The State Houses – What’s At Stake in 2010

Thirty-nine states will be electing a governor during the 2009-2010 election cycle. Of these, eighteen races will not include an incumbent and four incumbents who will be running were not elected to their current position. The recession and huge budget deficits threaten to undercut the power of incumbency for governors running for reelection.

The Current Line-Up


Archive for July, 2009


Nutmeg Dems: Nobody Likes the DMV

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As Connecticut’s budget negotiations between Republican Gov. Jodi Rell and the Democratic Legislature inched along this past week, Democrats proposed a novel proposal to reignite discussions – eliminate the DMV.

With a recent Quinnipiac University survey of Connecticut voters showed the Democrats receiving much of the blame for the ongoing budget impasse getting rid of an agency universally disliked is a sure-fire political winner.

In the future, motorists could potentially renew their licenses at a supermarket — in the same way that they now conduct some banking transactions at grocery stores. Democrats have seen the success of motor vehicle transactions at AAA offices, and they believe that a “user-friendly” experience can be replicated at shopping centers, malls and other retail locations. The move would require moving many employees to different locations, but it would be accomplished with no layoffs.

“Other sectors of the economy have already figured this out — banks, pharmacies, certain health care professions,” said Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams. “We’re confident we will save many millions of dollars by doing it this way.”

For it’s part, the DMV criticizes the idea as a gimmick that overlooks privacy concerns and the law enforcement responsibilities the agency currently performs that has limited cost-saving potential.

Categories : Budget, Connecticut
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Never Can Say Good-bye

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One might think that after taking months to accept defeat (at the behest of Mitch and the NRSC), Norm Coleman may have overstayed his welcome in Minnesota politics. But Norm doesn’t think he has. Fresh from his razor-thin loss to now-Sen. (finally) Al Franken, is keeping his options open regarding the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial race. He’s playing coy, as he won’t make a decision about running until 2010.

“Coleman spokesman Tom Erickson now says the Republican won’t announce if he’s in or out of the governor’s race until March or April. Erickson says Coleman just wants some time to not be running for office,” MPR’s Tim Pugmire writes. 

The former senator’s decision could be a game changer in the race, which is already filling up with GOP hopefuls since Republican incumbent Tim Pawlenty announced in June he would not seek a third term.

Staying on the sidelines of such a crowded field is an interesting (and revealing) strategy.  Considering his universal name ID, a Coleman candidacy would probably deter some of those considering a run to opt out of the contest.  Perhaps he’s fatigued by the drawnout recount and not really interested in making another gubernatorial run (he lost to Jesse Ventura back in 1998) or he may sense the Gopher State voters have grown tired of his media presence. But it’s more likely that like an aging athlete playing beyond his prime, Norm Coleman simply doesn’t want to let the spotlight move on.

Over at fivethirtyeight they pondered the possibility of a Coleman gubernatorial run and concluded that despite polls showing Coleman competitive against leading Democrats, his 38-52 net negative ratings would deter him from entering the contest. Considering he’s got lingering ethics and legal questions unresolved, it might be wise to wait until a later date to attempt a political comeback.

Categories : Minnesota, Open Seats
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Rudy: NY GOP’s Arrested Development

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Rudy Giuliani – never a truly popular figure among Empire State Republicans – continues antagonizing the party leadership. The Daily News has a primer on the relationship’s tumultuous past and Hizzoner’s most recent comments, criticizing the party’s state of arrested development:

“There is no question that if you have to rely on George Pataki and me, you are in deep trouble,” the former mayor told a Crain’s NY Business Breakfast forum when asked why he (for governor) and Pataki (for U.S. Senate) remain among the only big GOP names gaining much traction for statewide office.

“I am joking, but there is some wisdom (there),” he added. “We should be moving forward with dynamic new candidates, but the party at some point stopped developing.”

