Competitive chief executive races on the ballot in North Carolina, West Virginia
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — In 2016, just two Southern states will be holding races for governor, and the races in both North Carolina and West Virginia are expected to be close, hard-fought affairs.
Heading into the election, Republicans hold 11 of 14 governorships in the South, in all but Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia.
Here are this year’s races:
North Carolina: Incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is running for a second term against the Tar Heel State’s Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper. McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives have made the governor a lightning rod. The issue dominating the race is McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity. Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court. Expect massive amounts of outside cash to be poured into this race, which has become the latest battle in the culture wars. RATING: TOSS-UP
West Virginia: Democrats in the Mountaineer State, who have seen their once dominant hold on state politics slip away, are hoping to revive their fortunes with Jim Justice, a billionaire coal mine owner best known for his efforts to revive the state’s famed Greenbrier Resort. He faces Republican State Senate President Bill Cole, who became leader of the chamber in 2015 after the GOP captured a Senate majority for the first time in 83 years. Cole, an auto dealer from Bluefield, is hoping to become the first Republican elected governor in West Virginia since 1996. To get there, he’ll have to overcome Justice’s deep pockets. This seat is open because Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is term-limited, putting this race near the top of the GOP’s target list. RATING: TOSS-UP