ELECTION 2017: Virginia, New Jersey voters elect new governors

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The 2017 fall elections have wrapped up around the country and attention now turns to next year’s midterm elections.

On Tuesday, voters in two states cast ballots to fill gubernatorial seats left vacant by term-limited governors.

In Virginia, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam bested Republican challenger Ed Gillespie by a margin of 53 to 45. Northam will replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Northam offered little indication in the lead-up to Election Day about how he would address the state’s transportation needs.

The incoming governor did support Virginia’s five-year, $6 billion transportation bill in 2013. The funding plan converted the state’s excise tax on gas and diesel to a wholesale tax. Virginia’s general sales tax also was increased by 0.3 percent with the additional revenue pegged for transportation. In addition, tolls were prohibited from being added to the state’s portion of Interstate 95. 

In the only other gubernatorial election, Democrat Phil Murphy beat Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to win the New Jersey governorship. Murphy, who will replace outgoing Republican Gov. Chris Christie, received 56 percent of the vote.

On the campaign trail Murphy said that he “reluctantly” supported the state’s 2016 fuel tax increase. In effect for the past year, the gas tax rate is up 23 cents, and the diesel rate has increased 27 cents.

Addressing the topic of the New Jersey Turnpike: Murphy has said he has no plans to raise tolls, nor does he want to privatize the turnpike. He added that he opposes privatizing any of the state’s highways.

In addition to the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, many state legislative seats were also on ballots in the two states.

All of New Jersey’s 120 Assembly and Senate seats were contested with Democrats holding onto their majorities in each chamber. Virginia voters cast ballots on all 100 House seats with Republicans appearing to keep their majority.

Tuesday’s results have Republicans keeping the majority in 68 of the nation’s 99 legislative chambers. Democrats control 31 chambers. Nebraska has a single-chamber legislature that is nonpartisan.

2018 Elections
With this year’s elections concluded, attention turns to 2018. At that time, 36 states will elect governors. Of those, 17 governors are term limited with four Democrats and 13 Republicans not eligible to seek re-election.

Ten Republicans and five Democrats can pursue another term. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, can also run for re-election. Democratic Govs. Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, however, have decided not to run again. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican, also has opted not to seek re-election.

Republican Govs. Kay Ivey of Alabama, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, and Henry McMaster of South Carolina can run for the seat they now hold. Each person was appointed as their state’s governor when the elected governors stepped down.

Also in 2018, 85 percent of the nation’s state legislative seats will be up for grabs.

For more 2017 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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