With just under one year until Michigan’s 2018 gubernatorial election, several prominent candidates from each party have already declared. Republicans are working to distance themselves from incumbent Governor Rick Snyder, whose reputation was tarnished on a national scale over two years ago by the Flint water crisis. Democratic candidates have so far appeared unified, making statements in opposition to President Trump’s immigration ban, and promising to protect the rights of Michiganders.

Three Democrats have officially declared that they will run, including Bill Cobbs, an African American businessman from Detroit, and Abdul Al-Sayed, the executive director of the Detroit Health Department. The frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is Gretchen Whitmer, the former Ingham County Prosecutor, and prior to that the Michigan Senate Minority Leader. From the beginning of her campaign, Whitmer has pushed for government accountability, alluding to the failures by the Michigan Republican Party to maintain the public schools and provide clean water to Flint. She is known as a Democratic Party powerbroker, serving in both the Michigan Senate and House, and gained national coverage when she shared her experience as a victim of rape.

Several other prominent Democrats are considered possible candidates, including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, and and U.S. Representative Dan Kildee. Mayor Duggan, who many would consider the frontrunner for the nomination if he were to declare, stated earlier this year at the Mackinac Policy Conference that he “will not be a candidate,” though some political analysts feel that he may still be a late entry into the race. Congresswoman Dingell, the wife of former Congressman John Dingell, also dismissed rumors of a possible run for Governor, saying that her immediate focus was her work on the U.S. House Committee for Energy and Commerce. Congressman Kildee, a Flint native, has gained national attention as he’s exposed the details of the Flint Water Crisis to the U.S. House of Representatives, and has been much less dismissive of a possible run for Governor. When asked about his intentions, Kildee stated that he’ll “spend a lot of time thinking about it” and ultimately make his decision based on where he believes is the best place he can make progress.

On the Republican ballot, there is only one declared candidate, Jim Hines, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Saginaw. While Hines declared early, he is expected to join a crowded field of Republicans, the most noteworthy being Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley. Schuette has devoted the past year to leading an investigation into the Flint Water Crisis, including filing charges against several state and city officials. Calley has also focused on Flint, becoming the point man for the Governor in the area. Calley and Schuette have deflected questions about their candidacy, but have already seemingly begun to campaign. It is highly likely that they will both be battling for the Republican nomination later this year. Additional possible candidates include former Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, former U.S. Representative Candice Miller, and State Senator Patrick Colbeck.

Dwaine Reynolds of Grand Rapids is currently the only declared third party candidate, seeking the Green Party nomination. Todd Schleiger is a self described “common sense first” businessman who is running as an independent.

The last five Michigan Governors have switched between the two major parties, and they all won reelection at least once (James Blanchard being the only one of the previous five to not serve out the term limit). Michigan has never elected an independent or third party Governor. Michigan is largely considered a purple state, having gone to a Republican Presidential candidate four times in the past ten years, including in the 2016 election, when Donald Trump earned Michigan’s sixteen electoral votes narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton by .2% of the state’s population. Both Michigan U.S. Senate seats are held by democrats, while the Michigan State House and State Senate have Republican majorities. Currently of the fourteen U.S. Representatives from Michigan, nine are Republicans and five are Democrats.

Considering the current political climate, and the likelihood that the Republican Party will maintain control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives during the 2018 election cycle, it is highly important for the democrats to gain control of state offices. The GOP holds a 33-16 lead in governorships (Alaska’s Walker is an independent), and there are a total of 12 swing state races (7 with a Republican incumbent, 5 with a Democrat) coming in 2017 and 2018 that will look to help shift that balance. Democrats are looking to build momentum for 2020, as well as rebuild the party. Michigan’s race for the governorship will be one of the most competitive in the country, and should continue to heat up.