Election Alert: Summary of Gubernatorial and Attorney General Races

November 10, 2016

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2016 saw the Republican Party increase its hold on a majority of the nation’s governor’s mansions. Going into the election, Republicans controlled 31 states to Democrats’ 18 states with 1 Independent. At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s results the GOP picked up three states: Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. Democrats defended three incumbents and held their open seats in Delaware and West Virginia. The new breakdown of Governors Party Control is 33 Republican, 15 Democrat, 1 Independent. The North Carolina Governor’s race has not yet been called. The discussion below is a snapshot of results in the individual states.


U.S. Rep. John Carney, a Democrat, defeated Republican state Senator Colin Bonini to become governor of Delaware. Carney defeated Bonini, 58 percent to 39 percent.  In addition to being a member of Delaware’s congressional delegation, Carney also served as the state’s lieutenant governor. He first ran for governor in 2008, losing to current-Governor Jack Markell in the Democratic primary. Carney’s top policy priority areas include job creation, economic development, and improvement of the state’s public education system. 


Republican Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb was elected governor of the state. Holcomb ran to replace Governor Mike Pence, who did not seek re-election in order to become Donald Trump’s running mate. Governor-elect Holcomb defeated Democratic Speaker of the House John Gregg by a vote of 52 percent to 45 percent. 


Former Navy Seal Eric Greitens defeated incumbent Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, 51 percent to 45 percent, in the race for governor. This victory by Republican Governor-elect Greitens is considered a big upset as the former Navy Seal has never held public office prior to his run for governor. As a result of this election, Republicans in Missouri will hold the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature. 


Democratic Governor Steve Bullock won re-election over businessman Greg Gianforte, with a vote of 50 percent to 47 percent. Democrats have held this seat in conservative-leaning Montana for the last 12 years. This is Gianforte’s first run for political office. He previously sold his software company to Oracle for $1.8 billion dollars.

North Carolina

Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper claimed victory in a very tight contest with incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory. No media outlet has called this race. Governor McCrory called Attorney General Cooper’s action premature as there are tens of thousands of outstanding absentee, military and provisional ballots in counties across the state that have yet to be counted. The governor said he didn’t expect the final results to be known until an official canvass of votes on November 18. We will continue to watch this race.

North Dakota

As expected, former Microsoft executive Republican Doug Burgum defeated his opponent, Democratic state Representative Marvin Nelson. Governor-elect Burgum took 77 percent of the vote, compared to 19 percent for state Rep. Nelson. 

New Hampshire

Republican Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern, 49 percent to 47 percent, to fill the state’s open seat vacated by Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan. Governor-elect Sununu served on the New Hampshire Governor’s Council and was part of the ownership team of Waterville Valley ski resort. 


Democratic Governor Kate Brown defeated oncologist Dr. Bud Pierce, a Republican, 51 percent to 44 percent. Brown will serve the remaining two years of the term vacated by Governor John Kitzhaber. She will run for re-election in 2018. Governor Brown said her priorities going forward will be to improve Oregon schools and improve the statewide jobs outlook.


Popular incumbent Governor Gary Herbert defeated his Democratic opponent, Gary Weinholtz, 67 percent to 30 percent. Governor Herbert was overwhelmingly re-elected, as he has led Utah with tremendous success. Education will be a top priority for Governor Herbert during this last term in office.


Republican incumbent Lt. Governor Phil Scott won the open seat of retiring Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin. Governor-elect Scott defeated his Democratic opponent, Sue Minter, by a vote of 53 percent to 44 percent.


Democratic Governor Jay Inslee easily defeated Republican Bill Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner, approximately 56 percent to 43 percent. Inslee’s re-election extended the Democratic Party’s 30-year control of the governor’s office. During the campaign, the governor highlighted the strength of the state’s economy, investment in K-12 education, and the reduction of tuition at public colleges and universities. 

West Virginia

Democratic billionaire businessman Jim Justice defeated Republican state Senate President Bill Cole, 49 percent to 42 percent, to become governor of West Virginia. Justice’s victory keeps the governor’s mansion in Democratic hands. With President-elect Donald Trump’s easy win in the state, Justice called for unity among West Virginians and political parties. He stressed the importance of working together to move West Virginia forward.

Attorney General

This year, there were 10 state attorney general races, five with incumbents and five for open seats. All incumbents on the ballot were re-elected (in Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and West Virginia). In the open seats, Republicans picked up a seat in Missouri and retained their seat in Indiana. They also expect to pick up New Hampshire, once the new Republican governor makes his appointment. Democrats retained their seats in Vermont and Pennsylvania. As of this writing, the North Carolina race (vacated by Democrat Roy Cooper) is still undecided.


