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The 9 closest governor’s races in the country

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

In the battle for the Senate, GOP candidates have taken the lead in most key races. But as Matt Yglesias wrote, the various statewide elections going on might matter more for many people's lives than the Senate elections do. For instance, 36 states will elect governors on November 4 — and many of those races are extremely close, and legitimately look like they could still tip either way. And, so far, there's no clear partisan trend about how these races appear to be tipping. Here's a list of the 9 closest governor's races, according to the HuffPost Pollster averages of Thursday night:

1) Connecticut: Tie

Governor Dan Malloy Getty Images

Governor Dan Malloy. (Spencer Platt / Getty)

Connecticut's race this year is a rematch of its 2010 contest, when Dan Malloy (D), the former mayor of Stamford, bested businessman and former ambassador Tom Foley (R) by less than one percentage point.

The main issue in the race this year is Connecticut's economy, which hasn't been doing well. In a recent debate, Foley attacked Malloy for his tax increases and "anti-business policies." Malloy responded by criticizing Foley's business record, a 1981 arrest that Foley didn't disclose on a federal background check, and his lack of support for the gun control law the state enacted in the wake of the Newtown, CT massacre. There haven't been many recent polls here, but the HuffPostPollster average currently shows an exact tie.

2) Florida: D+0.4

Charlie Crist and Rick Scott at a debate

Charlie Crist and Governor Rick Scott. (Joe Raedle / Getty)

More money is being spent in Florida than on any other governor's race in the US this year. Incumbent governor Rick Scott (R) is pitted against former governor Charlie Crist (D).

Crist quit the Republican Party in 2010 when it became clear he would lose a Senate primary to Marco Rubio; he instead ran as an independent and lost, and has since become a Democrat. He has harshly criticized the Republican party's rightward turn. Scott, a wealthy hospital executive, spent over $75 million of his own money to barely eke out a victory in 2010. After being elected, he initially cut education spending and emphasized his opposition to Obamacare — but when his popularity plummeted, he reversed course somewhat, as Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer wrote.

Crist has criticized Scott's conservative policies on education and the environment, while conservatives have blasted Crist for his opportunistic party switch. During a recent debate, Scott briefly refused to go out on stage unless Crist removed a fan he kept at his podium — Molly Ball of the Atlantic has the backstory on that bizarre incident here.

3) Wisconsin: R+0.4


Governor Scott Walker. (Spencer Platt / Getty)

After Governor Scott Walker (R) beat back a Democratic attempt to recall him in 2012, many thought he'd be a shoo-in for a second term. But businesswoman Mary Burke, a former executive at the Trek Bicycle Corporation, has been close in most polls.

Burke supports reinstating the collective bargaining rights for public workers that Walker controversially repealed, while Walker is calling to cut income and property taxes even further. There's also been an investigation into whether Walker's aides committed campaign finance violations — currently on hold due to a state court ruling — which surely hasn't helped the governor. As the Washington Post's Robert Costa wrote, Walker's defeat would likely put an early end to any plans he might have to run for president in 2016.

4) Massachusetts: R+0.9

MA-GOV: Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker

Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker. (Barry Chin / Boston Globe / Getty)

Democrats hoped Martha Coakley (D), who infamously lost a 2010 Senate special election to Scott Brown, would turn in a stronger performance while heading her party's ticket for governor this year. But her opponent Charlie Baker (R) — a former state Cabinet official and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care — has caught up to Coakley in the polls, despite the Democratic lean of Massachusetts and the popularity of retiring Democratic Governor Deval Patrick.

Coakley has emphasized her credentials as the state's attorney general, while Baker is stressing his support for welfare reform.

5) Kansas: D+1


Governor Sam Brownback. (Larry W. Smith / Getty)

In 2012, Kansas governor Sam Brownback (R) signed a massive tax cut into law, arguing that it would boost the state's economy. Eventually, he hoped to eliminate individual income taxes entirely. "Our place, Kansas, will show the path, the difficult path, for America to go in these troubled times," he said.

Now, Kansas is hundreds of millions of dollars short in revenue collection, its job growth has lagged the rest of the nation, and Moody's has cut the state's bond rating. As a result, Brownback's challenger, House Democratic leader Paul Davis, has led most polls this year. But the most recent polls have been all over the place, with margins ranging from Davis+8 to Brownback+6.

6) Maine: D+1.4

Paul LePage

Governor Paul LePage is on the left. (Christian Manzoni / NordicFocus / Getty)

Paul LePage (R) is one of the most unpopular governors in the country. But he still might win a second term, for the same reason he squeezed out a victory in 2010 with just 37.6 percent of the vote — there's an independent candidate in the race splitting the anti-LePage vote with the Democratic nominee.

Over the course of the year, support for the independent, Eliot Cutler, has declined — but he's still polling around 15 percent. That's could be enough to give LePage a win, despite his reputation as "America's craziest governor," as Colin Woodard of the Portland Press-Herald dubbed him. A recent poll found that 53 percent of Cutler's supporters would prefer Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic candidate, while only 32 percent would prefer LePage.

7) Michigan: R+2.0

Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder. (Bill Pugliano / Getty)

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) won election in 2010 by emphasizing his record as a businessman, and his ability to be a nonpartisan and wonky problem solver — his Twitter handle is Onetoughnerd.

But in his first year, he cut business taxes while "eliminating popular deductions, credits, and exemptions that hit the wallets of families, seniors, and middle-aged retirees," according to Chad Livengood of the Detroit News. In late 2012, Snyder also signed a law making Michigan a right-to-work state. His challenger, Rep. Mark Schauer (D), has focused on attacking Snyder's first-year budget and pushing a dubious claim that Snyder cut education funding by $1 billion. Snyder has been leading in many more polls overall, and still appears to be the favorite.

8) Illinois: D+2.3

Pat Quinn

Governor Pat Quinn. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty)

For most of 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) looked like he was clearly headed for a defeat. The state's economy was weak, Quinn seemed unable to manage the legislature, and there was a federal probe into one of his administration's programs. But the Democratic leanings of Illinois — and, perhaps, the success of Quinn's attacks on his opponent Bruce Rauner's wealth — seem to have put him back in the hunt.

Rauner has blasted Quinn for the state's economic woes, while Quinn has emphasized his support for increasing the minimum wage and argued that Rauner's budget plan entails "savage cuts."

9) Colorado: D+2.3


Governor John Hickenlooper (Kathryn Scott Osler / Denver Post / Getty)

In 2012, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) was one of the most popular governors in the country. But when he and the Democrat-controlled legislature pushed through liberal bills on gun control and other issues, his centrist image suffered. A controversy over Hickenlooper's "temporary reprieve" of a convicted murderer who was going to be executed also seems to have hurt him.

Now, challenger Bob Beauprez (R), a former Congressman, has been close in several recent polls, though still trailing in the average overall. All Colorado voting now takes place by mail, so the election here is already well underway.

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