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

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Sep
21

RE: Presidential Requests

By · Sep, 21 2009

What happens when you dismiss a confidential presidential request to step aside? 

It becomes “not-so-confidential.” 

The White House, apparently concerned over NY Governor David Paterson’s dismal poll numbers, sent a “confidential” message to Albany requesting Paterson opt out of a 2010 re-election campaign. The request seems to have been summarily dismissed.

The move against a sitting Democratic governor represents an extraordinary intervention into a state political race by the president, and is a delicate one, given that Mr. Paterson is one of only two African-American governors in the nation.

But Mr. Obama’s political team and other party leaders have grown increasingly worried that the governor’s unpopularity could drag down Democratic members of Congress in New York, as well as the Democratic-controlled Legislature, in next fall’s election.

A few weeks ago, Paterson accused a “racist” media of causing his political headaches, which didn’t go over well at the post racial White House.

Paterson’s excuse-making ignored the role his inept, bumbling effort at filling Sen. Hillary Clinton’s vacant US Senate seat played in creating public perceptions about his leadership (or lack thereof) abilities. A prolonged circus in the state senate over the summer further enraged Empire State voters (although Paterson actually came out looking better than his former colleagues in the upper chamber).

Let’s face it, it’s going to be hard to dismiss political pressure from the nation’s first African American president to step aside as motivated by “racism.” Although it is ironic (and a bit tragic) that Obama finds himself meddling in Empire State politics yet again, as it was his selection of Clinton as Secretary of State that started Paterson’s political troubles in the first place.

Paterson’s outright rejection of the White House entreaties reveals -yet again - a leader with questionable political instincts. It would have been in his best interest to quietly negotiate a federal appointment that would allow him to gracefully exit Albany. Democrats, free from the Paterson albatross, could nominate AG Andrew Cuomo, who polls show to be a much stronger gubernatorial candidate without further roiling their electoral coalition.

By allowing this to become a media story he risks further dividing the state Democratic Party, putting the Governor’s Chair at risk of a GOP takeover. Any subsequent administration appointment will look like a politically-motivated ploy that Republicans could turn into a campaign issue.

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