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 Ballot Initiatives


Guber Quick Hits, 2/3/11

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California: Gov. Jerry Brown’s strategists are considering pursuing holding his proposed special election to extend taxes exclusively by mail. It’s not clear whether ‘going postal’ would help or hurt the chances of winning.

Florida: Politico writes about Gov. Rick Scott’s desire to muzzle the media.

Iowa: Of the nine finalists nominated to fill the three Supreme Court vacancies, one donated to Gov. Terry Branstad’s winning campaign while another made a contribution to Chet Culver.

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie, the darling of small government tea partiers, has signed two bills that “increase his dominion” over recession-ravaged Atlantic City.

Texas: Gov. Rick Perry is delivering the keynote address at next week’s CPAC gathering.

Texas II: Could the budget hole be so deep that it threatens funding for high school football?

Virginia: Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has requested an expedited Supreme Court review of Virginia’s challenge to the federal health care law. Since most legal observers expect a denial from the high court, you have to wonder about Cuccinelli’s motivation. Keeping his name in the headlines on this issue positions him as the GOP front-runner for the 2013 gubernatorial race.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency due to the blizzard yesterday, urging motorists to stay off the roads and closed state offices to the public, but then told state workers they had to come to work or take a vacation day.

And from beyond the StateHouses:

Are we heading for a fourth wave election? One prognosticator thinks the Dems may be able to catch a wave in 2012.

With the Census Bureau reporting that racial minorities accounted for 85% of the nation’s population growth over the past decade, Latino activists expect “a minimum of nine additional Latino-majority House seats” when redistricting is said and done.

Is there room for two Mormons in the 2012 GOP presidential primary?


Guber Quick Hits, Wed 7/7/10

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Colorado: The Denver Post editorializes against a trio of ballot questions that, if passed, could cripple Colorado’s state government.

Georgia: Wealthy businessman Ray Boyd, who attempted to run for the GOP guber nod (but was purged for refusing to take loyalty pledge) and then threw in the towel when he realized just how time consuming and expensive gathering all those signatures required of a third party candidate, has gotten most of his money back.

Maryland: Long-shot GOP candidate Brian Murphy (yes, Bob Ehrlich does have a primary to get through before he gets his shot at revenge) has selected his second Light Guv dance partner of the campaign. His first choice, clearly not a fan of lost causes, abandoned the ticket when Ehrlich made it clear he was running.

Minnesota: In the game of “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours” DFL-endorsed guber hopeful Margaret Anderson Kelliher followed front-runner Mark Dayton in releasing her tax returns for public review. Will that force fellow DFLer Matt Entenza or Republican Tom Emmer to release theirs as well?

New York: Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino hasn’t given up in his gubernatorial quest. He’s still petitioning to appear on the GOP primary ballot but he’s also planning on appearing on the yet-to-be-formed Taxpayer party line in November.

Oklahoma: Jan Brewer continues her effort to dislodge Sarah as the GOP’s Queen Bee. She’s endorsing Okie Mama Grizzly Mary Fallin’s guber run, also, you betcha!

Tennessee: Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam – who probably could have financed his own gubernatorial run with his own bank account – has raised an intimidating $8.7 million from 12,000 individual donors for his campaign.

Utah: The debates about the debates is underway in the Beehive State. Gov. Gary Herbert proposed a series of eight forums, while Democrat Peter Corroon wants 22.


Guber Quick Hits, Sat 6/26/10

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Alaska: Republican guber wannabe Bill Walker is requesting files for records related to the state’s natural gas pipeline open season, a huge economic issue dominating Alaskan politics. Walker believes Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration should be more transparent about the process, the outcome of which will affect Alaskans for generations to come.

Arizona: Just days after becoming a member of the NRA’s executive committee, GOP guber wannabe Buz Mills was passed over as the gun lobby endorsed incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer for re-election.

California: Big redistricting battle looms this fall, as Golden State voters will be asked to weigh in in two competing redistricting ballot initiatives. One seeks to expand 2008′s Proposition 11 to include congressional redistricting. The other seeks to undo the commission created by Prop 11.

Illinois: Scott Lee Cohen’s 133,000 signatures to get on the ballot as an independent guber wannabe may not be challenged by Pat Quinn or the Democrats, but two cases currently in the courts could kick him off the ballot prior to the September certification of the final ballot by the State Board of Elections.

