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 Accidental Governors

The Arizona Republic issues one of the most twisted political endorsements I’ve read in a long time.

Essentially, their support of Republican Jan Brewer (who no longer has any serious GOP challengers after both Dean Martin and Buz Mills dropped out) comes despite their strong objections to her headstrong support of the controversial anti-immigration law she signed this past spring.

Nevermind that it was precisely the signing of the “If You’re Brown, Hit the Ground” legislation that propelled her past all challengers in the polls.

We disagree strongly with Brewer on one issue in particular – her ardent support for Senate Bill 1070, the immigration-enforcement law. We believe her signature on that law has badly damaged the state’s reputation by making Latino citizens feel they are under perpetual suspicion.

That is a significant concern. And one that will make governing more difficult should she win election in the fall.

On the other side of the ledger, we cannot overlook the strong, affirmative leadership she has demonstrated since ascending to her job in 2009, a demonstration of growth in the face of adversity.

There is a reason she has chased off most of her GOP adversaries. Brewer may not be the most articulate candidate out there. She may not exactly ooze sophistication. But she combines a sincere interest in doing what she sees best for Arizona with an often surprising capacity to enact her preferred policies.

Inarticulate and unsophisticated with a surprising capacity to enact her preferred policies. Wasn’t Dubya enough?

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IL: Brady’s Bluster

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Bill Brady has been spending too much time in the Fox News echo chamber.

After narrowly winning the Republican guber nomination in February by 193 votes in a crowded GOP primary, he’s boasting he could beat Barack Obama this fall if the president was his opponent this November.

“I think I could beat the president running for governor in Illinois today,” Brady, a state senator, said during a visit to Washington this week, pointing to Obama’s record on government spending.

Brady, who used to play poker with Obama during their period in the state Senate, joked: “I used to say I enjoyed taking his money, but now I think he’s taking mine.”

Talk about too big for your britches.

Brady may indeed win against Quinn, but beating the “Accidental Governor” would be a far cry from being able to beat Obama, who has proven his ability to win statewide.

In Quinn, Brady has an opponent who has only won statewide election as the second fiddle on  a ticket topped by Rod Blagojevich. Blago’s ongoing corruption scandal can’t end soon enough for Quinn, who simply hopes to keep himself as distant from the squalid details of the disgraced buffoon’s antics.

Quinn has also embraced the politically unpopular position of raising taxes to address the state’s woeful fiscal situation. Brady, on the other hand, simply repeats the Republican mantra, promising to cut spending and taxes. Even a former Republican governor has criticized Brady’s no-tax pledge as unrealistic and unworkable. Brady is simply telling people what they want to hear.

From a strategic standpoint it doesn’t seem wise for Brady to be making the gubernatorial contest about Obama. His path to victory is paved by the Blago scandals and Illinois’ economic woes. Attacking Illinois’ favorite son might not play well with the independent voters he’s going to need to win.

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AZ- Voters Pass Jan’s Tax Hike

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Voters in Arizona went to the polls Tuesday and sent a message to political leaders around the nation. By an overwhelming margin (64-36%), they voted to impose a temporary one-cent sales tax on themselves to help the state overcome it’s fiscal problems.

All that anti-tax, anti-big government anger may be nothing more than the sound and fury of a frustrated electorate who feels leaders aren’t doing the jobs they’ve been elected to. When Arizona’s voters understood what was at stake, they opted to fund their government’s basic services.

And the leader who advocated tax increases – Republican Jan Brewer – may reap political rewards.

The big political winner in this election is Jan Brewer, who went against her party’s anti-tax ideology and staked her political future on the vote’s outcome. The overwhelming victory (which may have been assisted by her pandering to the GOP base on immigration) lessens the power of her primary challengers’  anti-tax messages.  All of the GOP candidates were opposed to the initiative.

Democratic AG Terry Goddard, who refused to take a position on the ballot question until the closing days of the campaign, is now facing an emboldened incumbent who has an impressive political victory under her belt. Goddard’s lack of political courage on the question could severely weaken his ability to win the seat from Brewer in November.

The media is fascinated by a handful of high-profile elections today. How potent will the Tea Party prove to be in the Bluegrass State? Will Democratic voters reject a long-serving Senator who switched parties to save his own career? Will a conservative Southern Democrat fend off a challenge from her left? What will all this mean to the White House? Will today’s results provide a look into what November’s midterms may hold?

All of this is fascinating, but there’s an election going on out west that might be a more important measure of the electorate’s temperament.

In what just may be the MOST overlooked election in a day that has quite a few (is anyone mentioning the PA gubernatorial contest or the Kentucky Democratic Primary?) Arizona voters will help determine the

Will they choose to increase taxes to pull  the state back from the edge of a fiscal precipice? Or will they reject a temporary one-cent sales tax increase backed by Gov. Jan Brewer, pushing the state’s finances into a deeper hole?

Long before she became the center of the immigration debate, the Accidental Governor had upset her fellow Republicans by advocating a temporary one cent sales tax hike to solve the state’s fiscal problems.  The argument could be made she chose to sign the strict “If You’re Brown, Hit the Ground” immigration law to shore up support among the base she had lost over the tax issue.

