Newly Elected Democratic Governors Unite Around Broad Progressive Platform

February 23, 2009

WASHINGTON – 2018 saw the election of seven Democratic governors in states that previously were governed by Republican administrations, bringing the majority of Americans under Democratic administrations. The Democratic Governors Association portrayed these electoral gains, increasing the number of Democratic governors to 23 from 16, as proof that Democrats can win anywhere.

Governor J.B. Pritzker (Illinois) spoke of the magnitude of the “big blue wave” in his state where Democrats won traditionally Republican counties, some of which hadn’t seen a Democrat win in a gubernatorial race since 1912. Pritzker emphasized that Democrats “ran on transformative platforms” and their successes “can be replicated across all of America.” The DGA has its eyes on upcoming gubernatorial races in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi where, according to Governor Gina Raimondo (RI), DGA Chair, the DGA “plans to compete, [and] plans to win.”

Governor Jay Inslee (Washington) portrayed his Democratic colleagues as being focused on “governing instead of debating and getting wrapped up in ideologies,” in “working with Republican legislators” even in states where Demcrats controlled both houses of the legislature. Inslee noted, “if you’re keeping score, [the score is] newly elected Democratic governors 7, Donald Trump 0.” Raimondo described “DC [as a] town of dysfunctional government” whereas Democratic governors are “making it happen everyday... delivering on issues that matter the most.”

The Democratic governors presented policy priorities that included increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding access to healthcare, increasing teacher pay, fully funding all day kindergarten, expanding access to pre-kindergarten. Continuing to frame the progressive policy agenda in contrast to the Trump Administration, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan) expressed her opposition to Trump withdrawing the nation from the Paris Climate Accords by entering Michigan into the US Climate Alliance. Whitmer continued that Michigan is in the midst of an “education crisis” and has been “battling [President Trump’s U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy] DeVos policies for 25 years.” She expressed her goal that 60% of Michigan residents will have a post secondary credential or degree by 2030, which she plans to support with a scholarship expansion program. Taking a final swipe at Trump, Whitmer said that Michigan is focused on “building bridges (and roads) while the rest of the country talks about building walls.”

Joining the majority of blue states in the nation Governor Janet Mills (Maine) capitalized on her victory over the prior Republican administration by signing an executive order to enact Medicaid expansion which had been rejected by the previous administration. As a result 7,000 residents of Maine were enrolled in Medicaid as of last week and she expects an additional 70,000 to enroll. Governor Michelle Grisham (New Mexico) similarly wasted no time in reversing the obstructionist policies of the previous administration by signing 42 new pieces of bipartisan legislation into law in her first week in office as part of her “rocket docket.” Grisham joined in the fray of attacking the President, claiming that “the [border] crisis does not exist” and as such she withdrew her national guard troops from the border except in areas where humanitarian aide is still an issue. She added that New Mexico has joined the lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s declaration of a national emergency on the border with Mexico.

Grisham also articulated her “Moonshot for Education” plan that calls for the creation of a new executive agency to invest $500 million in public education through teacher raises and the expansion of early childhood education opportunities. Governor Tony Evers (Wisconsin) echoed Grisham’s sentiments, stating that “education is the most important issue” for Wisconsin. Evers claimed that Wisconsin lost $1 billion of revenue for schools under the previous, Republican administration, and that it is his intention to allocate a $1.4 billion increase in education funding that is specifically targeted towards addressing issues of equity that should be “distributed in fair way.” Next door in Illinois Governor Pritzker also has prioritized education, expanding scholarships for 15,000 students in Illinois to attend universities in the state.

Echoing many of the sentiments expressed by the group, Pritzker emphasized his work in helping his state recover from “damaging Republican control,” specifically citing the two years that Illinois went without a budget. Despite these differences, claimed Pritzker, e has worked with Republicans despite having a Democratic controlled legislature to make Republican legislators feel included.

Governor Jared Polis (Colorado) noted his electoral success in traditional Republican strongholds based on strong Democratic messaging. If there’s one message to take away from the DGA, it’s to Republican leadership across the nation: watch out, the Democrats are coming.