Get BlazeTV
News

It's On: Top 20 Races to Watch

"Will there be a GOP wave? Will small-government conservatives take ground? What does 2014 mean for 2016?"

Will there be a GOP wave? Will small-government conservatives take ground? What does 2014 mean for 2016?

Every issue of TheBlaze Magazine contains exclusive content not found anywhere else — online or in print. Normally, the magazine’s stories, research and special reports are reserved for subscribers to the print and/or digital edition, but we're making an exception with this piece.

Below is the full feature, "It's On: Top 20 Races to Watch," from the newest issue of TheBlaze Magazine.

Find out how to get the digital version of this issue absolutely free.

FINAL - Top 20 Races for 2014 - Blaze Magazine - opening spread - October 2014

Professional election prognosticators are predicting that the GOP will maintain control the U.S. House of Representatives and, as of press time, will regain control of the U.S. Senate. But congressional races aren’t the only big battles being waged—there are 36 elections for governor that will be decided Nov. 4. Of those 36, RealClearPolitics.com (RCP) considers 25 to be close, with 15 “leaning” Democrat or Republican and 10 “toss-ups.” Though all the close federal and state races are important--to the voters, candidates and the nation as a whole--here are the 20 races conservatives will be paying extra attention to as the returns roll in.

*-denotes incumbent candidate

#-denotes incumbent party in an open election

#1: WISCONSIN – GOVERNOR

In this May 3, 2014 file photo Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File) In this May 3, 2014 file photo Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)

REPUBLICAN: Scott Walker *

DEMOCRAT: Mary Burke

This is the head national Democrats want more than any other. They’ve lied about Gov. Walker in the “John Doe” investigation and tried to recall him--all to no avail and to their embarrassment (though their repeated thuggery toward Walker and his family suggest they don’t have the shame to feel it). Still, Walker must be punished for limiting government union power by reforming collective bargaining and pensions and for ending compulsory union membership, walking away from Common Core, implementing a voter ID law and eliminating the state’s budget deficit while also cutting taxes. Plus, if they don’t stop Walker now, he could be a genuine threat in the 2016 White House fight.

#2: ARKANSAS – SENATE

This Aug. 21, 2014, file photo shows Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he speaks during a news conference in North Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File) This Aug. 21, 2014, file photo shows Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he speaks during a news conference in North Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

REPUBLICAN: Tom Cotton

DEMOCRAT: Mark Pryor *

“Pryor still seems to be stuck at 43 percent. … [H]e remains the most vulnerable incumbent,” RCP reported in early September. Conservatives are hoping Sen. Pryor falls to what has been a pattern lately in Arkansas--a GOP takeover of non-executive elections, as seen in Democratic incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s 20-plus-point loss in 2010 and the fact that every one of Arkansas’ congressional delegation is a Republican--except Pryor. Obamacare is Pryor’s albatross--and he’s not helping himself with recent comments. When asked in a local TV interview this spring whether he would have voted for the unpopular bill if he knew what he knows today, Pryor said he would have. This summer, he adopted the tactics of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and criticized Americans’ stories of the negative impacts of Obamacare.

#3: COLORADO – GOVERNOR

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during a Colorado Democrat's election party at the Sheraton Hotel in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP) Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during a Colorado Democrat's election party at the Sheraton Hotel in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP)

REPUBLICAN: Bob Beauprez

DEMOCRAT: John Hickenlooper *

Colorado has become the ultimate “purple” state. Before Obama’s wins in 2012 and 2008, GOP candidates had won there in nine of the previous 10 presidential elections. Four of the state’s seven House seats are Republicans, and the governorship has split fairly evenly between the two parties over the last 50 years. It’s a Western state with a lot of small-government, conservative leanings on gun rights, personal freedoms, etc., so just as Sen. Mark Udall is finding in his re-election bid (see No. 10), Colorado’s recent swing back toward the Right is unsurprising and could be Hickenlooper’s undoing.

