Nov 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Moderate Democrats win big in governor races

Josh Shapiro

Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Three moderate Democratic candidates for governor who broke with their party on several key issues performed particularly well on election night.

Why it matters: At a time when voters are tired of extremes, these moderate Democrats executed a winning playbook by underscoring their differences with the national party.

Between the lines: These Democrats dominated in the one-time Republican-friendly suburbs, from Jefferson County near Denver, Bucks County near Philadelphia and Johnson County, Kansas, near Kansas City.

  • Polis won 61% in Jefferson County, and nearly won the neighboring GOP exurban stronghold of Douglas County.
  • Shapiro carried Bucks County with 59% of the vote, running seven points ahead of Biden's 2020 mark. He carried exurban Berks County by four points, even as Trump comfortably carried it twice.
  • Kelly romped in Johnson County by 20 points, more than her overall margin of victory. Trump carried the suburban Kansas City county by three points in his first presidential campaign.

Reality check: Shapiro benefited from a weak Republican opponent in Mastriano, whose far-right campaign didn't receive any support from the national GOP. Polis, likewise, boasted a significant financial advantage over Ganahl. Those factors made it easier for the Democrats to run up the score.

The bottom line: Polis and Shapiro, in particular, will be receiving more national attention as Democrats seek to find a winning center-left message that can maintain the broad anti-Trump coalition — whether Biden runs again or not.

  • Polis appeared on "Real Time With Bill Maher" on Friday night and was encouraged by the host to consider running for president. He dodged the question.
  • Asked the same question, Shapiro told CNN this morning that his only ambitions are to be a good governor and "get a little bit of sleep."
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