2023 Governor’s Races Are Underway

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signs the bill retiring the last state flag with the Confederate battle emblem during a ceremony at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 30, 2020. Upon signing the bill, the flag looses its official status. - Lawmakers in Mississippi voted June 28 to remove the Confederate battle standard from the state flag, after nationwide protests drew renewed attention to symbols of the United States' racist past. The measure passed with a 91-23 majority vote in the House of Representatives, triggering cheers in the Senate gallery. A few hours later, the Senate voted 37-14 for the bill. (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ROGELIO V. SOLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 51

Note to readers: The Briefing will be taking the week off for the Christmas holiday next week. Merry Christmas, and we will see you in 2023!

This week:

  • First look at 2023 off-year elections
  • A Mitch Daniels comeback?
  • Lame-duck Dems on N.C. Supreme Court do what damage they can on their way out 

President 2024

Trump: Former President Donald Trump’s biggest fans were probably expecting something a bit more substantial than a trading card when he teased a major announcement. But he really did tease a trading card — a $99 non-fungible token commemorating himself. It was apparently part of a for-profit licensing deal, not a campaign-related fundraiser. That makes it a rather unusual offering for a presidential candidate, to say the least. 

DeSantis: The story of COVID is really the story of how a hostile bureaucracy shut down the country in 2020, mostly based on panic. Although the decision resulted in very little health benefit and great economic harm, the bureaucrats took advantage of the chaos they had created to expand their own power.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new state panel, designed to oversee and cast judgment on CDC guidance, is the sort of decision that helps him keep the issue alive without having to descend into anti-vaxxerism. It has practical value, but it is also a clear appeal to Republican primary voters. 

Governor 2023

Kentucky: Several Republicans are prepared to or have already jumped into the race to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. These include Attorney General Daniel Cameron, agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles, state Rep. Savannah Maddox, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, former UN Ambassador Kelly Craft, state auditor Mike Harmon, and probably soon former Gov. Matt Bevin

Bevin left office under a bit of a cloud of unpopularity, and some Republicans fear that his nomination could ruin their chances of taking back control. The Republican-dominated state legislature even considered creating a runoff for party primaries, just so that he couldn’t sneak in thanks to a crowded field. But that doesn’t appear to be happening at this point, according to local reporting. With a dozen candidates already running, this one could get a bit weird.

The primary will be May 16, 2023.

Louisiana: The state Republican Party has already endorsed former congressman and current Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) for governor. In fact, it did so last month, two weeks before Thanksgiving. 

That would probably seem like a strange endorsement for most state parties, but in Louisiana, there are a couple of unusual considerations.

First of all, there won’t be a true party primary like there is in most other states. Louisiana will hold its gubernatorial election on October 14 of next year as a jungle primary with all candidates on the ballot. The top two finishers will face off the following month. As a state party, the Lousiana GOP is interested in making sure that one of its candidates makes the runoff, and so it’s not so unusual to take sides.

Second, it is worth noting that Republicans lost the governor’s seat and all the power of the state executive agencies largely because of poor candidates who ran against now-term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). 

The endorsements makes it less likely that other serious politicians will put their names in the hat. Landry is already winning endorsements from sitting office holders, and has to be favored to take over the position for the GOP.

Mississippi: Gov. Tate Reeves (R) enjoys a net positive approval/disapproval rating (48 to 42 percent) and should be considered a favorite for re-election. But Reeves, who had to run as an outsider in 2019, faces the wrath of the party establishment once again, including State House Speaker Phil Gunn (R). Secretary of State Michael Watson (R) is supposedly considering a run as well.

The most formidable Democrat who is expected to enter the race is Northern District public Service Commissioner Brendan Presley (D). Presley, a relative of Elvis, claims to be pro-life and pro-gun.

One new factor in the Mississippi governor’s race this year is a change to the state Constitution that removes one requirement for victory. Thanks to an overwhelming vote by referendum, the winning gubernatorial candidate will no longer have to win both a popular vote majority and a majority of state House districts, or else the state House would choose a governor. Now, as in Georgia, the winner need only secure 50% plus one. If no one achieves that, the race goes to a runoff. 

The primary is Aug. 8, with a possible runoff to follow Aug. 29.

Senate 2024

Indiana: Add the name of former Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to the list of those considering a run for Senate to replace Sen. Mike Braun (R), who is running for governor in 2024. Others considering a run for Senate include But are not limited to Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) and Rep Victoria Spartz (R).

Daniels, the conscientious White House budget director during the Bush administration, was once viewed as a presidential prospect. He controversially discussed a tactical “truce” on social issues in order to save the nation from its debt crisis. Given the Left’s headlong rush into the culture war in the time since, it seems that such a truce might have been desirable if unrealistic.

After dropping out of political life, Daniels became a conspicuously un-woke college president at Purdue. There is no polling yet, but if he runs, he will be very formidable.

Ohio: State Sen. Matt Dolan (R),  who ran as the anti-Trump Republican candidate in 2022, is hiring staff and making noises as if he wants to run against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in 2024. No Republican has formally announced, although U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson (R) has said he is considering a run as well. This could become one of the marginal races as Republicans seek to pick up at least two net Senate seats to guarantee control of the upper legislative chamber.

House 2024

North Carolina: In their last days in office, lame-duck Democratic justices on the state Supreme Court threw out the state’s voter ID law and its state Senate map, under which Republicans just won a veto-proof majority. The reasoning in both cases was quite obviously partisan-motivated, as had been the state high court’s meddling in U.S. House districts, currently the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. 

The good news is the 2022 election turned out the state Supreme Court’s narrow 4-3 Democrat majority in favor of a 5-2 Republican split. It might take some time for cases to move through the process, but the new court should be able to undo a lot of the damage that Democrats did on their way out. The Supreme Court case, in particular, could help Republicans gain one or two House seats as soon as 2024, assuming it reaffirms that state legislatures, not courts, are the ones empowered to draw the new map, even if there are judicial or state constitutional restraints on precisely how they do it.