Kansas: In a preemptive move dismissing a nod he probably had little chance of getting, Democrat Tom Holland has told the state Chamber of Commerce he doesn’t want their support, saying “The priorities and actions of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce have become highly partisan and detrimental to the development of our state’s economy.”

Maine: Independent candidate Eliot Cutler leads the pack of privately finance gubernatorial candidates having raised over $700,000.

New York: Rick Lazio wants the Empire State to say good-bye to Hollywood, or at least Dem plans to expand movie industry tax breaks.

Oregon: Bucking the trend of Attorneys General filing suit against the new health care legislation, the Beaver State’s AG wants to file an amicus brief in favor of the federal government’s position in the healthcare lawsuit.

South Carolina: The SC Chamber of Commerce endorsement of Democrat Vincent Sheheen is providing hope to Palmetto State Dems they might derail Nikki Haley.

Texas: Public Policy Polling shows Kay Bailey Hutchison’s approval dropping from 58% to 37% over the past 16 months. How much of that is due to the beating she took from Rick Perry during their gubernatorial primary contest and how much of that is simply the national wave of disgust at DC politicians is difficult to determine. But if she does change her mind (again) and decide to run for another Senate term, she may be in for a tough campaign.


Guber Quick Hits, Mon 6/14/10

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Connecticut: Former Stamford Mayor Dannell Malloy has failed to win the support of the Nutmeg State’s big city Democratic mayors who have all endorsed Ned Lamont’s primary bid.

Florida: Gov. Charlie Crist continued his independent march to the middle with Friday’s veto of a controversial abortion bill. The Miami Herald reports how the decision not only enraged his former allies on the right, but also his former opponents on the left.

Hawaii: Linda Lingle is consulting spiritual advisers as she contemplates the civil unions sitting on her desk.

Iowa: Following through on a promise made during the heat of the GOP gubernatorial primary campaign, the Iowa Family Policy Council has announced it will sit out the general election campaign between GOP nominee Terry Branstad and Democratic incumbent Chet Culver.

Iowa II: Fueled by a competitive gubernatorial primary and a crowded field in the 3rd Congressional district race, Republican voter participation rose to levels not seen since 1994.

Maryland: Former Governor Bob Ehrlich is promising to join the anti-health care reform lawsuits if he defeats Martin O’Malley.

Nevada: A ballot drive to amend the state constitution in order to raise the state’s mining taxes has failed to acquire enough valid signatures to make it onto November’s ballot. The failure to get an initiative designed to address the state’s inadequate tax structure before voters makes it even more difficult to imagine how the next governor will address the state’s fiscal crisis.

Ohio: The NRA endorsed Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland in the gubernatorial contest. Four years ago, the powerful gun lobby remained neutral in Strickland’s 2006 race against Ted Blackwell.

Pennsylvania: Keystone Republicans gathered in Hershey over the weekend for their post-primary group hug, the Morning Call’s John Micek reports. A stumbling block for guber nominee Tom Corbett remains. Sam Rohrer has yet to join forces with the Corbett camp, undermining their unity efforts.

Texas: Many Lone Star State political observers are predicting Rick Perry will dodge the debate bullet and avoid taking stage with Democrat Bill White in their gubernatorial contest.

Vermont: Democrat Doug Racine has brought on a veteran political mind familiar to most Vermonters for his role in propelling former Gov. Howard Dean to national prominence in 2004.


ME: Tax Overhaul Rejected

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Maine voters soundly rejected the legislature’s effort to overhaul the state’s tax system. The new law, which had been put on hold pending the outcome of the vote, would have lowered income taxes while expanding sales taxes on several new items and increased the meals and lodging tax.

According to Maine Revenue Services estimates, 90% of Mainers would have seen a net tax reduction. Despite those forecasts, voters chose the status quo.

Supporters of tax reform have said that the changes would shift the tax burden more evenly and provide stability to a tax base that is too reliant on building materials and new car sales. More importantly, a big chunk of the expanded sales tax would be paid by out-of-state visitors to tourist-friendly Maine.

Opponents, who gathered the 55,000 signatures needed to put the referendum question on the ballot, have said they didn’t mind the income tax reduction, but they have argued that expanding sales taxes hurts Maine residents. New taxable categories such as car repairs, pet grooming and dry cleaning have drawn the most ire.

