Voters will elect governors in 36 states on Tuesday, including in a handful of races that will determine the fate of voting access and abortion rights.
The contests with the highest stakes are in key presidential battleground states: Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These races feature Republicans who question or deny the results of the 2020 election, running against Democrats who are incumbents or have defended their states’ voting procedures.
There are also tight races in Kansas and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents are fighting for re-election in what has become a difficult political environment. And in Oregon, the Democratic candidate, Tina Kotek, is facing headwinds over rampant homelessness in Portland as well as a third candidate, a centrist independent, who is likely to siphon off votes from her.
Democratic incumbents are favored to win — but hardly guaranteed — in Maine, Michigan and New Mexico, while in Georgia, polls suggest that Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, is likely to hold off a challenge from Stacey Abrams, the Democrat he narrowly defeated in 2018.
Republicans are hoping for a national wave election that forces out Democratic incumbents in Minnesota and New York, while Democrats hope that an array of scandals can bring down Oklahoma’s Republican governor.
Other big-state Republican incumbents, in Florida and Texas, appear safe, while polling shows that Democrats are well poised to take back governors offices that for the last eight years had been held by Republicans in Maryland and Massachusetts, longtime Democratic bastions.
Here’s what to watch in the most competitive races for governor:
Battleground State Battles
WISCONSIN Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, is locked in what polling shows to be a dead heat with Tim Michels, a Republican construction magnate. Mr. Evers has painted himself as the last man holding up Wisconsin’s democracy against Republicans who have sought to replace the state’s bipartisan election commission with an agency fully under G.O.P. control.
ARIZONA Kari Lake, a Republican former local TV anchor, offers what may be the purest example of Trumpism in any candidate for governor this year. She faces Katie Hobbs, the current Democratic secretary of state, who gained national attention for defending Arizona’s election systems after the 2020 election.
MICHIGAN Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has built an image as the protector of abortion rights in Michigan. She faces Tudor Dixon, a conservative media figure endorsed by Mr. Trump and funded by the billionaire DeVos family.
NEVADA No state has swung in recent years alongside national political waves the way Nevada has. Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, won in 2018. Now he faces a stiff challenge from Joseph Lombardo, the Republican sheriff of Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
Fights That Fizzled
PENNSYLVANIA Josh Shapiro, the state’s Democratic attorney general, is a well-funded candidate with a big polling lead over Doug Mastriano, an election-denying Christian nationalist Republican who has failed to raise substantial money.
GEORGIA Mr. Kemp, who defeated a Trump-inspired primary challenger in May, has a healthy polling lead over Ms. Abrams, who has failed to win over moderate Republican voters who have powered other Georgia Democrats to recent victories.
NEW YORK Gov. Kathy Hochul, who ascended to office last year when Andrew Cuomo resigned, is vying to fend off a challenge from Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican from Long Island.
OREGON No Republican has been elected Oregon’s governor for 40 years, but that could change with Christine Drazan, a G.O.P. former state legislator who is polling neck-and-neck with Ms. Kotek, a Democratic former State House speaker. Democrats fear that a centrist independent candidate, Betsy Johnson, will siphon votes away from Ms. Kotek.
Democrats Try to Hold On
KANSAS Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, is trying to win a second term in deep-red Kansas. She faces Derek Schmidt, the Republican state attorney general.
NEW MEXICO Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, is seeking a second term against a challenge by Mark Ronchetti, a Republican former local television meteorologist who lost a 2020 campaign for the Senate.
MAINE Former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, is seeking a political comeback with his challenge against Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat seeking a second term.