Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers was in a familiar spot earlier this month when Republican lawmakers sent him a bill that would ban anti-racist teaching in schools. For the 66th time since taking office in 2019, he pulled the veto.
The refusal was the latest reminder of the crucial role that Evers and a select group of his fellow Democratic governors play in some of the most politically divided states. They are the only support against a wave of reputational legislation targeting everything from abortion rights and school programs to access to voting.
“I have to prevent some really bad things,” Evers said in an interview. “It’s a little lonely, but I know I represent the people of Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin is one of four states that are becoming top priorities for Democrats in election year as the party faces fierce political clashes. In these states – Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – Republicans control the state’s legislature, and the governorship held by the Democratic government will vote in the fall.
If the governorships change parties, flooding of Republican legislation that has so far been blocked is likely to become law. This is of particular concern to Democrats when it comes to suffrage. Four incumbents – Evers, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe – have vetoed more than a dozen bills restricting voting.
These steps were especially important in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, all narrowly divided states that could decide on the 2024 presidential election. If Republicans win the gubernatorial race in any of these states, they will almost certainly approve of voting restrictions that have so far been rejected.
In Wisconsin, for example, the legislature is rapidly passing a number of bills that change election administration and voting rules, all of which Evers is expected to veto, but other Republican candidates for governor support.
Governors also play an important role in the mechanism of presidential elections – under federal law, voters who they say reflect the winners of their state gain extra weight in any fight in Congress to confirm the election of the next president. This means that in more extreme scenarios, Republican governors may seek to divert voters from the Democratic Party in the presidential race, a move that then-President Donald Trump sought from some Republicans in 2020.
Many Republican candidates running for governor this year have backed Trump’s lies that the last election was stolen. In Wisconsin last week, state spokesman Timothy Ramtun, a conspiracy theorist who was punished by the Republican leadership for making false statements about elections, applied to run for governor.
Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general said there was no clear evidence that the election had been tainted. The former president’s allegations of fraud were also strongly rejected by courts, including Trump-appointed judges.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, head of the Association of Democratic Governors, said the four governors “oppose attacks by Republican legislatures on the right to vote.”
Cooper, who is also fighting the Republican legislature, said the governors “will defend the foundations of our democracy.”
Republicans argue that Democrats are in favor of obstacles and simply refuse to work with the party that controls the legislature in their states.
“The inability to work effectively with its legislature, regardless of party control, will ultimately be seen by voters as a failure of leadership,” said Phil Cox, a Republican strategist and former executive director of the Republican Association of Governors.
Democrats are not limiting their work this year to just defending their positions in these four states. They also hope to get Republican seats in states like Georgia, Massachusetts and Maryland.
But the DGA is stepping up its opposition research from Republican candidates in Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And the democratic candidates themselves are sitting on considerable campaign accounts.
At the end of 2021, Evers had about $ 10 million, and Josh Shapiro, a likely Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, had $ 13 million, according to reports from the state election campaign. Kelly, Kansas is expected to have a more challenging re-election application than in 2018, when she won the tripartite race. Late last year, she had $ 2 million.
And in Michigan, Whitmer was sitting for $ 10 million. An independent DGA-related expense group also advertised Whitmer in Michigan for about $ 200,000 in December and January.
Whitmer vetoed several bills complicating the vote, rejecting nine such measures in October alone.
“Lips. Whitmer is a mainstay in a world where, if Republicans controlled the legislature and the governor’s office in any of those states, disenfranchisement would automatically become law, “said Patrick Shu, director of the Democratic Organization for the Protection of Voter Access in Michigan. America Votes group.
One measure would provide additional identification requirements for requests for advocacy voting and would block a high-ranking state official on elections from widely sending requests for voting by mail. Republicans were forced to try to put an end to Whitmer by trying to hold a vote that Shuha’s group hopes to oppose on its own.
In Pennsylvania, Wolfe blocked similar efforts by vetoing a large-scale bill that would also shorten the days when ballot boxes will be opened. Wolff, who is completing his second four-year term, is not seeking re-election, but Shapiro supports his veto.
These Democrats have some benefits that could help them politically this year, including a significant budget surplus, government revenues that exceeded serious coronavirus pandemic forecasts, and billions of federal aid in connection with COVID-19 and the receipt of money for infrastructure.
In Wisconsin, Evers plans to receive the state’s largest budget surplus, $ 3 billion, including tax benefits for child care for working families and similar loans for volunteers who care for the elderly full-time and tied to the home. time of need. With a plane of low expectations, the soft-spoken former head of public school said he hoped Republicans would “look at it”.
“I think it will be difficult for Republicans to say no to that.” But they have done it before, ”Evers said. “Regardless of the amount I vetoed, it’s meager compared to the number I’m going for.”
Associated Press Writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; John Hannah in Topeka, Kansas; Mark Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Nicolas Ricardo in Denver contributed to this report.
This story was corrected to show the spelling of the name of a likely Pennsylvania candidate, Shapiro, not Shapiro, and he had $ 13 million instead of $ 16 million.