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

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Jun
14

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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May
29

Why StateHouseRock?

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StateHouseRock will be a clearinghouse for information regarding the real 2010 political battlegrounds – the races for the nation’s governor chairs. Over the next eighteen months, voters in thirty-nine states will be electing their chief executive. In nearly half (eighteen) they will be choosing a new governor, as the incumbent will not be running. The new decade will usher in a new generation of leadership in states large and small.

Most of these officials will have at least a seat (if not veto power) over the redistricting process following the 2010 Census. All one has to do is simply recall the high-profile confrontation early this decade when newly-empowered Texas Republicans chased AWOL Democrats with Department of Homeland Security resources to force the passage of a controversial Republican-friendly redistricting plan to recognize how important gubernatorial (and state legislative elections) can be to the balance of power in Washington. Texas wasn’t the only state that saw drawn-out partisan skirmishes over the decennial mapmaking exercise.

Beyond redistricting, it could be argued that governors and the decisions made at the state level have a large impact on the daily lives of average Americans than the decisions made inside the Beltway. With this in mind, this site aims to discuss the gubernatorial campaigns including the candidates, the local and national issues influencing the contest, campaign financing, and polling.

While gubernatorial elections are by nature fueled by local issues, the current cycle is likely to have two national storylines play out in StateHouse campaigns.

Many have said the states will be where the Republican Party resurrects it’s political fortunes. Will the conservatives continue their Limbaugh-led purity purge of moderates, pushing their party further from mainstream America? Or will moderates be successful in nominating candidates who stand a better chance in general elections? The first battle in this civil war is only days away. This Tuesday in New Jersey, Garden State Republicans go to the polls to choose between Steve Lonegan, a darling of the conservative activist base, or moderate Chris Christie who has the backing of establishment-type Republicans.

The winner of that contest takes on Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine, whose anemic poll numbers ought to be worrisome to all incumbent governors seeking reelection in 2010. The recession and state budget deficits could rescramble the political calculus in races across the country. Governors are on the frontlines of this recession, forced to balance budgets through draconian program cuts or raising taxes. Will voters make them pay a price at the ballot box if the economic turmoil continues?

In addition to these national narratives, a secondary storyline emerges in a handful of states. Republican governors with presidential ambitions (Palin, Pawlenty and term-limited Sanford quickly come to mind) have already made headlines as they jockey for positioning in the 2012 GOP Sweepstakes.

With all of these storylines it’s clear why the StateHouseRocks.