#4: ALASKA – SENATE

Sen. Mark Begich, left, and his Republican challenger, former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, speak during a debate on fishing issues Oct. 1, 2014, in Kodiak, Alaska. Republican candidate Dan Sullivan was grilled on his positions in one of the largest ports in the U.S. Fishing is Alaska's top industry and employs about one-tenth of the state's population. (AP Photo/Nicolas Riccardi) Sen. Mark Begich, left, and his Republican challenger, former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, speak during a debate on fishing issues Oct. 1, 2014, in Kodiak, Alaska. (AP Photo/Nicolas Riccardi)

REPUBLICAN: Dan Sullivan

DEMOCRAT: Mark Begich *

Begich has a tough re-election bid on his hands: Alaska is deep red, and he beat incumbent Sen. Ted Stevens, R, in 2008 by less than a point, even though Stevens had been convicted on seven felony counts eight days before the election. (The convictions and indictments were ultimately thrown out after it was revealed prosecutors and the FBI withheld and concealed evidence that would have helped Stevens.) Just as in the race against Sen. Pryor in Arkansas, the GOP is hoping Begich’s vote for Obamacare will ultimately put this seat--and the Senate majority--in their hands.

#5: KENTUCKY – SENATE

Senate Democratic candidate and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (C) campaigns with former U.S. President Bill Clinton (R) and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts (L) at an event where they addressed members of the UMWA August 6, 2014 in Hazard, Kentucky. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) Senate Democratic candidate and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes campaigns with former President Bill Clinton and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts at an event where they addressed members of the UMWA August 6, 2014, in Hazard, Kentucky. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

REPUBLICAN: Mitch McConnell *

DEMOCRAT: Alison Lundergan Grimes

Senate Minority Leader McConnell is a trophy the Democrats would love to have on their wall--and his dirty primary fight against Tea Party-backed Matt Bevin began McConnell’s vulnerability. The May primary left a bitter taste in the mouths of many conservative Kentucky Republicans, and McConnell’s approval ratings have reflected that displeasure. Though Grimes impressed early and has plenty of time to pull off a win, McConnell has consistently polled about five points ahead since mid-August.

#6: FLORIDA – GOVERNOR

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces his new budget during a Tea Party event in Eustis, Fla., Monday, Feb. 7, 2011.   (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces his new budget during a Tea Party event in Eustis, Fla., Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

REPUBLICAN: Rick Scott *

DEMOCRAT: Charlie Crist

Crist’s political makeover is now complete. As governor, he was a Republican. When he lost the GOP Senate primary to Marco Rubio in 2010, he became an independent. In his effort to regain his executive job, he’s officially become a Democrat--and a left-wing Democrat at that. Gov. Scott is one of the nation’s most vulnerable governors, and with the importance of Florida in the Electoral College, the GOP is hoping Scott can hold on in order to keep statewide influence for 2016.

#7: WASHINGTON – 4TH DISTRICT

Fourth Congressional District candidate Dan Newhouse smiles after learning Aug. 5, 2014 in Yakima, Wash. that he was one of the top two finishers in the congressional primary. Newhouse will face fellow Republican Clint Didier in the general election. (AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, Gordon King) Fourth Congressional District candidate Dan Newhouse smiles after learning Aug. 5, 2014 in Yakima, Wash. that he was one of the top two finishers in the congressional primary. Newhouse will face fellow Republican Clint Didier in the general election. (AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, Gordon King)

REPUBLICAN: Clint Didier #

REPUBLICAN: Dan Newhouse #

That’s right--two Republicans, no Democrats in this race. Washington’s “top two” primary system, in which the two candidates receiving the most primary votes appear on the general ballot, regardless of party, resulted in the state’s first-ever GOP-only congressional election. This blue-state race is the last Tea Party-versus-Establishment Republican fight of the year--and it could be a doozy. Former Washington Redskins tight end Didier is pushing a small-government agenda; former Ag Director Newhouse, who served under liberal Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, has received endorsements from most of the state GOP’s leaders.

