Election outlook: Ballotpedia predicts no partisan changes in state executive offices

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September 14, 2011

Edited by Bailey Ludlam

2011 Election Analysis: State Executive Offices

2011's outlook
Lieutenant Governor
Attorney General
Secretary of State
Incumbency analysis
Political party analysis
State executive elections
Projected outcomes

There are just 54 days left until the November 8, 2011 general elections. Though there are only four states with state executive elections, this year has everything a state politics junkie could ask for: history-making candidates challenging incumbents; close races and huge leads; unopposed candidates and fields of ten candidates for one seat. There are a total of 13 state executive seats and 13 down ballot seats on the ballots this cycle.

Despite a relatively small number of states holding elections, there are four key elections dates that remain, and only Kentucky and Mississippi are holding their elections on the same day:

Date Election
October 4 West Virginia special gubernatorial election
October 22 Louisiana primary elections
November 8 General election: Kentucky and Mississippi
November 19 General election: Louisiana

For the most part, the fields are set; only the Louisiana primaries remain. Though there is still time for candidates to campaign, there are a number of interesting races:

The outlook

In August, we predicted possible changes in three offices. Over the last month, the tides have changed. With qualifying periods closing, primary runoff elections, campaign endorsements, and increasing poll coverage of the races, it looks as though each party will retain the seats it currently holds. Today we bring you our second installment of this season's state executive election predictions. This report focuses on the top 13 seats which include Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State. Each expected outcome is classified in 1 of 7 classifications. Read more about Ballotpedia's methodology here.

Stay tuned for monthly updates here.

Before election: 6

Projected after election: 6

Actual Results: pending


Before election: 7

Projected after election: 7

Actual Results: pending
Safe D Likely D Lean D Tossup Lean R Likely R Safe R
0 5 1 0 0 2 5


Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are holding regularly scheduled elections, and West Virginia is holding a special election to fill the vacancy when Democrat Joe Manchin left office to join the U.S. Senate in the 2010 midterm elections. The last month has brought more clarity to the likely results of this year's four gubernatorial elections. Incumbents are eligible to run in three of the races, with Mississippi's Haley Barbour the lone exception, and all three are expected to retain their seats.


Current Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is running on the Democratic ticket with former Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson. The two face state Senate President David Williams and outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, along with Independent candidates Gatewood Galbraith and Dea Riley. Early polls indicated the Republicans might have a chance to unseat the incumbent governor and his running mate, but a poll conducted in late August showed Beshear and Abramson with a commanding 27 point lead over Williams and Farmer, with Galbraith/Riley a distant third.[1] Kentucky went 57.5% for McCain in the last presidential election and is nationally a strong red state. But with the state senate a close lead for Republicans and the state house strongly Democratic, the state political scene is much more moderate and the Democrats are likely to retain their hold of the top executive seat. Ballotpedia has changed this race from "toss-up" to "likely Democrat," reflecting the recent polling.


In Louisiana, the qualifying period for candidates closed on September 8, 2011. Although there are ten candidates in the race, incumbent Republican Bobby Jindal faces no strong challenger and is expected to easily win re-election. Ballotpedia continues to call this race safe Republican.


In Mississippi, current Republican Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant faces Democratic Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree, who became the state's first black gubernatorial candidate after winning an August 23, 2011 primary runoff election against Bill Luckett, Jr.. Despite his historic candidacy, DuPree is unlikely to win the seat back for the Democratic party, with Bryant leading him by 31 points in the polls.[2] Ballotpedia continues to call this race safe Republican.

West Virginia

This year's West Virginia gubernatorial election is a unique case. Because the election is court-ordered to fill the remainder of Manchin's unexpired term, which ends in 2012, the winner will face re-election next year in 2012. Incumbent Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin faces Republican Bill Maloney. Tomblin has picked up key endorsements from the National Rifle Association, West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council, Teamsters Local 175 and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and has maintained a narrow lead over Maloney in the polls.[3] Ballotpedia has changed this race from "toss-up" to "likely Democrat" after the endorsement annoumcements and recent polling.

Lieutenant Governor

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Three states are electing a lieutenant governor this year: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The races in Louisiana and Mississippi are solid Republican, with no major party opposition in either contest. In Kentucky, which elects its governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket, incumbent Democratic Steve Beshear is likely to retain his seat.


The Democratic team of incumbent Steve Beshear and former Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson holds a commanding 27 point lead in the polls over Republican challengers state Senate President David Williams and outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer. An Independent ticket with Gatewood Galbraith and Dea Riley is a distant third.[4] Ballotpedia has changed this race from "toss-up" to "likely Democrat," reflecting the recent polling.


There are only two candidates who have qualified for the lieutenant governor race, both of whom are Republican. The current Lieutenant Governor, Jay Dardenne, will face Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser in the open primary on October 22, 2011. Odds are in Dardenne's favor to retain his seat. Ballotpedia has changed its call on this race from "safe Republican" to "solid Republican" due to the lack of any non-Republican candidates.


Current Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant is running for (and expected to win) Governor of Mississippi, leaving an open race. No Democratic candidates have entered the race, but Republican Treasurer Tate Reeves may face one of two Reform Party candidates in the general election. The State Board of Election Commissioners have not yet made a determination as to which candidate should be recognized as the official Reform Party of Mississippi. Regardless the outcome of the board's decision, Reeves should not have any trouble securing the seat. Ballotpedia has changed its call on this race from "safe Republican" to "solid Republican" due to the lack of any major party opposition.

