Know your Ballot: Governors

By: Emily Kulesa

It’s that time of the term again. Your conservative uncle posting misinformation about the Presidential candidates and their policies. Your acquaintances from high school tweeting their questionable opinions on the upcoming Senate race. And every news channel having guests on with their predictions of who the White House’s next occupant will be. This, of course, is always exciting and draws in millions of viewers every election cycle. But it seems no one ever takes time to speak about how the upcoming local council elections could shape town policy for the next few years? Local and state-level elections may seem boring and lack the showmanship of their national counterparts. You may be wondering why you should even care about them.  But these elections have an even greater impact on your daily lives and can impact how federal policy is decided for years to come.

This blog series will be looking at the different state and local elections happening in 2020, how it impacts you, and why you should get involved. Today, we are talking about one of the most high-profile down-ballot elections, the gubernatorial races.

For those who don’t know, gubernatorial races decide who will be the governor of a state for the next four years. And right now, governors have an interesting spotlight. With coronavirus dominating the news cycle, it’s hard to escape the wall to wall coverage of different press briefings where each governor details how they are directing the response in their own state. However, this has given America’s governors a well-deserved place in the international spotlight. As a native New Yorker, I always tune in to hear Andrew Cuomo give updates on my state and wait to hear if my home region of Long Island has any new cases or any signs of reopening soon. While we may immediately think of the federal government as the place to look for wide-reaching policy decisions, many governors hold the power in policy-making that impacts our daily lives, evident in the last few months perhaps more than ever before. 

The National Governors’ Association defines a governor’s role as follows: “As state managers, governors are responsible for implementing state laws and overseeing the operation of the state executive branch. As state leaders, governors advance and pursue new and revised policies and programs using a variety of tools, among them executive orders, executive budgets, and legislative proposals and vetoes.” 

Current events clearly show the need for effective and strong leaders in the governor’s offices. For the past three months, we have seen governors take charge of the COVID 19 crisis in their states; but many political issues are often decided at the state level. For example, laws about abortion are decided in the state legislature. Electing gubernatorial candidates who support a woman’s right to choose ensures that these rights will be fought for at the state capital. Governors can also call states of emergency and call in the National Guard, as we have seen over the past week with the Black Lives Matter protests. Just like the President, governors can veto bills from the state legislator and pardon prisoners who have committed state-level offenses. By elected Democratic governors, you are putting candidates with your values at the helm of shaping state policy. With 26 states having Republican governors (and many more having Republican-controlled legislatures) now is the time to vote Democrats back into your state’s highest office!

Races to watch: Montana

With incumbent Steve Bullock (D) running for Senate this year, this leaves Montana’s governor’s seat wide open. Normally a red state in federal elections, Democrats have shifted this state blue a few times in recent years. While it most recently went blue for President Clinton in 1992, it has gone blue multiple times at the State level. Joe Tester (D) is currently the Senior Senator for the US Senate. Multiple polls have labeled this state as a toss-up, so this will be one to pay attention to on election night. While Montana often swings red, this governor’s election could keep Helena’s highest-level official blue for a while longer.

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