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

800px-governors_by_party

Archive for February, 2010

Feb
26

Paterson to Call It Quits

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“Accidental Governor” David Paterson’s turbulent tenure in Albany will end without the spectacle of the embattled incumbent seeking re-election to the post he assumed when Eliot Spitzer resigned. It wasn’t abysmal poll numbers, the governor’s inability to manage the incapacitating gridlock from last summer’s senate stalemate in Albany nor recent media reports about Paterson’s aloof and disengaged management style that precipitated the surrender.

The end comes amid the allegations the governor may have abused his power by interfering in a criminal investigation of one of his senior aides. Despite assurances he would continue his recently launched campaign, the political support had simply evaporated. According to Politico:

Asked what finally forced Paterson’s hand, a senior Democrat close to the White House said, “In the end he was rebuffed everywhere he turned for support.”

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Kay Bailey Hutchison has been courting Texas moderates in her primary showdown with Governor Rick Perry. The conventional wisdom has long been that, as the long-term incumbent governor tacked to the right to court the support of the primary electorate, Hutchison could woo the support of the more “moderate” element within the state GOP.

The surge of support for Ron Paul acolyte Debra Medina fueled by Tea Party energy and furor and the emergence of former Houston Mayor Bill White as the anticipated Democratic nominee should have, theoretically, strengthened Hutchison’s position. Medina should have drained support from Perry’s right flank while Hutchison could forcefully make the argument that she would be the more electable nominee in November against a credible Democratic threat to retake the Governor’s Mansion in Austin.

But that hasn’t happened. In fact, Hutchison continues to bleed support. Recent polls show Perry inching towards the magical 50% benchmark that would give him the nomination outright.

Perhaps those independent voters aren’t really Kay’s key to winning. It may be that longtime Democratic voters could hand Perry a big enough victory to avoid an April run-off.

Some are “mischief” voters who believe Houston Mayor Bill White, the likely Democratic nominee, has a better chance in November if Perry wins. Others are moderates who tend to follow the action but would be expected to lean toward Hutchison. And some are gung-ho anti-Perry voters, another Hutchison ray of hope.

Polls have shown Perry winning handily, although it’s not clear he can do so without a runoff. But the campaigns are scrambling to determine how many nontraditional voters might participate in the election, including first-time voters and participants in one or more Democratic primaries.

Not all the evidence that former Democratic voters could be a factor on the GOP side is anecdotal. An assessment of early voting in Austin by Jeff Smith of Opinion Analysts Inc., reported by the Austin American-Statesman on Tuesday, showed that almost 28 percent of early GOP voters cast ballots in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

It’s a given that Austin doesn’t vote like the rest of the state, and certainly not every 2008 primary voter was a true Democrat. Smith speculated that most of those who cast GOP ballots this time were moderates who jump back and forth, but no one knows for sure.

Mike Baselice, Perry’s pollster, said he expects to see more voters in the primary who’ve cast Democratic ballots in the past.

“It’s a wild card,” he said, “but from what I’m seeing, we’re doing better with them than the other candidates are.”

Could Democratic voters be borrowing a page from Rush Limbaugh’s political playbook, aiming to get Perry as White’s November opponent?

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The busy beavers over at Rasmussen polled the Oregon gubernatorial race and found a campaign that might present a pick-up opportunity for the Republican Party. The Democrats have two well-known figures in the race – former Governor John Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Both sport  net positive favorable numbers, although the higher-profile Kitzhaber (who once described the state as “ungovernable”) is clearly more polarizing with more than a quarter of respondents saying they held a very unfavorable view of him.

The GOP field remains relatively unknown, except for former NBA Portland Trail Blazer Chris Dudley, who is making his first step into the political arena (making one conservative pundit dream of a “West Coast Scott Brown”) and Bill Sizemore – well-known as a prolific sponsor of citizen initiatives – carries sky-high negatives for any prospective candidate.

  

Candidate

Very Favorable

Somewhat Favorable

Somewhat Unfavorable

Very Unfavorable

Not sure

Bradbury (D)

20%

26%

18%

13%

23%

Kitzhaber (D)

26%

18%

15%

27%

13%

Alley (R)

9%

21%

21%

8%

41%

Dudley (R)

9%

31%

20%

4%

36%

Lim (R)

6%

25%

19%

9%

41%

Sizemore (R)

6%

16%

16%

44%

17%

Read More→

Categories : Open Seats, Oregon, Polls
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Feb
21

What is He Thinking?

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The start of every American Idol season provides numerous cringe-worthy moments where a tone-deaf aspirant attempts to impress the panel of judges with a voice that should never be allowed out of a well-insulated shower stall. Dreams of fame and fortune blind these youngsters to their blatant inability to carry a tune. Like a horrific car accident on the highway, many of us find it impossible to look away.

I often find myself asking, doesn’t anyone love that person enough to tell him the truth before they step in front of cameras and embarrass themselves on national TV?

This is the same thought I have upon hearing the news David Paterson is defiantly running for re-election.

Read More→

Feb
21

PollWatch (AK) – Hayes: Sarah Who?