Republican candidate Curtis Hill, the Elkhart County prosecutor, defeated Democrat Lorenzo Arredondo, a former circuit court judge, 62 percent to 38 percent. Curtis will be Indiana’s first African-American attorney general. This was an open Republican seat as Attorney General Zoeller decided not to run for re-election, instead opting to run for the Republican nomination for Indiana’s 9th congressional seat. Curtis Hill is a formable candidate, winning the Republican nomination by defeating former two-term Attorney General Steve Carter.


Republican candidate Josh Hawley, a law school professor and appellate attorney who clerked for Chief Justice Roberts, beat Democrat Teresa Hensley, Cass County prosecutor, 61 percent to 38 percent. The current attorney general, Chris Koster, ran as the Democrat candidate for governor instead of seeking a third term. This attorney general’s race was considered a toss-up, and is a pickup for the Republicans.


Republican incumbent Tim Fox won with 68 percent of the vote against the Democrat challenger, state Senator Larry Jent. Fox is a popular attorney general, who won by a significant margin despite the re-election of Democrat Governor Steve Bullock. Historically, Democrats typically controlled the Attorney General’s Office until General Fox’s first election in 2012.

North Carolina

This was a highly targeted race for both Democrats and Republicans, and is still undecided. Democrat Josh Stein, former state senator, is currently leading Republican state Senator Buck Newton, 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent, with a margin of approximately 21,000 votes. (This number will be in flux for several days while all the absentee and provisional ballots are counted.) If the final vote margin narrows in this race, it could go to a recount. This race is comparable to the governor’s race with both Republicans trailing less than one percent. While Donald Trump carried North Carolina and other Republicans won statewide, the final analysis could show that HB 2 played a significant role specifically in the attorney general and governor’s races. 


Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum easily defeated Republican challenger Daniel Zene Crowe, a public defender. Rosenblum is the first woman to have served as the state’s attorney general. Crowe criticized Rosenblum for her role in the Oregon health exchange and Oregon’s settlement with Oracle over the exchange.


Montgomery County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, defeated Republican state Senator John Rafferty, approximately 52 percent to 48 percent, to become attorney general. Shapiro was also a former state representative. Shapiro ran on being a reformer fighting for consumer rights. Both Shapiro and Rafferty were from the same part of Pennsylvania, the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs. 


Republican incumbent Sean Reyes won with 65 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democrat John Harper, an attorney in private practice, and two third-party candidates. Attorney General Reyes is part of the Executive Committee for the Republican Attorneys General Association. General Reyes was first appointed attorney general by Governor Herbert in 2013, due to Attorney General John Swallow’s resignation, and won the subsequent special election held in November 2014 to finish out the unexpired term.


Democratic Chittenden County state’s attorney T.J. Donovan handily beat his Republican opponent Deb Bucknam, approximately 67 percent to 30 percent. The previous attorney general, Bill Sorrell, a Democrat, held the office for nearly 20 years. Donovan’s policy focus as attorney general will be tackling the state’s opiate crisis and making sure the government works for all Vermonters. 


Bob Ferguson was re-elected as Washington state attorney general with 69 percent of the vote.  He ran against Libertarian Joshua Trumbull, a political novice. The Washington Attorney General’s Office has been seen as a step on the way to the governor’s office. While Ferguson raised $1.4 million, he spent less than half a million on his way to victory.

West Virginia

Republican incumbent Patrick Morrisey won re-election, defeating state Rep. Doug Reynolds, 52 percent to 42 percent. General Morrissey has led many multistate efforts against federal policies, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. This appears to have helped increase his numbers against a self-financed businessman and attorney from the second-most populous locality in West Virginia.  

McGuireWoods Consulting’s National Practice allows our clients to have coverage of all 50 states and for all the meetings of the nation’s governors and attorneys general. We assist clients in covering issues, including federal legislation, state legislation, procurement, federal or state regulatory matters, multistate litigation, and corporate image or crisis situations.   McGuireWoods Consulting’s National Practice team effectively and efficiently reaches across the country to gain support on matters important to our clients.

For additional information about the 2016 election results or the National Practice, please contact one of our team members:

Governor Jim Hodges

Jerry Kilgore

Jasen Eige

Joe Jaso

Mona Mohib

Carlos Muniz

Andrew Smith