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 Election Results


Guber Quick Hits, Thurs 9/16/10

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Arkansas: Democratic incumbent Mike Beebe’s campaign has been endorsed by 73 of Arkansas’ 75 sheriffs.

California: Today marks the day the Golden State’s budget impasses moves into record-setting territory, as it surpasses the previous record set in 2008. To mark the occasion, Democratic guber wannabe Jerry Brown unveiled a proposal that would start next year’s budget plan from scratch. Is “zero-based budgeting” workable or simply an election year gimmick?

Florida: Rick Scott has made it clear he’s opposed to Obama’s stimulus spending, arguing during the guber primary that he would “fight all the stimulus money.” It’s somewhat awkward, then, that a firm he’s heavily invested in just received $36.1 million in Recovery Act funding to build a fiber-optic network in rural Louisiana.

Iowa: Hawkeye State Dems are hoping to use Sarah Palin’s upcoming visit to rally the base.

Iowa II: A piece of information that seems to be counterintuitive to the prevailing political narrative over the GOP’s huge enthusiasm gap. Democratic requests for absentee ballots in Iowa outnumber Republicans by nearly 3-1.

Nebraska: Democrat Mike Meister is trying to make the placement of TransCanada’s proposed oil pipeline across the Ogallala Aquifer an issue in his campaign against Gov. Dave Heineman. Meister says running it across the aquifer is too risky while Heineman says he isn’t focused on the issue.

Nevada: Rory (the younger) Reid has indicated he would sign a state budget that included tax increases, if it came across his desk. This represents a significant shift in the tax-averse Silver State, where candidates of all ideological stripes adhere to a no new tax mantra. With Rory trailing Republican Brian Sandoval badly in every public poll, is this shift a profile in courage or an act of political desperation?

New Mexico: Bill Clinton is doing yeoman’s work this campaign season. He’ll be joining Diane Denish on the trail next month.

Oregon: After falling far behind Republican Chris Dudley in the race for big campaign checks, Democrat John Kitzhaber has begun raking in donations from the state’s unions.

Vermont: After the drawn-out Democratic primary, it’s probably not all that surprising Peter Shumlin has less money in the bank than Lt. Gov Brian Dubie, who had no opposition in the GOP primary. But his $62,000 is a lot less than the $410,000 Dubie’s got in his warchest.

Wisconsin: Mark Neumann won more counties than Scott Walker in Tuesday’s GOP primary, but he lost overall because Walker dominated him in the populous suburban Milwaukee counties, a region that has become the key for Republican victories in the Badger State.

As expected, Rep. Mary Fallin defeated Tea Party favorite Randy Brogdon in the Oklahoma Republican primary by a 55%-39% margin.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins’ tight victory over AG Drew Edmondson in the Democratic Primary was the surprise of the day, setting up the second all-female gubernatorial major party matchup of the 2010 cycle (the other being in New Mexico). According to UVA’s Larry Sabato, these are only the third and fourth such matchups in US history.

The other noteworthy aspect came during Fallin’s election night victory speech at the Will Rogers Theater where her comments attacking the Obama Administration and federal government got the loudest, most robust cheers.

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The voter anger that is “sweeping the nation” this mid-term cycle wasn’t enough to motivate more than a handful of Georgia voters to get to the polls yesterday.

Democratic former Gov. Roy Barnes easily avoided a runoff in his primary by winning two-thirds of the vote.  This first step in his quest to regain the office he surprisingly lost to relative unknown Sonny Perdue back in 2002 was considered a formality, as he had dominated most polls and amassed a huge financial advantage over the Democratic field.

Republican voters were far less unified, with five different candidates winning at least one county in the state. Barnes will face off against either Sarah Palin-backed Karen Handel (34.1%) or Newt Gingrich-backed former US Rep. Nathan Deal (22.9%) who, along with state Sen. Eric Johnson (20.1%) all finished ahead of the best-financed candidate, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine (16.9%). Up until the campaign’s final days, Oxendine had held significant leads in most polling.

Beyond being a “proxy” battle for rival national figureheads, the runoff contest will pit the more moderate Handel against the ethically-challenged Deal, who left congress with lingering investigations about his family’s auto salvage business hanging over his head.

Handel, who survived charges of being too friendly to gays during the primary, may be forced to move further to the right to placate disappointed Tea Party activists who may gravitate toward Deal, who as a birther has built a solid foundation of Tea Party support.

The real kingmaker here may be Eric Johnson. An endorsement from him could help either candidate make inroads in southern and coastal Georgia.

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AL: Who Wudda Thunk?

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We’ve got a guber matchup down in Alabama few saw coming. In June the conventional wisdom had Rep. Artur Davis easily defeating Agriculture commisioner Ron Sparks. But Davis, who was attempting to make history as the Deep South’s first African American governor was dispatched rather easily by Sparks.

