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.

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The Election of a Generation

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Over at the Democratic Governor’s Association, they have taken to calling the current 2009-2010 political cycle “The Election of a Generation.” At first this may seem to be self-serving hyperbole, especially after the seismic 2008 presidential campaign. But it’s hard to deny that the elections that began this month in New Jersey and Virginia will have an enormous impact on the American story for decades to come. In the current cycle voters in all but three states (WV, MT and MS) will be electing either a governor or a senator. In at least 25 states (TX and UT could be added to the list) voters will be electing both. 

But it’s not simply the sheer volume of potentially competitive contests that make this election so critical. Many political observers believe a Republican Party resurgence (if it come) will begin at the state level. We’ve already seen Republican governors jockeying for positioning in the 2012 GOP presidential sweepstakes by challenging the Obama Administration on stimulus funding. While the Republican Party is a greatly diminished minority in DC, it still holds key governor’s mansions in strongly Democratic states (CA, CT, HI, VT and RI), critical swing states (FL, NV, and AZ) while Democrats maintain footholds in unlikely red locales like Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Kansas.

National Republicans are already looking to the 2009 New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial contests as opportunities to thwart the Obama victory’s transformative potential. If Democrats fail to defend critical Governorships, conservative commentators will be heralding America’s return to it’s ‘right-of-center’ roots. By holding steady in 2010, Democrats can solidify the gains made over the past two election cycles and further validate Obama’s victory.

Because many incumbent governors are bumping up against term limits, there are a slew of Governor’s Mansions that will have new inhabitants in January 2011. Since governors in most states play a role in the nation’s annual redistricting ritual, the victors will draw the maps that will influence the balance of power in the House of Representatives throughout the next decade. Political observers currently predict about a half dozen competitive senate races on the horizon. The same forecasters foresee double that number of gubernatorial races to be “toss-ups.”

What does “The Election of a Generation” look like?

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