Governor Elections, 2012
President Obama and Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri have a conversation during a conference in February, 2012.
The White House/United States Government Work

Governor Elections, 2012

In 2012, 11 states and 2 U.S. territories will elect governors to lead their executive branch. There will also be a recall election in Wisconsin.

Currently, the Republicans hold 29 governorships and the Democrats 20. Lincoln Chafee, the governor of Rhode Island, is an independent.

Seven incumbents are seeking reelection. The Democratic incumbents are Peter Shumlin, Vermont; Jack Markell, Delaware; Earl Ray Tomblin, West Virginia; and Jay Nixon, Missouri. The Republican incumbents are Gary R. Herbert, Utah; Jack Dalrymple, North Dakota; and Luis G. Fortuño, Puerto Rico.

Several incumbents are not running again.  Most states limit the length of the governor’s term; for most, it’s two consecutive terms. Fourteen states place no limit on the number of terms a governor may serve.

Wisconsin Recall Election

On June 5, Wisconsin voters will decide whether to remove Republican Scott Walker from office or to keep him in that position. The Democrats vote in a May 8 primary to nominate their candidate to run against Walker.

Opponents launched a recall petition against Walker earlier this year after the Wisconsin legislature passed a controversial budget bill proposed by the governor. The bill required state and local government workers to contribute more to their pensions and health care plans. The bill also cut back some of the workers’ collective bargaining rights. Leaders of the recall drive needed 500,000 signatures on the petition, but they got nearly 1 million.

All indications point to a very close vote. The latest poll shows Walker in a virtual dead heat with the likely Democratic nominee, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. Walker won the governorship in January 2011 over Barrett, winning 52 percent of the vote to Barrett’s  46 percent.

If Walker wins the election, he will serve out the term that runs until January 2015. If he loses, that will mark only the third time in U.S. history that a governor has been removed from office via a recall. In 2003, California voters forced Governor Gray Davis out of office. Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced him. In 1921, North Dakota voted out Governor Lynn Frazier.

View the map of the 2012 gubernatorial elections.

Go a Step Farther

Click on one of the states or U.S. territories electing a governor in 2012. Do research to write a paper comparing the candidates’ positions on the issues. You may also wish to include information on their backgrounds and achievements. Conclude your paper by analyzing what issues are important to the voters of the state.

Lia Eastep


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