Gubernatorial Races to Watch in 2016

Democrats in North Carolina are hoping McCrory has overplayed his hand. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images File Photo)

Despite Democrats' surprising victory last week in Louisiana — where state Rep. John Bel Edwards beat Republican Sen. David Vitter in the runoff –  they hold only 18 gubernatorial seats, compared to the 31 held by Republican governors.  

Next year, Democrats will defend eight seats, including ones in targeted U.S. Senate battle grounds such as Missouri and New Hampshire, while Republicans will defend four.  Missouri: With incumbent Democrat Jay Nixon on his way out,  Republicans believe one of their top pickup opportunities is in Missouri, where the chief executive's office has been held by Democrats for all but four of the past 22 years.  

Vitter's Future on the Line as Louisiana Votes for Governor

Vitter speaks to reporters after Monday's debate in Baton Rouge. (Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)

As Louisiana voted Saturday in the runoff election for governor, Sen. David Vitter flooded the three-parish New Orleans metro area with robocalls striking a contrite tone: “I humbly ask for your vote.”  

To Republican strategist James Farwell, who lives in New Orleans and has a long record of working with Newt Gingrich, Vitter’s self-defending TV ads with his family in the campaign's final days are a sign of how well Democrat John Bel Edwards' campaign executed its strategy.  

Prostitution Pops Up in New Round of Louisiana Ads

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Reeling from months of attacks about his 2007 prostitution scandal, Republican Sen. David Vitter released a new TV ad offering voters an apology in the final days of his Louisiana gubernatorial campaign.  

"Fifteen years ago, I failed my family but found forgiveness and love,” Vitter said directly to the camera. "Our falls aren't what define us, but rather how we get up, accept responsibility and earn redemption." https://www.youtube.com/embed/yImv6dnzNl4  

Did Bevin 'Trump' Conway in Kentucky? Not Quite

With his wife Glenna Bevin, center, and Lieutenant Governor-elect Jenean Hampton, right, looking on, Kentucky Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin, speaks to his supporters at the Republican Party victory celebration, Tuesday,  in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Update: 5:17 p.m. | If you ask Democrats in Washington, the blame for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's stunning loss Tuesday night to Republican Matt Bevin falls on the unpopularity of political insiders during a year in which outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson are leading Republican presidential primary polls.  

“Unfortunately, he ran into the unexpected headwinds of Trump-mania, losing to an outsider candidate in the Year of the Outsider," said Elisabeth Pearson, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, a group which spent around $5 million in Conway's favor, in a statement after the election.  

Election Day 2015: Republicans Win Big

Bevin speaks to supporters Tuesday night as his wife Glenna, center, and Lt. Gov.-elect Jenean Hampton listen (Photo By Timothy D. Easley/AP)

In a major blow to Democrats who have struggled to hold their ground in a once reliable part of the country, Republican businessman Matt Bevin beat Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in their race for the state’s governor’s mansion.  

The Kentucky race was among a number of races across the country in an off-year election that political observers use as a bellwether for a full slate of elections, including the one for the White House, in 2016.  

What to Watch for on Election Day

Bevin, left, who ran an unsuccessful GOP Senate primary in Kentucky in 2014, is trailing in the Bluegrass State gubernatorial contest. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Voters in a handful of states across the country head to the polls Tuesday for a slate of elections that political handicappers use as an off-year election bellwether of what might happen in 2016.  

And while no federal offices are on the table, results from these states will have implications for House and Senate contests in 2016.  

David Vitter Trails Democrat in Louisiana Governor's Runoff

Vitter, R-La., heads to the Senate floor for a vote. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In the first poll released since two candidates emerged from Louisiana’s jungle primary for governor, state House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, holds a serious lead over Republican Sen. David Vitter.  

The survey , made public by the Democratic Governors Association and conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research — an Alabama-based firm that has done polling for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and now Hillary Rodham Clinton’s — found Edwards with a 12-point lead, 52 percent to 40 percent, with less than four weeks until the Nov. 21 runoff.  Vitter inched his way into the runoff on Oct. 24 over two other Republicans with 23 percent of the vote. He finished four points ahead of Scott Angelle, a member of the state’s Public Service Commission, and eight points ahead of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Edwards received about 40 percent of the vote.  

Louisiana Democrats Hope to Harness 'Anti-Vitter' Republicans

Vitter made it to the state's gubernatorial runoff. Now, the hard part has begun for the state's Democrats. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Though he received enough support to advance to a runoff next month, more than 850,000 of the 1.1 million people who voted last weekend in Louisiana pulled the lever for someone other than Republican Sen. David Vitter.  

Ahead of the Nov. 21 vote — where the veteran politician who has weathered big storms before will face Louisiana House Democratic Leader John Bel Edwards – Vitter's goal is clear: Convincing most of the 381,000 voters who supported his Republican opponents  that he is a good second choice.  "It's too many of the Baton Rouge politicians that have failed us," Vitter told supporters on election night , his opening play against his sole rival. His campaign is already trying to tie Edwards directly to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in the state.  

Vitter Inches Into Runoff in Louisiana Governor's Race

Vitter, R-La., will face Edwards, a Democratic state representative, in a Nov. 21 runoff to become Louisiana's next governor. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 9:58 a.m., Oct. 26 |Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter will face John Bel Edwards, a Democratic state legislator, in a runoff to become Louisiana’s next governor.  

Edwards finished first with 40 percent of the vote to Vitter's 23 percent. Most of the rest of the vote went to the other two Republicans in the race: Scott Angelle, a member of the state’s utility regulating commission got 19 percent of the vote, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne finished with 15 percent. The two will face off in a Nov. 21 runoff to succeed Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is term-limited.  

Open Governor's Race Could Lure Heidi Heitkamp Home to North Dakota

Heidi Heitkamp is considering a second run for governor next year in North Dakota. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The announcement Monday by North Dakota's popular Republican governor, Jack Dalrymple, that he will not seek re-election in 2016  might be enough to lure one of the state's senators home from Washington.  

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., had begun to mull the possibility of a second run for the job well before Dalrymple's announcement, and the possibility of her candidacy was talked up by leaders at the Democratic Governors Association in February.