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Guess this is what happens when you give up in mid-term. Hayes Research, an Alaska-based polling outfit polled 400 adults in the Last Frontier and it seems  the little lady from Wasilla’s pursuit of glory and fame in the Lower 48 hasn’t endeared her to her former constituents. The polarization is notable. While 33% have a very positive view of their former governor, nearly an equal number – 31% – now hold a very negative view of her.

palin combined chart

On the other hand, her replacement, former Lt. Gov Sean Parnell, is enjoying sky-high approval numbers. In an era of anti-incumbent voter anger a positive rating of 73% is stratospheric.

It appears Alaskans have decided to “love the one they’re with” rather than pining for the  one that got away.

parnell combined chart

The last of the Texas’ five major dailies, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, has made their gubernatorial picks and it’s unanimous. The Fourth Estate has spoken as one. All five newspapers endorsed Democrat Bill White and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in their respective primaries. Considering the anti-establishment fever sweeping the electorate, you have to wonder if the Hutchison camp is happy with a clean sweep. The blessing bestowed by the MSM may doom her dwindling prospects in a conservative-dominated GOP primary.

The editors had this to say about the former Houston Mayor:

During six years as mayor of the state’s largest city, White worked to make the Houston area the nation’s leader in job growth while orchestrating a budget reorganization that reduced the city’s unfunded employee pension liabilities. His pragmatic approach to air-quality issues related to natural gas drilling reveals a reasonable balance between public safety and economic development. And his direction of Houston’s response to the migration of Hurricane Katrina refugees from New Orleans followed by those fleeing the threats of Hurricanes Rita and Ike highlighted his logistical deftness and humanitarian understanding.

White’s appeal to voters — he was re-elected mayor twice, with 86 percent and 91 percent — is that he’s not a partisan ideologue but someone with an intellect who listens as well as he leads.

In picking the state’s senior Senator in the intraparty struggle with long-time incumbent Rick Perry, the editors highlighted Hutchison’s willingness to engage in crafting legislation:

Hutchison, 66, brings fresh eyes and a measured approach that would benefit Texas after years of Perry’s heavy-handed and often myopic tactics. Despite his public posturing on issues such as mandating HPV vaccines, Perry was often MIA during legislative sessions. Only after the sessions ended did he emerge, veto pen in hand, to undo what a majority of legislators favored.

Hutchison’s willingness to work with lawmakers as bills are crafted would be a welcome change. The state needs a governor who will reach across party and ideological lines to build coalitions that tackle the thorny issues of a balanced budget, education and transportation.

White is widely favored to win the Democratic nod, as the campaign of his closest competitor Farouk Shami appears to be in a chaotic freefall. The endorsements are simply icing on the cake for a Democratic Party trying to regain it’s footing deep in the heart of Texas after decades of being shut out in Austin. On the Republican side, however, voters have a unique opportunity. The nationwide anti-incumbent mood can be vented against two of the Lone Star State’s most high-profile political figures, the stamp of approval from the state’s dailies may actually be the kiss of death in this “throw the bums out” atmosphere.

Hutchison now trails Perry significantly in a race she had once been considered the odds-on favorite.  Recent polls show upstart Ron Paul acolyte Debra Medina within range of actually finishing ahead of Kay. What was once thought to be her race to lose has transformed into a race in which she could embarrassingly finish in third. She’s now simply hoping to finish second and holding Perry below fifty percent to force an April run-off.

While much has been made about the Democratic Party’s recent troubles at the polling booth, the infighting and voter upheaval underway in the Texas GOP primary reveals political volatility across the spectrum.

Message – incumbents beware.

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Feb
20

Perry’s Political Grandstanding

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With polls showing Texas Governor Rick Perry expanding his primary lead over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and within striking distance of avoiding an April runoff, he’s making moves hoping to cut into upstart candidate Debra Medina’s surging numbers. He’s hoping he can attract enough support to surpass the magical 50% threshold by taking on three of the right’s favorite bogeymen – the federal government, unions and environmentalists.

On Tuesday, Perry held a presser announcing  the state’s lawsuit challenging the EPA’s recent decision to regulate greenhouse gases. “In defense of hard-working Texans,” Perry proclaimed the litigation would “defend Texas’ environmental successes against federal overreach.”

Regarding Texas’ environmental successes, Houston and Dallas are among the seven most polluted US cities, based on ozone levels, according to the American Lung Association.

On Thursday, his office released a letter the governor wrote in support of Toyota to the Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  As the troubled automaker approaches congressional hearings Perry described the Japanese car-maker as “a valued employer and corporate citizen and an integral part of the Texas economy” and bemoaned the plight of Toyota workers who were blamelessly caught in the middle.

Who is to blame, according to Perry? Is it a corporate entity obsessed with rapid global expansion as a recent Washington Post article revealed?

Nope.

Perry places the blame on the Right’s typical targets. From the letter:

“The company has taken big steps to enhance its reputation for quality and to repair vehicles,” Perry wrote. “It does sometimes appear, however, that the negative news is being encouraged by plaintiffs’ trial lawyers, union activists and those interested in cutting into Toyota’s market share.”

Perry said that “Toyota workers are unfortunately caught in the middle” and everyone should “be able to agree that consumer and highway safety must take priority over grandstanding.”

It seems that Perry’s letter is nothing more than political posturing for the conservative base. As The Detroit News notes, Hutchison, Perry’s March 2 primary opponent, is the Ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee which also plans Toyota hearings, ironically scheduled for election day. The irony of a politician who has spent the past year courting the support of the Tea Party movement now defending the interests of an Asian car company says a lot about the cognitive dissonance  pervading current American political discourse.

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