#8: LOUISIANA – SENATE

In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

REPUBLICAN: Bill Cassidy

DEMOCRAT: Mary Landrieu *

U.S. Rep. Cassidy might finally take out one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. Landrieu’s support for Obamacare and role in the increasingly liberal Democratic Party doesn’t match with the conservative tilt of her home state. This would seem to explain her lurch to the Right every six years and the fact that she’s never garnered more than 52 percent in her three Senate victories. Cassidy’s biggest hurdle may well be fellow a GOPer, retired Col. Rob Maness, who’s currently polling at 10 percent, according to CBS News. (Louisiana holds an open primary on Election Day, if no candidate receives 50 percent or more, there will be a run-off election between the top two vote-getters a month later. Because of Louisiana’s unique election structure, control of this seat--and thus the Senate--might not be known until Dec. 6.)

#9: ILLINOIS – GOVERNOR

First lady Michelle Obama speaks during a campaign event for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (L) at the University of Illinois Chicago on October 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Quinn, a democrat, is in a tight race with his republican contender, businessman Bruce Rauner. Quinn has been governor of Illinois since 2009 when, as Lieutenant Governor, he was appointed to the office following the impeachment and later imprisonment of former governor Rod Blagojevich. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) First lady Michelle Obama speaks during a campaign event for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, left, at the University of Illinois Chicago on October 7, 2014. Quinn is in a tight race with his Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. Quinn has been governor of Illinois since 2009 when, as lieutenant governor, he was appointed to the office following the impeachment and later imprisonment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

REPUBLICAN: Bruce Rauner

DEMOCRAT: Pat Quinn *

Liberal Democrat Quinn has made a big show of protecting government labor unions and implemented unpopular tax increases. Businessman Rauner won his four-way GOP primary with a promise to fight union influence in Springfield.

#10: COLORADO – SENATE

Republican Corey Gardner, right, makes a point as Democratic opponent Mark Udall listens during their debate for the Colorado U.S. Senate at Memorial Hall on Oct. 9, 2014 in Pueblo, Colo. (AP Photo/The Pueblo Chieftain, Chris McLean) Republican Cory Gardner, right, makes a point as Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall listens during their debate for the Colorado U.S. Senate Oct. 9, 2014 in Pueblo, Colo. (AP Photo/The Pueblo Chieftain, Chris McLean)

REPUBLICAN: Cory Gardner

DEMOCRAT: Mark Udall *

As RCP points out, Colorado tends to swing back and forth with its Senate delegation. Currently, the state has two liberal senators, including Sen. Udall, who won by 10 points just six years ago but is consistently polling below 50 percent and is in a dead heat just weeks from Election Day.

#11: UTAH – 4TH DISTRICT

GOP candidate for U.S. Congress Mia Love (Photo: AP) GOP candidate for U.S. Congress Mia Love (Photo: AP)

REPUBLICAN: Mia Love

DEMOCRAT: Doug Owens #

Though this is a pretty sure thing for Love--the latest poll has her up 12 points--it’s a big pick-up and one the Right can’t wait to witness. Love, a conservative darling, lost the race for this seat in 2012.

#12: KANSAS – SENATE

FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2014 file photo Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, left, and Greg Orman walk to the stage before a Senate debate in Hutchinson, Kan. Orman, an independent candidate challenging Roberts for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, has turned a longshot independent bid into a threat to the GOP veteran. Even if Roberts survives the challenge from independent Orman, Republicans also must lock down South Dakota, a once-unthinkable concern. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File) Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, left, and Greg Orman walk to the stage before a debate in Hutchinson, Kan. Orman, an independent candidate challenging Roberts for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, has turned a long-shot independent bid into a threat to the GOP veteran. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

REPUBLICAN: Pat Roberts *

INDEPENDENT: Greg Orman

After fending off a Tea Party primary challenger, Sen. Roberts still faces an uphill battle for re-election. Because independent candidate Orman posed a bigger threat to Roberts than did Chad Taylor, the winner of the Democratic primary, the Democrats convinced Taylor to drop out of the race in order for Democratic votes to go to Orman. Citing a Kansas law that requires specific reasons and language for withdrawing from a race after winning the nomination, Republicans challenged Taylor’s move and tried to keep him on the ballot, but the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the withdrawal legal.

