In the last 40 years, only three Republican candidates for president have won the popular vote in presidential election contests. Two of them — Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and George W. Bush in 2004 — were governors.
So it makes sense that a growing number of governors are looking into the mirror and seeing a future president staring back at them.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) launched his presidential campaign this week. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has been running since February. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) will enter the race early next month. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is leaning that way. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) wants another shot. And Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is now reconsidering a run after initially saying no — though his apparent plan to enter the race after Virginia holds legislative elections this fall doesn’t invite a lot of successful historical comparisons.
None begin as the front-runner for the nomination — that title still belongs to former President Donald Trump, who once considered his own bid for governor of New York.
But it’s a reminder of the mantra we shout from the rooftops at every opportunity: What happens in the states matters. The priorities governors push today are the critical battles that will define Washington, D.C., tomorrow.
Speaking of which, here are seven things you missed in the states this week:
SOCIAL MEDIA: Children of families who record their lives on video for compensation — vloggers — are set to receive labor protections under a first-in-the-nation law on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) desk. The bill guarantees minors under 16 a portion of a parent’s gross earnings from paid online videos. (Pluribus News)
MARIJUANA: Minnesota lawmakers approved legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, making Minnesota the 23rd state to do so. The bill will allow as many as 60,000 Minnesota residents to have misdemeanor marijuana convictions expunged from their records. Gov. Tim Walz (D) has pledged to sign the bill. (Pluribus News)
New Hampshire lawmakers have amended a bill legalizing recreational marijuana to put the state in control of distribution and access, a last-ditch effort to save the legislation by making changes Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has sought. But even some supporters of legal pot are skeptical that the changes will pass. (Boston Globe)
ENERGY: The Illinois House approved a measure removing a statewide moratorium on nuclear power plants. The Senate passed a previous version of the measure, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) says he’s open to signing a bill. (Center Square)
ABORTION/LGBTQ RIGHTS: Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) has signed a bill banning abortions at 12 weeks and restricting gender-affirming care for those under 19. The abortion ban takes effect immediately, while the care ban takes effect Oct. 1.
The South Carolina Senate approved a bill banning abortion after 6 weeks, over the objection of all five women in the chamber. The bill requires anyone seeking an abortion to make two in-person doctor’s visits and two ultrasounds. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed the bill Thursday. (The State) A state judge put the new law on hold Friday, punting it to the state Supreme Court. (The State)
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) has signed legislation defining “sex” under state law as only female and male. Kansas and Tennessee have similar laws on the books. (Associated Press) Gianforte also signed first-in-the-nation legislation to ban people dressed in drag from reading books to children in schools and libraries. Unlike bills in other states, the new Montana law does not require an event to be sexual in nature to fall under the ban. (Montana Free Press, Associated Press)
The Alabama House Health Committee voted along party lines to define male and female under state law. Transgender rights advocates say the bill denies their existence. (AL.com, Associated Press) A bill prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors died in Louisiana’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee. (Associated Press)
The Texas Senate voted to limit classroom lessons or school programming about sexual orientation or gender identity through 12th grade. The bill, modeled on Florida’s “don’t say gay” law, must pass the House once more before going to Gov. Greg Abbott (R). (Texas Tribune)
GUN POLITICS: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has signed a red flag law that will allow law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from those who might pose a risk to themselves or others. Michigan is the 21st state to approve a red flag law, and the second in a week, after Minnesota. (Detroit Free Press, Associated Press)
The Connecticut House has approved bills banning the open carry of firearms, tightening restrictions on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines and setting higher thresholds for bail and tougher penalties on repeat gun offenders. The measure is virtually certain to pass the state Senate. (CT Mirror) The California Assembly approved a measure to add an 11% tax on firearms and ammunition to fund school safety measures. (California Globe)
Ninety-three pieces of legislation relating to firearms have passed state legislatures since the mass shooting last year at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Of those bills, most, 56%, expanded access to firearms or aided the firearm industry. (Axios)
TEXAS: The House General Investigating Committee on Thursday issued 20 articles of impeachment against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), including bribery, obstruction of justice and retaliating against whistleblowers. No Texas attorney general has ever been impeached. (Texas Tribune)
A stunning week in Texas politics, which are already pretty fraught with intrigue to begin with.
POLITICS: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation allowing governors to run for president without triggering the state’s resign-to-run law, just hours before launching his presidential campaign in a Twitter conversation with Elon Musk. The bill also creates new restrictions for third-party groups that register voters. (Pluribus News)
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R) will run for governor of North Carolina, he said Saturday. Walker will face Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) and Treasurer Dale Folwell (R) in the GOP primary. The winner is likely to face Attorney General Josh Stein (D) next November. (Associated Press)
California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) is considering running for governor in 2026. He would face Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D) and former Controller Betty Yee (D), both of whom have already jumped in the race to replace term-limited Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). (Sacramento Bee)