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 Demographics


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?


A Bigger House?

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The prevailing anti-government, Tea Party-fueled ‘take back America’ political climate might make arguing for an expansion of the US House of Representatives  a political non-starter, especially among conservatives. But here’s conservative syndicated columnist Jeff Jacoby making the argument (and citing the Founding Fathers) that the current system is inherently undemocratic.

According to the Census Bureau, there are now 710,767 Americans in the average congressional district. But with every state constitutionally entitled to at least one House seat, and with the membership of the House frozen at 435,districts can deviate widely from the average. Wyoming’s single US representative has just 568,000 constituents; the member from neighboring South Dakota has 820,000. That means a vote cast in Wyoming has nearly 1.5 times the impact of a South Dakotan’s vote.

An even more egregious violation of the “one man, one vote’’ principle is the inequality between Rhode Island’s two congressional districts, with 528,000 voters each, and Montana’s lone district, with 994,000. So great is that disparity, observes Scott Scharpen, the founder of an organization called Apportionment.US, that it takes 188 voters in Montana to equal 100 voters in Rhode Island.

It’s more than the increasing inequality that occurs every decade. The static size of Congress also contributes to the alienation between Representatives and the citizenry.

The larger districts grow, the less representative lawmakers become. Since 1910, the average number of constituents per House member has climbed from 210,000 to more than 710,000. Over the same span, members of Congress have grown more remote, more undefeatable, more beholden to special interests, and less capable of reflecting the diversity of their districts’ values and views. Smaller, more numerous districts, would be far more democratic, more accessible to new blood and new ideas, and more difficult to gerrymander.

Congress worked better when the size of the House was elastic. The Framers reckoned congressional districts should contain about 30,000 constituents; districts comprising nearly three-quarters of a million would have struck them as ludicrous.

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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…

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Must-Reads, Monday 5/17/10

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Who Carries More Risk from this Spring’s Primary Battles? – Nate Silver has a fascinating and thorough (as usual) rebuttal to a WSJ article claiming the leftist insurgent challenges in high-profile Democratic primary contests (Halter in Arkansas, Specter in Pennsylvania and Colleen Hanabusa in this week’s Hawai’i special) spell trouble for the Democrats in November. He argues competitive Democratic primaries are actually beneficial to the nominee who emerges while a Republican primary contest runs the risk of making the GOP nominee less attractive outside the party’s traditional base:

A great deal of American politics derives from the fact that the Democratic base is pluralistic (but therefore sometimes incohesive), whereas the Republican one is more homogenous (but therefore sometimes overly narrow). The Republicans’ cohesiveness has helped to reinforce their enthusiasm, and they are likely to have an excellent November. However, they could conceivably cost themselves 1-3 Senate seats, and 5-10 House seats, by nominating suboptimal (electorally speaking) candidates. By contrast, the effects of Democratic primary challenges are more ambiguous, and may be as much of a help to the party as a hindrance.

Man the Barricades! – File this under “The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same,” has a brief timeline of our nation’s immigration debate over the years. It’s a reminder that America’s desire to close the doors to new arrivals is quite often fueled by those who looked different from those already here. What was that about a post-racial politics?

A Demographic Earthquake is Transforming America – The Brookings Institution has released a comprehensive study analyzing the demographic transformation America is experiencing.  They describe the nation as undergoing “the most significant socio-demographic change since the huge wave of immigration in the early 20th Century.” They see the potential for great opportunity in these change but warn:

Failure to manage this change could have grave consequences for America’s future quality of life. But success would allow us to use this demographic transformation as a competitive advantage for the 21st century.

The study envisions both metropolitan areas and Washington working simultaneously as necessary to address these changes that will (or already are) affecting the lives of every American family. Their recommendations about the role of the federal government are unlikely to find support among the Tea Party crowd:

Washington should develop macro-level responses. These include comprehensive immigration reform that better incorporates new Americans into our society and economy; a revamping of transportation and housing policy that reduces energy inefficient sprawl and accommodates seniors; programs to increase post-secondary education for our emerging workforce; and redoubling efforts, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, that help make work pay for working-class families.

Presidential Meddling: With incumbents endangered seemingly everywhere one looks, it seems odd for the president to be investing his political capital in the high-profile Pennsylvania Sestak-Specter primary. In fact, the White House has created many of it’s own Senate political headaches. Politico has a look at how such risky moves quite often leave the president with a political embarrassment.