#13: MICHIGAN – GOVERNOR

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, right, and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer shake hands at the start of their town hall meeting on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez) Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, right, and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer shake hands at the start of their town hall meeting on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit, Oct. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

REPUBLICAN: Rick Snyder *

DEMOCRAT: Mark Schauer

Gov. Snyder’s agenda has put a target on his back. His successful efforts to cut the budget and reform taxes, as well as working to fight for the unborn, sent the Left into fits--but it was his successful push to make Michigan a right-to-work state that really rallied the Democrats and their Big Labor base.

#14: MAINE – GOVERNOR

Paul LePage Gestapo Maine Gov. Paul LePage (AP)

REPUBLICAN: Paul LePage *

DEMOCRAT: Mike Michaud

INDEPENDENT: Eliot Cutler

This three-way race is putting Gov. LePage’s career in serious jeopardy--according to reports, he even contemplated running for an open House seat to avoid the fight. Cutler currently polls third, though he lost to LePage by less than two points in 2010 while running as an independent.

#15: MINNESOTA – SENATE

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, D, on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (Image source: MRC TV) Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, D, on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (Image source: MRC TV/C-SPAN2)

REPUBLICAN: Mike McFadden

DEMOCRAT: Al Franken *

Franken definitely has an edge in this race--he hasn’t been behind in a poll yet--but when it’s close enough for the Left to worry about it, any conservative list of “top races” has to include it for schadenfreude reasons.

#16: KANSAS – GOVERNOR

Sam Brownback (AP) Sam Brownback (AP)

REPUBLICAN: Sam Brownback *

DEMOCRAT: Paul Davis

In a state that should be a lock for Republicans, Brownback is facing an increasingly difficult re-election, with poll numbers that just keep bringing bad news. Since July, Davis’ statewide polling lead has not been below five points, and Brownback trails in nearly every age group.

#17: NEBRASKA – 2ND DISTRICT

Democratic house candidate Brad Ashford, left, listens to the incumbent, Nebraska's Second District Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., right, as they prepare to debate in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Democratic house candidate Brad Ashford, left, listens to the incumbent, Nebraska's Second District Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., right, as they prepare to debate in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

REPUBLICAN: Lee Terry *

DEMOCRAT: Brad Ashford

Terry has represented the 2nd since 1998. His early re-elections were pretty easy at first, according to RCP, but since 2006, his victories have come with narrower margins, including a two-point win in 2012. And though Nebraska skews to the Right, the 2nd has been the one area where Democrats have had repeated success in national and statewide elections.

#18: ARIZONA – GOVERNOR

State treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey, right, laughs along with Gov. Jan Brewer, left, as Ducey arrives to claim victory on winning the Republican primary for Arizona governor Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Phoenix. Ducey defeated five other Republican candidates and will face Democrat Fred DuVal, who was unopposed in the primary, in November. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) State treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey, right, laughs along with Gov. Jan Brewer, left, as Ducey arrives to claim victory on winning the Republican primary for Arizona governor Aug. 26, 2014, in Phoenix. Ducey defeated five other Republican candidates and will face Democrat Fred DuVal, who was unopposed in the primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

REPUBLICAN: Doug Ducey #

DEMOCRAT: Fred DuVal

With Gov. Jan Brewer term-limited from running again, Republicans are hoping Arizona Treasurer Ducey is the answer in a race that The Cook Political Report calls a “likely” GOP win but that current polling shows is a dead heat.

#19: CALIFORNIA – 52ND DISTRICT

This phototaken June 23, 2014 shows California Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio speaking to National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., at the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill in Washington. DeMaio is one of three openly gay Republicans running for Congress this year, but he’s the only one who has managed to make political adversaries of both social conservative and gay rights organizations. He’s too open about his sexual orientation for some social conservatives, but too far to the right and too quiet on social issues to win over the gay rights groups. And that’s just fine for DeMaio, who stresses fiscal conservatism to try to attract voters in California’s 52nd Congressional District. DeMaio gives the GOP one of its best chances for winning a Democratic-controlled seat. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) California GOP congressional candidate Carl DeMaio speaks with NRCC Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., at the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill June 23, 2014. DeMaio is one of three openly gay Republicans running for Congress this year, but he’s the only one who has managed to make political adversaries of both social conservative and gay rights organizations. He’s too open about his sexual orientation for some social conservatives, but too far to the right and too quiet on social issues to win over the gay rights groups. And that’s just fine for DeMaio, who stresses fiscal conservatism to try to attract voters in California’s 52nd Congressional District. DeMaio gives the GOP one of its best chances for winning a Democratic-controlled seat. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

