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Democrats tried to secure more gubernatorial wins. How did they do?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Noam Lee joins us next. He is executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, which spent a lot of money in this election year. Mr. Lee, welcome to the program.

NOAM LEE: Thank you. Great to be with you.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking of a quote we heard earlier from one of your party's winners, Tony Evers, who gets a second term as governor of Wisconsin. He noted that people consider him quite lowkey. He said, quote, "some call it boring. But you know what? Boring wins." Is that the message or one message of these election results?

LEE: Well, one message is definitely that getting things done for people is good politics. We saw that in Wisconsin for sure. We saw it in Kansas with Governor Kelly axing the food tax. We saw it - fixing the damn roads in Michigan. Huge relief checks for the people of Maine. The policies that put money back in people's pockets, that demonstrated that Democratic governors were on the side of working families, taking on the challenges of 2022, that yielded results that were exciting and, really, validated that leadership.

INSKEEP: What do you think about when you think about the closeness of some of these results? I mean, elections are unpredictable. The change of a percentage point here or there and you could have had a much, much, much, much, much worse night for your party than appears to be unfolding.

LEE: Well, look; at the end of the day, we're thrilled with the wins that we got. And when we look at the historical trends in midterms, we look at it as standard of a net minus six governorships. The last time the party of the president did not have a net loss of governorships was over two decades ago, in 1998. And at this point, we are set to avoid any net losses this year for sure. And instead, we may actually be gaining governorships in 2022. So that's incredibly exciting.

INSKEEP: What, in your view, went wrong in a governor's race that your party did not win? Stacey Abrams was a very high-profile candidate in a rematch against Governor Brian Kemp. And it wasn't really that close.

LEE: Stacey Abrams ran a great campaign. And we're very proud of her. We knew that that was going to be a very tough race in a very challenging state. Obviously, we're disappointed with the result. But she gave - put everything into that race, ran a strong campaign and we are proud to have been on her team.

INSKEEP: And now let's talk about one that is undecided. In Arizona, Kari Lake was favored against Katie Hobbs, the Democrat. The latest results that I have seen suggest that Hobbs is slightly ahead. But of course, the race is much too close to call. What do you see happening there in Arizona?

LEE: I think Katie Hobbs is going to be the next governor of Arizona. We are very, very excited about what we're seeing both in the vote that's in and when we look at what is yet to be counted. And where we're looking at that coming in over the - in the coming hours, we stand very, very well-positioned to win that race, a huge win for the DGA and a huge win for the people of Arizona.

INSKEEP: Now, let's assume these election results hold up. How can Democratic governors, having had a more successful midterm, as you point out, than they might have expected - how, if at all, can Democratic governors shape the national agenda over the next two years?

LEE: Well, I think, once again, it's continuing to deliver for people in states to address things that are concerning them, and then to talk about those wins. And it's what Democrats are getting done in all of those states. It's also talking about the bipartisan infrastructure package and the great things the Biden administration is actually getting done in Washington. There's a tremendous record of accomplishment in delivering for working families that we need to be talking about and continuing to do more of.

INSKEEP: If Joe Biden does not run for a second term - and he has said up to now that he is. But if he were to decide he did not want to run for a second term in his 80s, is there a Democratic governor who might be poised to take over?

LEE: At this point, we are excited to support President Biden and looking forward to continuing to be on his team as we move forward.

INSKEEP: A diplomatic non-answer there, I suppose, at that point. But Democratic governors, that's a place you would look for presidential candidates in the future, is that right?

LEE: I think we have a lot of Democratic governors across the country who have proven that executive leadership matters. Effective leadership on the state level, delivering for people, focusing on the economy, combating the extremism we're seeing on the right, defending people's fundamental rights are things that matter to voters. And they were rewarded for that last night.

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INSKEEP: Noam Lee, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association. Thanks so much.

LEE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And he's talking with us on this day where many election results are undecided, the House and Senate still up in the air. But many governors' results, as we've just heard, are in. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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