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


Prop 8, Pat’s Pitchforks and the Guber Contests

By · Aug, 05 2010

The emerging conventional wisdom among the chattering classes is that yesterday’s landmark legal ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker that California’s Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution on both due process and equal protection grounds places Democrats, particularly President Obama, in an unenviable political predicament heading into the November mid-terms.

The president, who has skillfully ducked and bobbed around the contentious issue, is probably thankful he’s not on the ballot this time around. The decision may hurt a handful of already endangered congressmen by further motivating the conservative base, but considering how the question of marriage equality has roiled state capitals for a decade now, but will it affect the governor’s contests?

Over at 538 there are a couple of relevant posts about the decision’s potential affects. Nate analyzes whether or not gay marriage could be resurrected as a potent force as it was in 2004 following Massachusetts historic legalization of same-sex marriage. He observes that the Tea Party’s relative silence on the issue has been a wise political strategy, even if its been accidental. The GOP Establishment, however, has shown an eagerness to push their anti-gay marriage position.

And that’s where the GOP might overreach.

After watching Pat Buchanan foaming at the mouth like it was the 1992 GOP convention this morning, it seems the issue may prove far too tempting for the homophobes to prevent themselves from showing their rabid homophobia – and potentially turning off moderate (and younger voters).

As another 538 post graphically shows, gay marriage is gaining support in every state (except Utah). While it garners majority support in only a handful of states, conservatives should tread lightly in revealing their inner Archie Bunkers, or they could further alienate younger voters and actually give them a reason to go to the polls this November. Could Pat Buchanan once again help motivate otherwise apathetic voters to get to the polls again? Nate wonders whether or not Sarah Palin will be able to refrain herself from jumping into the fray…

The National Organization for Marriage has been on a nationwide “Summer for Marriage” bus tour targeting politicians in states where marriage equality has been enacted or is gaining traction. They’ve aired commercials in many states, including New Hampshire, Minnesota and Iowa hoping to either prevent or rollback same-sex marriage.  Prior to the decision, it appeared their efforts were failing to gain traction.

Democrat John Lynch  - despite ads chanting “Lynch Lied!” – appears to be comfortably cruising toward an unprecedented fourth term in New Hampshire. GOP guber wannabe Tom Emmer’s strident anti-LGBT positions have been used against him in Minnesota, where he trails all potential DFL candidates. Despite NOM’s efforts, DFL state legislative candidates are running on marriage equality in the Gopher State.

In Iowa, incumbent Chet Culver’s political problems are driven more by economic issues than the decisive social issues, where Bob Vander Plaats, the Republican who campaigned on the issue of ending gay marriage in the Hawkeye State, failed to win the GOP nod. The issue was barely a blip in all but a handful of legislative races and while GOP nominee Terry Branstad has promised to put the issue before Iowa voters, it been peripheral to jobs and the economy.

The judge’s decision probably affects Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial bid the most. How does she placate the conservative base in the Golden State who are undoubtedly enraged that the court has ‘overruled’ the will of the people as expressed in the Prop 8 vote?

If she comes out too forcefully against the ruling, she risks alienating the broad swath of independent voters who are critical to her candidacy this November. She has seemed to successfully pivoted from her pre-primary immigrant-bashing to attract a sizable percentage of the Latino vote, according to polls. Maneuvering this minefield may require more than simply pumping millions of dollars into TeeVee advertising.

It’s a far easier political play for Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose challenge is to motivate progressives and left-leaning moderates to get to the polls. Now that the battleground has shifted to the federal courts, will they see any reason to turn out this November?

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