It’s questionable whether or not there’s anything Brewer could do to convince the GOP’s anti-tax base to vote in favor of the measure. But there is no question the state faces dire choices if the voters reject her proposal.

The Seattle Times reported yesterday that Governor Christine Gregoire is on Obama’s short list to replace Elena Kagan as Solicitor General if she her Supreme Court nomination is approved. Depending on when Gregoire steps down (if she’s chosen and approved), it could mean another gubernatorial election this November.

It would also add Light Gov Bill Owen to the long list of Accidental Governors now serving in state capitals across the country (Alaska’s Sean Parnell, Utah’s Gary Herbert, Illinois’ Pat Quinn, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Kansas’ Mark Parkinson and New York’s David Paterson).

If Gregoire left after this month, but before Oct. 3, there would be a special filing period and everyone who files would get their name on the ballot. It would be a November free-for-all.

If Gregoire left after Oct. 3, Owen would stay in office until 2012, although there’s a possibility for the state Legislature to set a special election for 2011.

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A Penny for the Future?

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The missing back story to the national maelstrom created by the “If You’re Brown, Drop to the Ground” law, is the fact that Arizona voters will be going to the polls on May 18th and voting on a Jan Brewer-backed measure to temporarily  increase sales taxes by 1% to help the state weather the fiscal crisis.

Brewer’s tax-hike heresy had been a political albatross threatening her political viability among the GOP base. Now that she’s shored up her GOP support by proving how tough she is, will her tax hike proposal muster enough support? Or will she be staring into a financial abyss? Has she alienated Democrats who might have been more receptive to the ballot question by signing the bill? Will Latinos vote against anything that has her name attached to it simply to send a message?

The Arizona Republic has come to her aid with an editorial supporting a YES vote on Prop 100.

This temporary penny-per-dollar increase in the sales tax is vital to your future. It will stabilize the state budget and prevent devastating cuts to basic services, including education.

Voting against Prop. 100 would hurt students, parents, our health-care system, vulnerable Arizonans and local taxpayers, who would who have to support services the state pushed down to cities and counties. Arizona’s future would be dimmer for all of us.

It will be fascinating to see how Brewer campaigns on this ballot question over the next two weeks. Does she think she’s built up enough political capital to survive the crowded primary in late August?

I wonder if she’d accept a penny for her thoughts?

Salt Lake City Mayor Peter Corroon hopes by reaching across the aisle to select his Light Guv running mate he can overcome the huge advantage Utah Republicans have in statewide elections. Recent polls show him falling further behind incumbent “Accidental Governor” Gary Herbert. His selection of retiring state Rep. Sheryl Allen, a lifelong Republican who co-founded the centrist (?) Reagan Caucus.

With a Deseret News survey showing that a majority of delegates attending this weekend’s GOP state convention supportive of the Tea Party (where ultra-conservative and long-time Senator Bob Bennett appears heading for a resounding rejection), it’s seems that Corroon is hoping the extreme right turn the GOP has taken in recent months might be too much for lifetime members of the party.

Will picking a moderate Republican make a difference? It’s not unprecedented – picking a GOP Light Guv dance partner helped Dem Kathleen Sebelius back in 2006 – although her pick, Mark Parkinson switched party affiliation before being named to the ticket. Or is this simply a publicity stunt from a long-shot Democratic candidate running in a very Republican state in what many politicos believe will be a very Republican election year?

Or might moderate Republicans follow Allen across the aisle?

On Monday, Allen shrugged off the potential for political fallout from within her own party for joining the Democratic ticket.

“I really want to preach the gospel of bipartisanship,” she said, “that cooperation is more important than party politics. Utah needs to come first. I hope that becomes the trend across the nation.”

Despite her moderate views, Allen insisted Monday that she remains Republican, although she plans to attend Saturday’s Utah Democratic Convention.

“I’m not coming out of the closet,” she said. “I’m still Republican. But I am a Republican who likes to cross the aisle — always have been, always will be. That is how you solve problems. I would love it if Washington would do that more often.”

Did she just commit political suicide in this partisan era? Or might she have stumbled upon the true desire of the  American electorate?

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One Accidental Governor Cruising

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Utah’s Gary Herbert (who took over when Obama sent his predecessor Jon Huntsman on a slow boat to China) appears to be escaping the wrath of the anti-incumbent fury engulfing other Republicans in the Beehive State. A Mason-Dixon poll conducted for the Salt Lake Tribune finds Herbert with a whopping 31-point advantage over Democratic challenger Salt Lake City Mayor Peter Corroon.

A poll taken three months ago showed Corroon trailing 55-30, with 15% undecided. Since then, Corroon has been stuck in place at that 30% benchmark (cold that be the ceiling for Democrats in this conservative state?) and Herbert has picked up six percentage points – with undecideds now only at 9%. One of Corroon’s biggest challenges (other than the D next to his name) is a relatively low name ID around the state. After months of campaigning he is still unknown to 20% of voters.

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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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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.

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