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 Open Seats


OR: Independence for Sale

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Oregon Democrats have taken the unusual step of filing a complaint against the Independent Party of Oregon, claiming a small group of insiders controls the party’s nominating process, calling into question the party’s legitimacy. Sensing an invigorated Independent Party could hurt them more than the GOP in the Beaver State, Democrats are trying to prevent the party from swinging the governor’s race to the Republicans in November.

The Dems may have their “super delegate” kingmakers, but this party allegedly went much further. A trio of insiders may have crossed the line and stand accused of basically putting their party’s endorsement up for sale.

For the first time Oregon will allow candidates to appear on multiple party lines on this November’s ballot. As a result, candidates are clamoring to get the Independents’ nod, hoping to gain an electoral boost in this anti-establishment year.

As many as 60 candidates, including Democratic gubernatorial nominee John Kitzhaber, have expressed interest in the Independent Party nomination, thinking that adding the “Independent” label to their names on the ballot would appeal to voters alienated from the major political parties. Many voters who are unaffiliated call themselves independent, but have no connection to the Independent Party.

Independent Party leaders had hoped to boost their party’s profile this year by raising money to hold an Internet-based primary open to the party’s 54,600 registered voters.

But last week, (Secretary of State Kate) Brown sent a “cease-and-desist” letter to the Independent Party warning that it was in danger of breaking the law because of the way it was soliciting donations from candidates seeking the Independent nomination. State law forbids offering such things as a party nomination in exchange for money.

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Week of Tracking the Keystone Dems

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The Pennsylvania Primary is now ten days away. In the two weeks leading up to the voting Muhlenberg College is conducting a daily tracking poll of the two high-profile Democratic contests. While the Senate contest between former Republican Arlen Specter and Democrat Joe Sestak has garnered national attention for months, the contest to replace Democratic power broker Ed Rendell in Harrisburg has been an afterthought.

In early April, a Quinnipiac Poll showed voters basically had no idea who was running. Fully 64% of Democratic primary voters didn’t know enough about Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato to have an opinion on him. And he was the most recognized of the pack! Not surprisingly, the announced candidates often trail “Don’t Know/Undecided” in poll after poll.

Democrats have a field of four from which to choose, Onorato, State Auditor Jack Wagner, former Congressman (and current Montgomery County Commissioner) Joe Hoeffel, and state Senator Anthony Williams. The first two hail from the Pittsburgh area while the latter two hail from Philly. Geography is key in Keystone State politics. The two cities anchor the Democratic Party. Any general election nominee has to be able to win both these areas to counterbalance the Republican strength in the interior “T.”

The best financed of the Dems, Onorato has been on the TeeVee letting people know there’s a race besides Arlen & Joe. In polling over the past month, it appears his campaign has gotten some traction and looked like he may have pulled away from the field. All the other campaigns have been on the air in recent days, hoping to catch lightning in the campaign’s closing days.

On the first day of the poll, Muhlenberg found Onorato lapping the field with a surprising 41% of the vote. Wagner, Williams and Hoeffel were all in the single digits. The X factor in the contest was the whopping 40% who responded “Other/Not Sure.”  Clearly, there’s the potential for volatility with so many people still left to be convinced.

Is anyone catching Onorato? Over the first five days of the poll Hoeffel gained 5 points, Wagner gained 3 and Williams gained 2. They’re all chipping away at the huge pile of undecideds – and pilfering some of Onorato’s supporters. By the end of the week his 35% (a loss of six points) now trails the 36% who remain undecided.




































Other/Not Sure







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The surprise last-minute passage of civil unions legislation has provided a clear distinction between the two Democrats vying for their party’s gubernatorial nod. It could become the defining political issue in the Democratic primary as well as the general election. Republican Governor Linda Lingle has until July to decide whether or not to veto the legislation.

Prior to the passage of the civil unions bill, the Democratic primary had been viewed as a contest of personalities, as there wasn’t much difference between the policy positions of the two veteran politicians running for the open seat. That’s changed.

Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a long-time supporter of marriage equality and opponent of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act stands in stark contrast to Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann who appeared at a rally opposing civil unions in January. When asked if  Lingle should veto the bill, Hannemann responded:

“I have no comment on that right now. I have still not declared my candidacy for governor. I am not knee deep in all the aspects of it.”

In response, Abercrombie called his opponent “a wimp.”

Seventeen years ago the Hawaiian Supreme Court ignited the national debate on same-sex marriage. It became the wedge issue of choice for conservative strategists. States across the country amended their constitutions and activists placed defense of marriage initiatives on ballots from coast to coast.

Today, however, running against marriage equality isn’t such a sure-fire path to electoral victory. As the Honolulu Star-Bulletin observes:

Watch what happens on same-sex marriage.

Eight years ago it was mentioned by opponents; four years ago, it was acknowledged but not flaunted if you were for it; today it may just become one of the keys to the Democratic primary race for governor.

After so many years of rejection, supporters of civil unions and same-sex marriage are looking to make changes in the voting booth and they want to start at the top of the ticket.

“The governor’s race is easy for us; we have only one choice,” says Jo-Ann Adams, attorney and civil union advocate.

Categories : Hawaii, Open Seats
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Poizner Poised to Bounce Meg?

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Steve Poizner’s been trailing Megabucks Whitman for months – with a gap that has approached 50 points at one point.

The GOP primary is only a month away. The televised debates have wrapped up. Whitman has pumped tens of millions into TV advertising establishing her brand as the one that can spark a California Renaissance. All the smart money is on a Meg and Jerry (Brown) contest in November.

But, don’t look know. The Poizner camp feels they’ve got the Whitman right where they want her. They’ve got an internal poll that shows him within ten points. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Poizner may be positioned to make the most of two national issues that have emerged in the past month that have particular resonance in the Golden State’s Republican primary, immigration and Goldman Sachs.

The Poizner campaign strategy from the beginning was to unload his message as close to the vote as possible. Mr. Poizner began running ads in mid-March, and this week hit Ms. Whitman on three fronts: An endorsement from popular state conservative Tom McClintock, a public debate on the issue of Arizona’s new immigration law, and the connection Whitman has to scandal-plagued Goldman Sachs.

Is Whitman going to join the long list of uber-wealthy California candidates who have gone bust at the ballot box?

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Politico analyzes five 2010 races potentially altered by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The list includes the top tier MegaState races the national media has been fixated on throughout the current cycle (California Governor & Senate, Florida Senate, Texas Governor) and one additional race in a state most directly and immediately impacted and by the oil slick (Louisiana Senate).

Notably absent are two gubernatorial races whose winners will likely be dealing with the effects of the growing environmental disaster throughout their terms in office – the Alabama and Florida contests. I’d argue that the Gulf Coast Governors are going to be confronted with the long-term consequences, the clean up’s logistics and costs, the task of  rebuilding battered local industries far more than their Senators up in DC. These governors are going to be on the frontline of cleaning up the environmental mess and how to pay for it.


In the Sunshine State, the politics of offshore drilling have been fluid in recent years. After decades of steadfast public opposition to drilling near the coast because the state’s economy was built on it’s pristine beaches. Tourism ruled. Recently, however, soaring prices at the pump, strained state budgets and a desire for no new taxes helped put a big dent in this public opposition.

It was early summer 2008 when a former maverick who desired to be president sensed a political opportunity. Americans  were seething over rapidly rising gasoline prices.  This maverick, who was called McCain rode in from the West and pulled an old switcheroo (it would be denounced as a flip-flop if he had been a Democrat) and reversed his long-standing opposition to lifting a decades-old bipartisan ban on new offshore drilling.

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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.

The Democratic gubernatorial contest is getting ugly. House Speaker Andy Dillon’s campaign is using the release of Adrian Hill, a convicted sex offender who had failed to register as required with the state for three years to attack rival Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Dillon’s camp points to it as evidence Bernero as soft on crime.

The judge in the case released Hill unaware of his violent, predatory past crimes.  The Dillon camp blames this failure on Bernero’s budget-cutting decisions. As Lansing has faced budget deficits, court administrative positions have been eliminated and there are now fewer police on the city’s streets. Lansing has recently seen an upsurge in violent crime, possibly making this criticism more potent.

