It Was a Good Year for Incumbent Governors

The Story:

In 2020, eleven of the states of the United States held gubernatorial elections. In nine of those, an incumbent was eligible for, and ran for, re-election. In every such state, the incumbent won, regardless of political party. In Utah, one Republican won election to take over for another, after the incumbent Governor decline to run for another term. The only Governor’s race where the party affiliation of the sitting Governor is changing, then, is Montana where the Democratic Governor Steve Bullock could not run due to the state’s term limit. Voters determined that Bullock is to be replaced by Republican Greg Gianforte.


In that one change-over in Montana, Gianforte’s Democratic opponent was Mike Cooney, who has been Bullock’s Lieutenant Governor. Cooney comes from a political family: his grandfather, Frank Henry Cooney, was the state’s 9th Governor, in the 1930s.

Gianforte himself first rose to prominence as a software entrepreneur in the 1990s. He and his wife, Susan, founded RightNow Technologies, a producer of customer relations management software, which was acquired by Oracle in 2011.

Gianforte won the race handily, slightly underperforming President Trump’s win in the state, making Gianforte the first Republican Governor of Montana since Judy Martz (2001 – 2005).

The Thing to Know:

Nationally, the two major parties have come close to an equal split of the gubernatorial positions: Democrats 23, Republicans 27.

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