Efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic have put the nation's governors in the spotlight while state legislatures are poised in the year ahead to determine redistricting, abortion health care and other super-charged topics.
Both are on the ballot this year in races that have been overshadowed nationally by the presidential race but have drawn intense interest and massive spending in their states. Across the country, 11 states are electing governors and 35 are picking state lawmakers this year.
Missouri and Montana have the nation's most interesting races for governor, while Democrats are hoping to gain control of more state legislative chambers after Republicans scored huge wins in 2010. That put them in charge of drawing congressional and state legislative maps after that year's Census, a process that kept them in control in most of those states throughout the decade.
In most states, legislatures and governors have a role in drawing congressional and legislative maps, a process that starts after the U.S. Census delivers its decennial count at the end of this year.
Control of governor's offices and legislatures also will determine much of how coronavirus-related restrictions and recovery efforts go.
If an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court throws out the right to an abortion or portions of the Affordable Care Act, the new policies could be set state-by-state.
Republicans are mostly in defensive mode, trying to keep offices they hold now. But there are exceptions.
In Montana, the Democratic and Republican governors associations and the campaigns themselves have contributed more than $24 million to a governor's race to fill the seat of Democrat Steve Bullock, who is running for U.S. Senate. U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney are vying for the position.
The best chance for Democrats to pick up a governor's seat is in Missouri, where incumbent Republican Mike Parson is being challenged by Nicole Galloway, the state auditor. That race has some echoes of the race for president; Parson, who has resisted mandating mask usage, tested positive for the coronavirus in September as the state's case total started to surge.
Galloway has made Parson's response to the virus outbreak a core part of her campaign.
While Democrats have been chipping away at Republicans' edge in state political offices, the GOP is still in control of the majority of state legislative and executive branches.
They're seeking to expand their power by taking over the legislature in New Hampshire. But it's Democrats who are on the offense elsewhere, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.