On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Bentley, who few predicted would even finish in the top three in the crowded GOP primary, convincingly defeated establishment favorite Bradley Byrne with 56% of the run-off vote.

Bentley’s victory got quite a bit of help from the AEA, the state’s powerful teachers union, which spent millions on commercials attacking Byrne, who had made diminishing the AEA’s influence a central theme of his campaign.

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There had been some speculation that the crowded Republican field in the South Dakota gubernatorial contest might result in a run-off if the top vote-getter didn’t reach the 35% threshold.

But Lt. Governor Dennis Daugaard cruised to a surprisingly easy victory over four other Republican pretenders in Tuesday’s primary bypassing a run-off and heading straight into the general election contest against Democratic House Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem. The strongest fundraiser in the GOP filed, Daugaard, had been considered one of the front-runners along with Dave Knudson, who had garnered the endorsements from the Rapid City Journal and Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

South Dakota Republican Gubernatorial Primary Results


Dennis Daugaard




Scott Munsterman




Dave Knudson




Gordon Howie




Ken Knuppe




Total Votes





Read More→

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AL: Why Not Count ‘em All?

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Yesterday, the Alabama Republican Party released final vote totals from the June 1 primary. The top three vote-getters were separated by 2.77%, with second-place finisher Robert Bentley squeaking by Tim (“We Speak English Here”) James by a mere 0.03%, or  167 votes. Since the run-off only has room for two, James is the odd man out at this point.

But he’s petitioned for a recount of the votes cast in 40 of Alabama’s 67 counties. It’s not clear to me why he’s not asking for a statewide recount. Isn’t he simply repeating Al Gore’s mistake from Florida?

The GOP’s (semi) official tally released yesterday:

Bradley Byrne: 137,448 votes, 27.89%

Robert Bentley: 123,960 votes, 25.15%

Tim James: 123,793 votes, 25.12%

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AL: Sparks Trounces Davis

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What are the lessons from Sparks’ whopping margin of victory over supposed front-runner Artur Davis in yesterday’s Democratic primary?

Some (especially those of us looking in from the outside) will inevitably say it was about race.  A “Bradley effect” could have certainly been a factor in the race, as virtually every public poll showed Davis leading throughout. But attributing the defeat to a latent racism lurking in the Democratic electorate is far too simplistic.

Progressives will say it’s because Davis’ opposition to the Obama Administration’s agenda shows bedrock support of Democratic principles among voters in the base.  Primary voters rejected the man that abandoned their president. They’ll point to Blanche Lincoln’s run-off struggles as further evidence of wayward Dems failing at the polls. And there would be an element of truth to this argument.

Still others will point to the rejection of a sitting Congressman as another episode in the unfolding anti-establishment narrative of Campaign 2010. With each election day, another politico with DC experience seems to fall in a fury of voter anger. Davis simply picked the wrong year to run.

But Davis’ defeat comes down to this – he took his eye off the ball.

He ran a general election campaign from the start, forgetting that primaries are decided by core voters. Motivating your base is critical. Davis’ strategic decision to keep the black community at arm’s length likely proved more fatal than his vote against healthcare reform. They simply weren’t inspired to go to the polls. Davis wanted to make history, not become history.

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Despite trailing state Rep. Scott Conklin by less than 4,000 votes in the Democratic race for Light Guv, former Philadelphia City Controller Jonathan Saidel announced he would concede the race without a recount, which would’ve been triggered automatically under state law.

Citing the $500,000 cost of the recount and the slim chances a recount would overturn the results, he opted to save the state taxpayers money and give the party a chance to come together for the general election.


“Jonathan Saidel has spent a lifetime saving taxpayers money and has determined that the estimated $500,000 a recount will cost the state is not justifiable given the significant odds against a successful conclusion from our perspective,” his campaign said in a statement. “Jonathan has instructed his legal team to prepare notification to the Secretary of State of his request not to proceed with the automatic recount.”

Guber nominee Dan Onorato quickly welcomed his new dance partner to the Democratic ticket.

“Scott Conklin became a state Representative because he was disgusted with the Harrisburg culture after the infamous legislative pay grab,” Onorato said in a statement Wednesday. “Just as I took on an entrenched incumbent to become County Executive, Scott earned his seat by demanding reform and winning a ‘safe’ Republican seat.

With Arlen Specter bringing his former rival Joe Sestak to the Democratic Senate caucus luncheon this week and the quick resolution of the close Lt. Gov contest, Keystone Democrats are unifying for November. In a “change” election, the Democrats’ top three candidates will be relatively fresh faces to most Pennsylvania voters, as none have run for statewide office prior to this year. All will try to claim the mantle of outsider and reformer.

