and celebrated the president’s highly controversial decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Kansas: Kelly v Kobach

With division swelling within the Kansas Republican Party, the governorship race between Democrat Laura Kelly and Republican Kris Kobach have been almost tied for weeks.

Kobach, an early Trump supporter who has been Secretary of the State of Kansas since 2011, is a hardline anti-immigration figure in US politics and has a long history of contributing to harsh laws targeting immigrants.

Although a Democrat, Kelly, a 13-year member of Kansas’s state senate, has been endorsed by more than two dozen former Republican lawmakers.

During the 2016 presidential elections, Trump won Kansas by a landslide, outperforming Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by 20 percentage points.

With Kansas enduring a healthcare facility crisis and a massive loss of teachers leaving the state, Kelly’s platform advocates policies to reverse those trends, while Kobach has largely aligned himself with the Trump administration’s programme.

South Dakota: Noem v Sutton

In South Dakota, where voters have not elected a Democrat as governor for four decades, a 34-year-old, cowboy-hat wearing Democratic outlier is giving Republican candidate Kristi Noem a run for her money.

Noem, a US representative, has supported Trump’s efforts to restrict the number of refugees entering the US and has fashioned herself as a staunch opponent of abortion rights.

Her opponent, Billie Sutton, a former rodeo rider who is paralysed from the waist down, was first elected to South Dakota’s state senate in 2010.

Although a Democrat, Sutton has described himself as anti-abortion and strongly supports gun rights.

Despite raising far more money than Sutton, Noem has been unable to consistently outperform Sutton in the polls, and the race has grown tighter as November 6 gets closer.

In a poll conducted by ALG Research, which was released earlier this month by Sutton’s own campaign, the Democrat was leading his Republican counterpart by three percentage points.

But in local media reports Republicans expressed confidence that the South Dakota’s track record of Republican voting – 61 percent to Trump in 2016 – would lead Noem to victory.

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