“We’re talking about the safety of the residents of the Lansing area and this is an example where Virg Bernero’s budget cuts resulted in a violent criminal being let out on the streets on a $250 personal recognizance bond. It is unacceptable,” said T.J. Bulcholz, communications director for Dillon’s gubernatorial campaign.

The Michigan Messenger has all the disturbing details.

I’ll  reserve judgment on whether this is an appropriate attack. Budget deficits are forcing local leaders to make difficult. Dillon, as a state official, certainly shares some of the responsibility for the funding shortfalls in Michigan’s communities.

Rest assured, if Bernero ends up the Dem standard-bearer, Republicans will be running ads on this.

Categories : Michigan, Open Seats
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Minnesota’s newly-endorsed GOP guber wannabe Tom Emmer and his Light Guv running mate Annette Meeks (who once worked for a group who recommended abolishing the job she’s now running for) both hail from the Twin City Metroplex. Many rural Minnesotan GOPers were enthusiastic backers of Emmer’s vanquished foe State Rep. Marty Seifert.

The Bemidji Pioneer reports some may find it difficult to rally to the urban ticket. Winning in the southwestern farm-dominated corner of the state – a region Minnesota politicians call the “L” – is often the key to victory in statewide elections.

Seifert noted that Emmer received “zero from Moorhead south to the Iowa border.”

After a Saturday GOP unity breakfast, Emmer gave a curt answer when asked if he was worried about the rural vote: “No.”

However, his actions told a different story.

When a reporter asked Emmer about rural opposition shortly after he was endorsed Friday, the candidate pointed out that he has farm constituents in his far western Twin Cities House district, which he has served since 2005. He also pointed out that his campaign manager raises 1,700 dogs.

Seventeen hundred dogs??? Is his campaign running a puppy mill?

Turns out it’s a typo (not mine), as later in the article Emmer himself brings up his campaign manager’s rural bona fides.

…on Saturday, near the beginning of his first post-endorsement speech, Emmer brought up the rural issue on his own, calling Campaign Manager David FitzSimmons “the hog farmer who runs my campaign.”

“This is a statewide campaign,” Emmer said.

Most gubernatorial contests are, Mr. Emmer.  Oh, and thank goodness those weren’t dogs.

Categories : Minnesota, Open Seats
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McCollum’s Headaches Get Worse

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Politico reports that anti-health care reform advocate and disgraced former HCA CEO Rick Scott has already purchased $4.7 million worth of advertising time on Florida TV and radio through May14. That equals the TOTAL amount GOP front-runner Bill McCollum has raised since he entered the race twelve months ago.

The Republican Party of Florida had essentially worked to clear the field for the AG (and former Clinton impeachment manager). But the RPOF has had numerous distractions and challenges of late. It’s been embroiled in a credit card scandal. The meteoric rise of an upstart US Senate challenger resulted in the defection of it’s formerly rising political star (and incumbent governor) who has discovered his veto pen. Now, as oil oozes toward the state’s pristine beaches threatening  the foundation of Florida’s economy, the RPOF’s steadfast support of offshore drilling has suddenly become an uncomfortably sticky and potentially slippery political liability.

But it turns out all those headaches may be nothing compared to the migraine Rick Scott might create for poor Bill McCollum.

Scott, a deep-pocketed “outsider” whose notoriety in fighting against healthcare reform gives him the TEA Party street cred that could sink former impeachment manager Bill McCollum’s seemingly preordained march to the Republican nomination. The multi-millionaire introduces himself to Floridians:

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Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman has been chosen by Guber hopeful Ned Lamont to be his Light Guv running mate in the Connecticut Democratic primary. Glassman, who had been one of the Dems running for the Guber nod, has previously been the Light Guv dance partner of two other Democrats previously.

This marks the third Democratic candidate for governor that Glassman has run with over the years. In the 2006 election, Glassman initially ran as former Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy’s partner. While Glassman won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, Malloy did not, losing to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano.

Glassman wound up becoming DeStefano’s running mate. Both later lost the general election to Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele.

Of course, Lamont has his own track record of winning the first round and then losing the big prize.

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