Picking on the New Guys

Newly ascended governors now all face primaries and general election opponents.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster after arriving on Air Force One at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C., Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Trump will visit the Boeing South Carolina facility to see the Boeing 787 Dreamliner before heading to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., for the weekend.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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Zach C. Cohen
Oct. 6, 2017, 9:13 a.m.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a former lieutenant governor who replaced U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in January, scored his first Democratic opponent Thursday in state Rep. James Smith, a fellow veteran. That makes Smith just the latest Democrat to take on a Republican governor seeking a first full term next year.

While governors are normally difficult to unseat, a recent University of Virginia review found successor incumbents haven’t fared as well as those elected in their own right. The path is historically even harder for governors who face contested primaries, which McMaster and three other current or likely new governors all have.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey garnered yet another Democratic challenger Thursday in Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. Ivey replaced Robert Bentley in April after he resigned amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a former aide.

A seven-member primary field of Democrats has already formed to challenge Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who replaced Ambassador to China Terry Branstad in May.

And Kansas Democrats face their first contested primary for governor since 1998. Should Gov. Sam Brownback be confirmed as ambassador for international religious freedom, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer would replace him and campaign for a full term in 2018.

Zach C. Cohen


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