The reform bill also eliminated many income tax deductions and exemptions from the state’s tax code, something repeal supporters claimed would hurt businesses, although those deductions and exemptions were replaced by a refundable tax credit.

Maine Revenue Services had projected a $55 million reduction in tax burden for Maine residents and estimated that as many as 90 percent of Mainers would see a net tax reduction.

“We passed up an opportunity that may never come around again,” Sen. Perry said Tuesday night. “The worst part is, the yes side never came in to work on this, so I’d be interested to see if they have an alternative to tax reform.”

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CA: Meg’s Registration Disadvantage

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Golden State Democrats continue expanding their voter registration advantage over the GOP. Data released by the Secretary of State’s office revealed 44.5% of registered voters have declared themselves Democrats (up from 42.7% in 2006), 30.8% registered as Republicans (a big slide from the 34.4% in ’06), while DTS (decline to state) voters rose to 20.2% from 18.5%.

That registration gap is going to be very difficult for Meg Whitman to overcome, especially after she served so far to the right on immigration during the primary battle with Steve Poizner. Considering she spent an estimated $80-$90 million to garner 1.1 million GOP primary votes, she’s probably looking at dipping into her Cayman Island bank accounts for at least another $125 million for the general election. That was originally what MegaBucks had indicated she was willing to spend to win, but it’s clear she’ll exceed that in the coming months as Jerry Brown and Democratic-allied groups gear up their attack ads.

With voters approving the “Top-Two Open Primary” system by voter initiative yesterday, it will be interesting to see if voter preferences change. My gut says voters will be more inclined to decline a party ID even though DTS voters had previously been able to pick and choose which primary they’d like to vote in each election year.

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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.


Thursday’s Must Reads

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Virginia: The WaPo discusses the love-hate relationship Virginia politicians (mostly Republicans) have with Uncle Sam. They like to denounce federal deficits and stimulus packages but they’re the biggest pigs at the trough sucking up the cash. Did you know that ten cents of every dollar the federal government spends anywhere on Earth is spent in Virginia? I sure didn’t.

Ohio: Overlooked in the election results from Tuesday’s primaries was the surprisingly easy passage of State Issue 1 on the Buckeye State ballot. Belying the narrative that Americans are fed up with big government and stimulus spending, 60% of Ohio voters approved authorizing the state to issue $700 million in general-obligation bonds to keep the job-creating, high-tech Third Frontier investment program alive for three more years. Even GOP guber wannabe John Kasich had indicated he supported the program.

Huh? Hasn’t the GOP been telling us all along that government doesn’t create jobs?

Money Bombs Fizzle? – The Texas Tribune takes a look at campaign “money bombs” as a campaign tool. Sure, they raise money fast and often provide a media hit, but it’s not clear they translate into the one thing that matters: votes.

The Enthusiasm Gap Materializes: For months, we’ve heard about how conservatives and Republican voters are far more fired up to get out and vote in the 2010 midterms. Tuesday’s voting provided the first hard evidence that Democrats have a challenging task ahead – Democratic turnout was off nearly everywhere compared to the 2006 midterms.

It’s All About the Kids? – Harold Meyerson observes in the WaPo that  it’s students who are paying the highest price as states around the country make budget decisions. How do we build a 21st century workforce when we choose to shortchange our children’s future? Not only are we saddling future generations with unmanageable debt, we’re not giving them the tools to figure out how to deal with it. Meyerson writes:

One of the precious few points of consensus in our polarized land is that we need to do a better job educating our kids. But consensus, apparently, gets you only so far. In red states and blue, in urban, suburban and rural districts with unionized and non-unionized teachers, the story is the same: The worst recession since the 1930s is clobbering the nation’s schools.

Florida: Will the Man Without a Party wield his veto pen again? Pro-choice advocates could join teachers in the Charlie Crist Coalition if he does.

New Jersey: Former Gov. Jon Corzine’s decade long campaign finance spending spree has come to an end. It’s not sour grapes over being tossed from office last November that has caused him stop writing checks. It’s some of the clean government reforms he signed as governor may prohibit him, as the CEO of MF Holdings, to make contributions to Trenton officeholders.


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?