How often has a 60+ percent gubernatorial vote for one party flipped to 60+ percent for the other in the next cycle?

Charlie Baker is one of the most popular governors in the country, but the Massachusetts Republican chose not to run for a third term this cycle. This expectedly resulted in Democrats easily flipping the Bay State seat behind nominee and state Attorney General Maura Healey.

In doing so, Massachusetts saw 66.6 percent of its voters turn from backing a GOP nominee for governor in 2018 to 63.7 percent pulling the lever for the Democrat in the next cycle.

That marks just the third time since 1900 in which a 60+ percent majority has turned from the Republican Party to the Democrats in back-to-back gubernatorial cycles.

Since 1900, there have been more than 550 Republican, Democratic, or third-party governors elected with at least 60 percent of the vote.

Just nine of these elections were followed up by another party capturing 60+ percent in the state’s next gubernatorial election.

Three of these contests – including Massachusetts in 2018/2022 – saw the electorate back a Republican and then a Democrat with such a massive majority:

  • New Jersey (1985/1989): Republican Governor Thomas Kean won reelection with 69.6 percent of the vote in 1985 followed by Democratic U.S. Representative Jim Florio garnering 61.2 percent four years later
  • Delaware (1988/1992): Similarly, Republican Governor Mike Castle won reelection with 70.7 percent in 1988 and in 1992 Democratic U.S. Representative Tom Carper flipped the seat with 64.7 percent voter support

The remaining six examples since the turn of the 20th Century saw states with 60+ percent of voters backing a Democratic nominee change to 60+ percent for the Republican nominee during the subsequent gubernatorial election, including three cases during the 2010 cycle:

  • Nebraska (1964/1966): Governor Frank Morrison rode the 1964 Democratic tidal wave to a third term with 60.0 percent but two years later Wausa Mayor Norbert Tiemann took the seat for the GOP with 61.5 percent
  • Rhode Island (1982/1984): Democratic Governor Joe Garrahy won his fourth and final term with 73.3 percent in 1982 followed by Republican Cranston Mayor Edward DiPrete capturing 60.0 percent in 1984
  • Louisiana (1991/1995): Democrat Edwin Edwards won his fourth nonconsecutive term with 61.2 percent against David Duke in 1991 with Democrat-turned-Republican State Senator Mike Foster winning 63.5 percent in 1995
  • Oklahoma (2006/2010): Democratic Governor Brad Henry was reelected to a second term with 66.5 percent in 2006 and four years later GOP U.S. Representative Mary Fallin received 60.5 percent during the Republican wave
  • Tennessee (2006/2010): Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen won reelection by nearly 40 points with 68.6 percent in 2006 but in 2010 Republican Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam nearly equaled that with 65.0 percent
  • Wyoming (2006/2010): Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal was reelected with 70.0 percent in 2006 and in 2010 Republican attorney Matt Mead secured 65.7 percent

Democrats have failed to win gubernatorial elections in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wyoming since their nominee’s impressive performances in 2006.

Massachusetts has held 58 gubernatorial elections since 1900 and the winner has reached the 60 percent mark now in just seven of them.

In addition to Baker and Healey, Calvin Coolidge (60.9 percent in 1919), Channing Cox (67.0 percent in 1920), John Volpe (62.6 percent in 1966), Michael Dukakis (68.8 percent in 1986), and Bill Weld (70.9 percent in 1994) round out the list.

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  1. Connor Cobb on December 6, 2022 at 9:34 pm

    Raphael Warnock has won. Which means that this is the 1st time ever that absolutely NO incumbent senators lost reelection.

    • Dr Eric J Ostermeier on December 6, 2022 at 10:02 pm

      Indeed! I believe the previous low water mark of 1 defeated US Senator was recorded in 1960 (Delaware Democrat J. Allen Frear), 1990 (Minnesota Republican Rudy Boschwitz), and 2004 (South Dakota Democrat Tom Daschle).

    • Goahngmyung Zhou on December 7, 2022 at 10:47 am

      Next partisan battle (albeit unofficial) : “Justice 3” position on Wisconsin Supreme Court!

      Also…if Iowa Senator Grassley were to depart from his seat early next year (a la “Scoop” Jackson of Evergreen Washington, re-elected in 1982 only to die the very next year) will there be a special election later in the year, or will the appointee serve until ’24 like next-door Nebraska?

  2. Connor Cobb on December 7, 2022 at 11:08 am

    Iowa would go to 2024 according to what I read.

    Something else that I thought of this morning is that despite significant split ticket voting this year in a number of states(GA included) just 5 states (ME, OH, WV, WI, and MT) have split senate delegations (6 if you want to count Sanders separate from dems). And I believe that only 13 states won’t have the gov and both sens from the same party.

    I apologize for bombarding you with a lot of info and ideas for future articles.

    • Dr Eric J Ostermeier on December 7, 2022 at 11:22 am

      The split-ticket US SEN topic actually is the next article i’m working on! [Updating my report from two years ago]. I count it as ‘6’ in my report – looking at Party ID, not caucuses.

      • Goahngmyung Zhou on December 9, 2022 at 6:25 am

        Ah…make that SEVEN (Onetime Green Party member Sinema very recently has left the Democratic Party) ~

        • Dr Eric J Ostermeier on December 9, 2022 at 8:56 am

          I’m glad i didn’t finish my report before that news broke this morning. The # of split delegations will still remain at the lowest level since the mid-1950s.

  3. Goahngmyung Zhou on December 8, 2022 at 9:21 am

    The Bay State also has been known for its ‘electoral chasm’ – i.e. between its gubernatorial and US senate elections. In particular, in the 2018 and 1994 cycles, there was at least a 57% differential between those contests. Interestingly, in both occasions the incumbent Democratic US senators ended up underperforming the incumbent Republican state governors despite the overall dominance of their party.

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