National pollsters keep measuring Governor David Paterson against Giuliani in hypothetical 2010 matchups, but making comments like these don’t indicate Rudy is serious about running.  It’s not exactly the recommended approach to mending fences if you’re planning a gubernatorial run. Read More→


It Was Only a Matter of Time

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Before the political cognoscenti finally realized how much trouble Jon Corzine’s reelection chances were in. CQ Politics has changed it’s rating on the race from “Toss-Up” to Leans Republican. Was it the endless stream of polls showing deep dissatisfaction with Corzine in the Garden State or was it the unprecedented corruption arrests that finally tipped the scales? With rumors swirling about NJ Democratic insiders lobbying for a last-minute replacement in the race (it’s been done in NJ before!), I wonder if the voters in Blue Jersey have gotten comfortable enough with the idea of voting for Chris Christie that ditching the unpopular governor might be a wasted effort.

As to whether this is a harbinger of things to come for other governors in 2010, I’ve long asserted Corzine is the canary in the coal mine. If the economy doesn’t appreciaby improve in the next four to six months, practically every incumbent governor will have a serious reelection challenge next November.

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Will She Stay or Will She Go?

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Now that Sarah Palin has abandoned her elective office for grander and yet-t0-be-determined opportunities, attention turns to whether or not another also-ran in the McCain 2008 Veep Sweepstakes, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will leave the Senate early. CQ Politics reports on KBH’s mixed signals as to whether she will give up her seat to mount a primary challenge to Governor Rick Perry.

Over the course of just a few hours on Wednesday, she sent nothing but mixed signals.

First, she told a Texas radio interviewer that she intends to resign her seat in the Senate.

In Washington a short time later, Hutchison said she might stay in the Senate through next year’s gubernatorial race and really didn’t intend to indicate a change in her anticipated timetable.

“I did not realize this was going to be something that would be construed as different from what I’ve been saying,” Hutchison told reporters. “I had said that I would be leaving probably some time toward the end of the year, late fall. And that’s what I said in this interview.”

 Apparently, her earlier comments were directed toward Perry, who she wants to step aside and decide to not stand for reelection. She argues the state needs a change; if Perry wins and serves a complete term, he would have led Texas for an unprecedented fifteen years. Hutchison hopes Perry realizes how divisive a primary between the two GOP heavyweights would be to the party. If he steps aside, it would decrease the likelihood she would quit the senate early, as a lack of a primary contest would allow her to continue her DC duties.

Perry, for his part, doesn’t seem to be interested in leaving Austin. He’s raising impressive amounts of money, aggressively pursuing the Lone Star State’s GOP’s conservative activist base’s support, and has surged ahead of KBH in early polls. Could Hutchison be the one that calls it quits even before the contest starts?

Categories : GOP Civil War, Texas
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Race for Richmond – Scary Business

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While watching the first gubernatorial debate between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell, I was struck by how both candidates attempted to insert national themes into the discussion. While Deeds the Democrat highlighted McDonnell’s embrace of Bush economic policies, it was the Republican who echoed national GOPer talking points the most frequently.

Today’s WaPo agrees:

Republican Robert F. McDonnell made a bet at his first debate in the Virginia governor’s race Saturday: that turning the contest into a referendum on President Obama’s increasingly contentious national agenda will sway the election. Read More→

Republican polling firm Strategic Vision released a couple of polls this week. In Georgia, former Governor Roy Barnes continues to hold a considerable  lead over his Democratic competition. He has lost ten points since April (when he was a hypothetical participant in the race) while the percentage of undecideds has nearly doubled since then. Attorney General Thurbert Baker raised just over $700K through June 30, which should solidify his position as Barnes’ main competition.

Democratic Primary Matchups
  July June April
Roy Barnes  46 49 56
Thurbert Baker  31 30 29
David Poythress 4 5 4
Dubose Porter 3 2 2
Undecided  16 14 9

On the Republican side, John Oxendine continues attracting the support of more than one-third of Georgia’s GOP voters. Nathan Deal seems to be gaining traction and may emerge as his main competition in the primary, as Karen Handel seems to be fading against the field. With a quarter of the voters undecided and both Deal and Eric Johnson outraising Oxendine through the first six months of the year, this is probably still anyone’s contest.

