The two inaugurations mean 175 million people ― a majority of the United States’ estimated population of 325 million ― have Democratic governors. Pritzker, a billionaire former businessman who will govern the 12.8 million people of Illinois, easily defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018. Kelly, a former state legislator, defeated Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was infamous for his conservative views on immigration and voting.
The GOP will still have a majority of the nation’s governorships — 27 states have Republicans leading them, compared to 23 states led by Democrats. Before the 2018 elections, Republicans had a 34-15 advantage, and Alaska had an independent governor.
Democrats picked up seven gubernatorial seats previously held by Republicans in November, running mostly on a message of expanding health care coverage and increasing education funding. They also narrowly lost elections in Ohio, Florida and Georgia.
“This past November, Americans loudly rejected the chaos and failed policies of Washington D.C. by electing Democratic governors in record-setting fashion,” Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, the chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association, said in a statement. “Now, a majority of Americans can count on a Democratic governor to expand access to affordable health care, invest in strong public schools, and fight for an economy that works for all.”
But despite Democratic gains in 2018, the nation’s governors still don’t look much like the nation’s population. There are no black governors — while Democrats nominated black candidates in Florida, Georgia and Maryland, all of them lost. And there are just two governors of color – David Ige in Hawaii and newly-elected Michele Lujan Grisham in New Mexico, the first Latina Democrat elected to a governorship in U.S. history.
And while a record number of women were elected to Congress in 2018, there are still just nine female governors in the country: Republicans Kay Ivey of Alabama, Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Kristi Noem of South Dakota; and Democrats Kelly, Grisham, Raimondo, Janet Mills of Maine, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Kate Brown of Oregon.