REPUBLICAN: Carl DeMaio

DEMOCRAT: Scott Peters *

Following decennial redistricting, Republicans lost the 52nd, which used to be represented by Duncan D. Hunter (now of the 50th), in 2012 by about 2 points. This San Diego-based district is a big one for the California GOP and the nation’s immigration fights.

#20: ARKANSAS – GOVERNOR

Republican Asa Hutchinson, left, listens to Democrat Mike Ross during a gubernatorial debate in Little Rock, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston) Republican Asa Hutchinson, left, listens to Democrat Mike Ross during a gubernatorial debate in Little Rock, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

REPUBLICAN: Asa Hutchinson

DEMOCRAT: Mike Ross #

Two former congressmen are facing off to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who defeated Hutchison, a former Bush administration official, back in 2006. Though having supported the Republican candidates in eight of the last 11 presidential elections, Arkansas has had only three GOP governors in the last 140 years.

 

NOT FORGOTTEN

Though they might not have made our top 20 list, there are several more close races that will determine who controls the Senate, what agenda the House advances and the direction of the states.

ALASKA

Governor

GOP: Sean Parnell *

DEM: Byron Mallott

IND: Bill Walker

ARIZONA

2nd District

GOP: Martha McSally

DEM: Ron Barber *

CALIFORNIA

7th District

GOP: Doug Ose

DEM: Ami Bera *

CALIFORNIA

31st District

GOP: Paul Chabot #

DEM: Pete Aguilar

COLORADO

6th District

GOP: Mike Coffman *

DEM: Andrew Romanoff

CONNECTICUT

Governor

GOP: Tom Foley

DEM: Dannel Malloy *

FLORIDA

26th District

GOP: Carlos Curbelo

DEM: Joe Garcia *

GEORGIA

Governor

GOP: Nathan Deal *

DEM: Jason Carter

GEORGIA

Senate

GOP: David Perdue #

DEM: Michelle Nunn

HAWAII

Governor

GOP: Duke Aiona

DEM: David Ige #

IND: Mufi Hannemann

ILLINOIS

10th District

GOP: Robert Dold

DEM: Brad Schneider *

ILLINOIS

13th District

GOP: Rodney Davis *

DEM: Ann Callis

IOWA

3rd District

GOP: David Young #

DEM: Staci Appel

IOWA

Senate

GOP: Joni Ernst

DEM: Bruce Braley #

MASSACHUSETTS

Governor

GOP: Charlie Baker

DEM: Martha Coakley #

MICHIGAN

Senate

GOP: Terri Lynn Land

DEM: Gary Peters #

MINNESOTA

Governor

GOP: Jeff Johnson

DEM: Mark Dayton *

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Senate

GOP: Scott Brown

DEM: Jeanne Shaheen *

NEW YORK

1st District

GOP: Lee Zeldin

DEM: Tim Bishop *

NEW YORK

11th District

GOP: Michael Grimm *

DEM: Domenic Recchia

NEW YORK

21st District

GOP: Elise Stefanik

DEM: Aaron Woolf #

NORTH CAROLINA

Senate

GOP: Thom Tillis

DEM: Kay Hagan *

WEST VIRGINIA

3rd District

GOP: Evan Jenkins

DEM: Nick Rahall *

**********************************

FINAL - Losing Millennials - Blaze Magazine Cover - October 2014 - no boxFind out how to get a free digital copy of the full October 2014 issue of TheBlaze Magazine.

Follow Chris Field (@ChrisMField) on Twitter

One last thing…
Watch TheBlaze live and on demand on any device, anywhere, anytime.
try premium
Exclusive video
All Videos
Watch BlazeTV on your favorite device, anytime, anywhere.
Subscribe Now
Recommended
Daily News Highlights

Get the news that matters most delivered directly to your inbox.