Republican Primary Matchups
  July June April
John Oxendine  38 35 33
Nathan Deal  16 12  
Karen Handel 9 13 14
Eric Johnson 5 4  
Ray McBerry 3 2 2
Austin Scott 2 2 2
Undecided  27 32 25

Read More→

Categories : Georgia, Open Seats, Polls
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There is No “Purge”

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A divided Florida GOP prepares for the critical 2010 elections (one US senate seat, the Governor’s Mansion and all three cabinet posts are open next year) facing a resurgent Democratic Party.  ”Impotent” is not the word you want a former state party chair to use in describing the party’s current state of affairs. But that’s what Tom Slade, who led the state GOP for six years in the 90s, has resulted from the party’s constant infighting.

Despite holding nearly two-thirds majorities in both houses and a decade-long hold on the Governor’s Mansion, the schism between the establishment and the party’s grassroots activists threatens to weaken the party, rendering it irrelevant. Read More→

Talk about rapid response.

Even before Loretta Weinberg (the self-described “feisty, Jewish grandmother from Bergen County”) got to the podium after Jon Corzine’s long-winded introduction, the Christie campaign had tweeted about a video posted on YouTube titled, “You Can’t Change Trenton From the Inside”

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Deeds-McDonnell Post Game Thoughts

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After getting off to a rocky start (the audio portion malfunctioned for the first 20 minutes of the debate), VirginiaTalks’ livestreaming of the first VA gubernatorial debate provided some insight into how this campaign may unfold.

THE WEDGE ISSUES: Both McDonnell and Deeds are uncomfortable talking about the traditional wedge issues of abortion, guns and gays. Both have right-of-center records on all three and this may not play well to the NoVa and Hampton Roads voters who are vital to winning in November. Particularly on abortion, McDonnell is trying to downplay his conservative positions. The same can be said for Deeds on guns. Both seem somewhat lost when asked about LGBT issues, other than claiming they don’t discriminate.

NATIONAL v. LOCAL: Each of the candidates is attempting to nationalize the election. McDonnell, for his part, wants to talk about cap and trade, national security (he did sneak in a 9/11 reference for old time’s sake), Obama’s economic stimulus and the debate on health care. Deeds, on the other hand, seems to think reminding Virginians about George W Bush’s failed economic policies might work yet again. I think McDonnell may gain the upper hand on this, simply because the national GOPers are trumpeting the same talking points. Few national Democrats are labeling the economic downturn as the Bush recession these days. Following Obama’s lead, they’ve collectively turned the page, helping Americans flush BushCo down the national memory hole.

Most gubernatorial elections turn on local issues (although with the national spotlight  on Virginia and New Jersey it’s easy to see why the campaigns are tempted by the allure of the national debates. Whoever is more successful at convincing voters they can solve the traffic gridlock in the fast-growing regions, create good jobs and maintain strong schools is going to have an advantage. Deeds did score points on McDonnell’s transportation proposal by framing it as a choice between schools and roads. We’ll see if that criticism sticks.

DEEDS MISSED OPPORTUNITY: One thing that puzzles me is why the Deeds campaign doesn’t continually trumpet Virginia’s successes under Democratic leadership. Virginia remains one of the best run states in the nation, is scandal-free (no small task recently) and has a strong economy, relative to other states. He should be wrapping himself in the tight embrace of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Doug Wilder should be on the campaign trail with him helping shore up the African American base. Failing to claim the Warner/Kaine mantle allows McDonnell an opening to attract moderate support.

WHO WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE A BEER WITH? If it comes down to personality, I’m not sure how the race shakes out. McDonnell strikes me as a Mitt Romney or John Edwards-type – a perfectly coiffed automaton, well-coached in his answers. But he leaves me wondering, who is the real Bob McDonnell? Creigh Deeds is less polished, an “aw-shucks” kinda guy who sometimes seems to stumble around the more difficult questions. Again, I get the sense it’s a well-rehearsed act. Not sure whether Virginians will pick the artful dodger or good ‘ol boy.

Right now, this race is too close to call.

Categories : Debates, Virginia
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