With Conklin’s presence on the ticket, Democrats have a representative from the state’s interior, a formerly rock-ribbed Republican stronghold. Centre County has become a swing region in recent elections, but it does raise the possibility of making some inroads there for Democrats. Onorato’s Pittsburgh base and Sestak’s southeastern PA home should bring a strong balance to their statewide ticket. The key may be whether or not outgoing Gov. Ed Rendell is able to successfully ramp up his Philadelphia machine to defend his chair for the Democrats this fall.

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After the most intense day of voting since November 2008, Americans in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oregon and Arizona cast their votes providing insight into whether the narratives created by the chattering classes will ring true come November. Are the Republicans riding a wave of voter discontent that could oust Nancy Pelosi from the Speakership?  Are both parties lurching away from the moderate middle?  Will Dems fall to insurgencies from the Left while Republicans drown in a Tea Party-inspired tidal wave from the “libertarian” right?

As usual, the punditocracy’s wisdom, conventional or otherwise, needs a morning after reality check. After all the commentators have had their say, what was it the voters meant, if anything?


In my opinion, the margins of victory racked up by Tea Party candidate Rand Paul and by Democrat Mark Critz in the special to replace John Murtha were the two most important indicators of what might be ahead in November. Both of those results have to be stomach-churning for the DC Republican establishment.

Paul’s clear victory is going to be trumpeted by the Tea Party and the punditocracy alike as evidence of the power of the anger brewing in the electorate. At least one conservative power-broker, direct mail guru Richard Viguerie has already called the Kentucky result a “vote of no confidence” in McConnell and urged the minority leader to resign his leadership post.

How is Merry Mitch going to handle Rand Paul as his potential junior partner?  If he thought Jim Bunning was a headache he must be dreading the possible arrival of Paul. I wonder if he’s having secret thoughts about Conway winning in November?

The NRCC, who failed to win PA-12, the only Kerry-McCain district in America (this is the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree, boys and girls) must be realizing a Speaker Boehner is not going to be as easy as they thought when the week started. They can’t even win an open seat that’s been trending GOP over the past two pro-Democratic elections. How will they be able to knock off enough incumbents (in districts that have been moving the other way) to wrest control of the House? This probably hurts their fundraising, which is absolutely essential to winning all of those seats.


As usual, some of the best analysis can be found over at FiveThirtyEight. Nate reviews the outcomes of the five big contests (PA Dem, KY Dem & GOP, AR Dem and the PA-12 Special).  He doesn’t see the Sestak victory and the Arkansas run-off as evidence of a leftist insurgency within the Democratic Party.

Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza from the WaPo chat about the things we learned. Not surprisingly, the results revealed to these Beltway Insiders just how much those outside the Beltway distrust and dislike DC.

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Wednesday’s Must-Reads

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Arizona: The WaPo’s Ruth Marcus blames the new Arizona “If You’re Brown, Hit the Ground” law on a surprising culprit: Clean Elections.

Florida’s Billionaire Politicians: Following in the steps of Michael Bloomberg and Jon Corzine, billionaires seem to be popping up all around. The Mega-Rich, no longer content in buying our political leaders, want to become political leaders in our Mega-States. In California, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner and Carly Fiorina are all hoping their deep pockets can offset the Democratic advantages in the state. Now, Florida bazillionaires Rick Scott and Jeff Greene are late entries into statewide races (Scott in the GOP guber primary and Greene in the Dem Senate primary). The Miami Herald asks, “They’re rich, they’re running — can they win?”

Primary Lessons: Yesterday, Politico reported on how the establishment-backed candidates in the Tuesday’s three contested Senate primaries were slouching toward the finish line. All survived, although DSCC-favored Cal Cunningham finished second to Elaine Marshall and will face a late June run-off.  In today’s post-election analysis, Politico observes, “Turnout was low and there were no major upsets or shocking results — every House and Senate incumbent on the ballot in the three states won renomination — but there was no shortage of evidence of voter unrest. In the marquee Senate primaries, establishment-backed candidates delivered wobbly performances that are sure to worry their national parties.”

The GOP’s Tea Party: Richard Viguerie, widely regarded as one of the founders of conservative direct mail (a forebear of Karl Rove) writes in the WaPo about how he sees the Tea Party movement as the “fourth leg” holding up the Republican Party (along with national security hawks, “family values” voters, and free market capitalists). He senses an historic opportunity, “The emergence of the “tea party” movement, for the first time in my life I sense that it may be possible for conservatives to actually shrink the federal government.

Progressive Counterpoint: Katrina vanden Heuvel takes Viguerie’s piece and argues his advice is more aptly applied to progressives who are struggling to find their footing a year into the Obama Administration.

Progressives should remain independent, challenging the limits of the current debate, taking the policy offensive. Progressives — far more than the corporate-backed, upper-middle-class Tea Partyers — can take on the entrenched interests, the crony capitalist arrangements, the failed conservative policies and the compromised leadership of major institutions from Wall Street to the mainstream media.