Attorney General

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi all have attorney general elections during the 2011 cycle. Incumbent Democrats Jack Conway (Kentucky) and Jim Hood (Mississippi) continue to hold significant leads over their Republican general election challengers. Ballotpedia continues to call these races likely Democratic wins.

In Louisiana, former Republican U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao may have a tough time overcoming incumbent Buddy Caldwell in the October 22 primary. Cao took significant heat in 2009 when, as a congressman representing Louisiana's liberal 2nd District, he was the only Republican to support President Barack Obama's health care reform bill in an initial vote. Though he ultimately opposed the final version of the bill, he took considerable heat for his stance from conservative Louisianans, which he explained as a representation of the will of his constituents. Regardless, Ballotpedia still calls this race a safe Republican hold due to the failure of Louisiana Democrats to field a candidate before the September 8 qualifying deadline.

Secretary of State

This year's secretary of state elections vary widely in competitiveness. In Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes continues to lead her Republican opponent, Bill Johnson, though an August 28 poll suggested Johnson had pulled to within 3 points. It also appears Grimes' supporters may have become increasingly uncertain about their candidate; an August 31 poll by Braun Research found that the number of undecided voters has increased from 23.6% to 35.3% since a similar poll in June. Most of that drop came at the expense of Grimes, whose support fell about 7 points, while her competitor's numbers dropped only 4.7 points. Ballotpedia has changed the race's rating from "Likely Democrat" to "Lean Democrat," reflecting stronger poll numbers for the GOP.

Meanwhile, Mississippi's secretary of state race is essentially over; Republican incumbent Delbert Hosemann will cruse to an easy win over Reform Party candidate John Luke Pannell. Naturally, the seat will remain in Republican hands.

The race for Louisiana Secretary of State lost its sole Democratic candidate last week, with New Orleans attorney Caroline Fayard failing to register for the ballot before the September 8 filing deadline. As a result, Ballotpedia has changed the Louisiana race to a safe Republican hold. The race is now a two-way affair between Tom Schedler, the incumbent, and Speaker of the Louisiana House Jim Tucker. Though serious campaigning has not yet gotten underway, Tucker's prominence in the Louisiana political scene will make him a tough competitor for Schedler.

A look at incumbents

Now that runoff elections have concluded in the state of Mississippi, two more incumbents have officially been added to the list of officers running in the general election. A total of 13 of the 26 current incumbents will face a vote in the general election. Thus far, only one incumbent has fallen in the primary election. Incumbent Kentucky Secretary of State Elaine Walker fell to Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Democratic primary.

Only one primary remains. Louisiana concludes the 2011 primary races on October 22. However, keep an eye out. West Virginia's special gubernatorial election strikes weeks earlier on October 4.

Office Total seats Seats up for election Incumbents running (Primary) Incumbents won primary Incumbents lost primary Incumbents running (General)
Governor 50 4 3 2 0 2
Lt. Governor 45 3 1 0 0 0
Attorney General 50 3 3 2 0 2
Secretary of State 47 3 3 1 1 1
Treasurer 48 3 1 1 0 2
Auditor 47 2 0 0 0 1
Public Services Commissioner -[5] 3[6] 1 1 0 3
Insurance Commissioner 50 2 1[7] -[7] -[7] 1
Agriculture Commissioner 50 3 1[8] - - 1
Total 378 26 (6.88%) 14 7 1 13

Note: last updated September 10, 2011 - the primary election in Louisiana remains pending. Under Louisiana's blanket primary system, if a candidate receives over 50 percent in the October 22 primary, they are declared the winner. If no one wins a simple majority a runoff will take place on November 19

Political party overview

The chart below remains unchanged from August's report. However, it reflects the state executive offices up for election in 2011, nine, and the total United States political party breakdown prior to the November general elections for those offices. However, the Public Services Commissioner office was not included in this chart as totals are not currently available (some states have more than elected officer).

There are 14+ distinct state executives offices in the United States, not all are reflected here.

Of the eight offices up for election (not including Public Service Commissioners) there are an estimated 387 officers, of which 128 are appointed and nonpartisan. However, of the elected officers, currently 27% are Democrats and 40% are Republicans.

Click "show" to see the full table.

Editor's note: Greg Janetka, David Godow and Lauren Rodgers contributed to this report.

See also


Ballotpedia News


  1. RealClearPolitics.com, "Kentucky Governor - Williams Vs. Beshear vs. Galbraith," accessed September 14, 2011
  2. Public Policy Polling, "Republicans set to win Mississippi gubernatorial race," accessed September 13, 2011
  3. Public Policy Polling, May 11 - 12, 2011 and September 1-4, 2011
  4. RealClearPolitics.com, "Kentucky Governor - Williams Vs. Beshear vs. Galbraith," accessed September 14, 2011
  5. A total number of Public Service Commissioners is not currently available. State totals vary, with most having between 3 and 5.
  6. All three seats up for election are in the state of Mississippi.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Incumbent James Donelon will appear in the Louisiana blanket primary against Donald Hodge. In Mississippi, since multiple candidates did not file no primary election was held for the insurance commissioner office. The general election contest will be between incumbent Republican Mike Chaney, Democrat Louis Fondren, and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer.
  8. Incumbent Michael Strain will appear in the Louisiana blanket primary against Jamie LaBranche and Belinda Alexandrenko. In Mississippi, current incumbent Republican Lester Spell is retiring in 2011. In Kentucky, Republican incumbent Richie Farmer is ineligible for re-election due to term limits.