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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University of Washington geographer and demographer Dick Morrill observes that the ‘surprising historical accident’ that four incumbent Washington House members reside at the edges of their current districts might dictate that the brand-spanking new Tenth Congressional district be carved out of northeastern King County:

So if we look at the area with the largest population with no incumbent representative to protect, we find it is northeastern King County. This area, with almost 2 million people, has only two representatives within its borders, so no one would be squeezed out. Thus a logical alternative for the 10th district is indeed King County, which has almost enough population for district 7 (McDermott, Seattle), 8 (Reichert, Eastside and south King County), and a new 10th (northeastern King).

This would in turn make the 9th (Smith, Tacoma) mainly a Pierce County district, and put Olympia in the 6th (Dicks, Belfair).

There is one caveat. If Jay Inslee opts to run for the open governor’s chair in 2012, the lack of an incumbent in his First District could provide the mapmakers to freedom to make a more radical redraw that would still protect the remaining incumbents.

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The Seattle Times reported yesterday that Governor Christine Gregoire is on Obama’s short list to replace Elena Kagan as Solicitor General if she her Supreme Court nomination is approved. Depending on when Gregoire steps down (if she’s chosen and approved), it could mean another gubernatorial election this November.

It would also add Light Gov Bill Owen to the long list of Accidental Governors now serving in state capitals across the country (Alaska’s Sean Parnell, Utah’s Gary Herbert, Illinois’ Pat Quinn, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Kansas’ Mark Parkinson and New York’s David Paterson).

If Gregoire left after this month, but before Oct. 3, there would be a special filing period and everyone who files would get their name on the ballot. It would be a November free-for-all.

If Gregoire left after Oct. 3, Owen would stay in office until 2012, although there’s a possibility for the state Legislature to set a special election for 2011.

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