The Trump Voting Wars Will Loom Large 2022 Governors Races

The Trump Voting Wars Will Loom Large 2022 Governors Races


  • The voting wars are far from over and will play a large role in upcoming governor’s races.
  • The governorships of all the states where Trump contested election results are up in 2022. 
  • Races in states like Arizona, Florida, and Georgia will receive significant national attention. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2020, swing states that voted for President Joe Biden faced an onslaught of Trump allies making false but loud claims of fraud in unsuccessful lawsuits and haphazard press conferences, frequently forcing those states’ governors to go on the defense. 

The governorships of all those states and over 30 others are up for election this year and in the 2022 midterms, setting the stage for historic showdowns over election policy.

The elections will test the staying power of the persistent and pervasive lies that the 2020 election was rife with voter and election fraud spearheaded by Trump and now being codified into state policy by GOP lawmakers. 

“Governors aren’t completely immune from national trends, but it is sort of the one place where you can have more of a crossover vote if you have sort of a unique candidate and the right circumstances” Jessica Taylor, Senate and Governors editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told Insider.

But as Americans have become more polarized, voters have become less inclined to split their tickets, and governor’s elections are no different. In 2008, Taylor said, 18 states had or voted for governors from a different party than how they voted for president. In 2020, just 10 states fell in that category.  

Ron DeSantis on Fox & Friends

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing election law Senate Bill 90 live on “Fox & Friends”

Screenshot via Fox News/”Fox & Friends”


Election administration policy went from a niche topic to a base issue.

Gubernatorial elections are now at the center the unprecedented effort to overturn and deny the 2020 election and to undermine the value of the vote itself.

“For the first time, since I’ve been working in American politics, which is a long time, over 30 years, I can tell you that regular people are getting it,” Ellen Kurz, founder and president of iVote, told Insider. iVote, launched in 2014, is dedicated to electing Democratic secretaries of state and advancing automatic voter registration. 

“We even see it in our grassroots fundraising…and the money that we’ve already raised this early for next year. So I do think that this idea of democracy itself being an issue that people would vote on is starting to happen,” Kurz said. 

While Trump is out of office, GOP state lawmakers have passed laws perfectly tailored to his specific complaints, including tightening the availability of mail voting and ballot drop boxes, imposing stricter requirements on election officials, and even demoting Trump’s least favorite secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, to a non-voting member of the State Elections Board. 

“These are becoming base issues,” Taylor said. “Especially in a midterm election now, both parties are going to need to generate excitement. We’re coming off of 2018, which was one of the largest midterm turnouts, and we saw a lot of anger from [Democrats] that might not stay when Trump is no longer in office because he was sort of their foil to get people out. Republicans are going to need something to energize their voters too.”

Voting Access Bill Sparks Controversy In Georgia

Demonstrators stand outside of the Capitol building in opposition to House Bill 531 on March 8, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Megan Varner/Getty Images)


Voting policy is high on the minds of voters.

Members of Congress signaled their alignment with Trump through amplfying his lies about the the 2020 results, by voting for election objections on January 6, and, most recently, by ousting Rep. Liz Cheney from House leadership. 

But governors are in the more immediate position of signing or vetoing the election laws that come to their desks, certifying election results, and in 2020, enacting consequential emergency regulations around voting — all of which made them targets of Trump’s ire and election policy a key priority for many GOP voters

A recent CBS News/YouGov poll of Republicans found that 53% think the GOP should focus on bringing new voters into the party on the merits of its policies and ideas while 47% believe the Republican Party has enough voters and should prioritize enacting voting restrictions instead. 

This dynamic is playing out in Virginia’s open election for governor this year.

The leading candidates for the GOP nomination all heavily emphasized so-called “election integrity” as part of their campaign platforms, with some spreading debunked conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

The nominee, Glenn Youngkin, recently affirmed that Biden is the legitimately-elected president after months of sidestepping the question, but has also advocated for stricter voter identification and witness signature requirements, despite the lack of evidence of fraud in the 2020 presidential race. 

Even in states that voted for the former president and weren’t the sites of contentious legal battles, Trump-allied governors up for reelection in 2022 like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have signed into law or are publicly supporting new restrictions on mail voting and onerous requirements on the election officials who Trump and his allies demonized.

While recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and other state-specific quirks will set the tone in many governor’s races, voting and election issues will likely play a substantial role in battleground states with more nationalized races, like Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and Texas.

“While everyone wants to talk about this as like a national narrative, when you look at it at a state by state level — which is ultimately what matters in governor’s races — it’s playing out very differently,” one Republican strategist familiar with governor’s races who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Insider.

The likely lack of action on election administration from Congress means that states will remain major battlegrounds for efforts to both restrict and expand voting — and governors will remain in the hot seat.

“Voting rights has always been part of the conversation of what a governor is already able to do,” Christina Amestoy, a senior communications advisor at the Democratic Governor’s Association, told Insider.  “Our willingness to talk about the role that governors have, how they really are on the front lines, and how the progress that can be made at the state level can happen faster and be more impactful than what can happen federally, has been a big focus of the DGA.”

Brian Kemp-Donald Trump

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump in Marietta, Georgia.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon


Georgia and Arizona will be key races to watch.

Trump publicly lambasted two Republican governors, Brian Kemp of Georgia and Doug Ducey of Arizona, for certifying Biden as the winner of the presidential elections in their once solidly-red states. He’s even reportedly pledged to campaign against Ducey, who is term-limited as governor, if he chooses to run for US Senate in 2022. 

Kemp, up for reelection next year, has faced election administration controversies during his own race for office in 2018. But he now finds himself squeezed from both sides and contending with a more competitive electorate facing down a possible rematch with 2018 nominee Stacey Abrams. 

After enduring Trump’s wrath for certifying Georgia’s election, he faced another uproar from Democrats over his signing of Senate Bill 202, a significant and controversial election omnibus bill.

Trump castigated the new law as “far too weak and soft” and said Kemp “caved to the radical left-wing woke mob” by allowing two Sundays of early voting. 

But Trump’s statement barely made a blip amid the avalanche of backlash and outrage over the law. 

The bill’s signing was followed by an immediate uproar from Democrats including Biden himself, civil rights groups, and major corporations, all culminating in Major League Baseball pulling the 2021 All-Star game out of Georgia over the law.

While Trump himself panned the contents of the law, the onslaught of criticism may help Kemp’s standing with the former president’s supporters. 

“I think the way that Democrats handled Georgia was a gift to Governor Kemp,” the Republican strategist told Insider of some of the false and exaggerated claims about what the law does. “He’s in a much stronger position now than he was before the law was even being considered, only because of the fact that Democrats just took it too far and they tried to push something that just was completely inaccurate, that wasn’t true.”

Taylor similarly said that while Kemp was initially “damaged” by Trump, the backlash to SB 202 “has been able to help him with some of those base voters that at one point, pretty much had soured on him.”

Amestoy of the DGA argued that looking at the big picture, Trump’s looming influence over Republican voters and Georgia’s new status as a purple state still puts Kemp in a tight spot during a general election. 

“The more that Kemp feels like he has to tie himself to [Trump’s agenda], I think the better off we are. Kemp won, but it was very close in 2018. This man was not brought in by a large mandate. And I think that he is really vulnerable and we’ll continue to push him on that,” she said. 

Arizona audit

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix

AP Photo/Matt York, pool


In Arizona too, the state Senate has gone to unprecedented lengths to bolster 2020 election conspiracies by commissioning a recounting exercise of the 2020 election in Maricopa County that has been condemned and derided by election experts from both parties for sloppy and inconsistent procedures.

“I certainly think the Republicans are overreaching here. I understand they’re trying to appease a part of their base, but that part of their base is not the majority of the electorate here,” Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, told Insider of the legislative Republicans backing the recount.

The GOP nominees for Senate and governor in 2022 could cement a new identity of the party in a state best-known for producing conservative icons like Barry Goldwater and John McCain. In the Monday launch video for her 2022 gubernatorial campaign, for example, Arizona’s Republican State Treasurer Kimberly Yee explicitly derided “politicians who put socialist ideals over people, our freedom of speech, and our elections.” 

“I do think it has certainly a potential to backfire,” Hobbs added of the recount. “Just watching the legislature where the Republicans have the closest margins they’ve had in decades, the level of extremity is greater than I’ve ever seen it here. To me, from the political perspective, it does not seem very strategic at all.”





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