News broke this afternoon that West Virginia Governor Jim Justice will announce at a rally tonight his intention to switch party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. The rare party switch for the newly elected governor, in a state where the GOP dominates the legislature, means that Republicans will have complete control of 26 state governments — both houses of the legislature and the governorship — up from 23 states in 2016. Democrats, on the other hand, control only six states.
Last November, the GOP expanded its control of state governorships, flipping the governor's mansions in Missouri, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Democrats wrestled away complete GOP control in North Carolina after Roy Cooper (D) narrowly defeated incumbent Governor Pat McCrory (R). Similarly, Democrats cheered Justice's election in West Virginia even as Donald Trump sailed to a 42 point victory in the state. But now, barely 6 months through his term, Governor Justice is switching parties, providing the GOP with its 34th governor. Democrats hold on to 15 governors (plus Independent Governor Bill Walker in Alaska).
Democrats continue to eye elections in 2017 and 2018 when 17 governors — 15 of which are Republicans — are term limited. It is the winners of those elections that will shape redistricting after the 2020 census.