We have seen that US Midterm elections provide for the election of one-third of the US Senate and all of the House of Representatives, but in the complex US political system, Midterms also include elections of multiple other government positions, including executive, legislative and judicial officials for each state.
All 50 states have a Governor (36 up for election in 2022), 45 have a Lieutenant Governor (30 up for election in 2022), most states elect an Attorney general (30 in 2022), a Secretary of State (who usually oversees elections, 27 elected in 2022) and other executive officials. There are 99 state Senates and Houses of Representatives in the country, two for each state (except Nebraska has only one); 88 chambers will have their election on November 8, 2022. Each state has its own judicial system and typically, state judges are elected. In addition, Midterm elections may include local county and city officials, school board officials, sheriffs, etc., as well as “Propositions” which will be subject to vote.
Most Americans will at Midterms have a ballot of several pages, asked to vote for candidates for dozens of elected offices.
Midterm Elections determine the control of many State governments. Republicans are dominant in far more states than Democrats. They currently control 28 Governorships (Democrats 22) and have total control of the Executive and both chambers of state congresses in 24 states, compared to Democratic full control in only 7 states.
The most important state election is for Governor, an extremely powerful position, and often a stepping-stone to the Presidency (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, GW Bush). Of the 36 Governor’s positions in play this Midterm, 20 are Republicans and 16 Democrats.
History teaches us two things about US Midterms: i) voter participation is low, and ii) the Party of the President almost always loses. The last Midterm election in 2018 when Trump was President only partially followed this pattern: i) voter participation of 49.4% was the highest since 1914, and ii) as predicted, Republicans lost their majority in the House (minus 41 seats), lost heavily at the state level, with Democrats gaining seven formerly Republican governorships and about 350 state legislative seats, but Republicans surprisingly increased their Senate majority (+2). On balance, Democratic gains in 2018 were somewhat low by historical Midterm pattern.
Will the Republican Party succeed in 2022 in reversing Democratic gains of 2018 at the state level, particularly in Governors’ elections? In six states where Democrats won the Governorship from Republicans in 2018: Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, the result less than a month from the election is just too close to predict. Add to the list uncertain elections in Arizona, Georgia and Oregon, these are the states where the Midterm election will be won or lost. In an increasingly divided country, and with most voters voting for one Party throughout their ballot, the key question is which Party will more successfully mobilize its constituency to vote. Will the Supreme Court’s recent decision to abrogate women’s right to an abortion sufficiently mobilized Democratic voters to compensate for Trump’s ability to mobilize his large majority of Republican followers? We will only know the answer on November 8.