Where They Stand: Gubernatorial Races

With all the talk about the upcoming Congressional midterms, local races are getting overlooked.  This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons.  First of all, despite a century plus of actions and efforts to the contrary, federalism is still alive, and state governments still matter.  Second, these races have an impact upon national elections because states will be redrawing their districts in the wake of the 2010 census.

It would be a massive undertaking beyond my abilities and time to look at each state’s legislative elections, though most projections I have heard have the Republicans gaining a massive amount of seats in state legislatures.  Republicans are projected to switch majority control in about five or six states at a minimum.  Here I will be taking a look at each of the gubernatorial elections.

On a side note, it may seem odd to label these elections as pickups and holds.  After all, it’s not as though governors gather en masse and vote, so having a “majority” of governorships seems not to be that big of a deal.  But for the aforementioned reasons, it is important to win as many of these races as possible.  Currently there are 26 Democratic governors and 24 Republican.  Republicans will certainly have a majority after Tuesday.  As is the case with the House, the only question is how big of a majority.

And now, to the races we go:

Alabama: Robert Bentley (R) vs. Ron Sparks (D).  People forget that the deep south has gone Republican on a local level only recently.  While the south started voting for Republicans on the presidential level around the time of Barry Goldwater and on a Congressional level sometime around the 1980s, most southern state houses and governorships remained strongly Democratic until very recently, and even today some still are.  Alabama is a case in point.  They were actually one of the trendsetters, electing a Republican governor in 1987, but even as recently as 2003, a Democrat occupied the governor’s mansion.  Both Houses of the State Legislature are governed by Democratic majorities, though of a conservative bent.

All that being said, the Republican is going to win in a walk.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

Alaska: Sean Parnell* (R) vs. Ethan Berkowitz (D).  Alaska is a hard state to figure politically.  While it is generally a Republic bastion, it’s not exactly the same kind of Republicanism that dominates the lower 48 states.  There are times when the Democratic candidate has run to the right of the Republican.  Be that as it may, the man who took over when Sarah Palin resigned is cruising to an easy re-election.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

Arizona: Jan Brewer* (R) vs. Terry Goddard (D).  Arizona recently passed a stark anti-illegal immigration bill.  You may have heard about it because I think it was in the news.  Anyway, some critics believe that Governor Brewer cynically lined up behind the bill as a means to win re-election.  Another possibility is that she thought it was the best thing for the state: I know, I know, it’s just inconceivable that a politician might actually do what they genuinely think is best for their constituents.  Anyway, despite a few missteps, including an awkward debate moment where she seemingly lost her train of thought, Brewer has maintained a steady lead in the low double digits.
Projection: Definite Republican hold.

Arkansas: Jim Keet (R) vs. Mike Beebe* (D). Despite a Republican trend in national elections, including a challenger this year who is going to defeat a sitting Democratic incumbent by around 20 points, Arkansas remains fertile ground locally for the Democrats.  A case in point is the popular centrist governor of Arkansas, who is heading to rarest of rare things on Tuesday: an easy re-election for an incumbent Democrat.
Prediction: Definite Democrat hold.

California: Meg Whitman (R) vs. Jerry Brown (D).  Meg Whitman has thrown over $100 million of her personal ebay fortune into this race, and yet she still trails in every poll.  Whitman has been hurt by several things.  The illegal immigrant housekeeper story had some legs – perhaps more negatively because she fired the lady.  Her overspending has possibly over-saturated the market, causing voters to tire of her.  Most importantly, this is just a strong Democratic state.  That the California voters are going to elect the hippy ex-Governor of their state in an election year that is otherwise a strong year for Republicans tells you all you need to know about how definitively this state has shifted politically over the past two decades.
Prediction: Likely Democrat pickup.

Colorado: Dan Maes (R) vs. John Hickenlooper (D) vs. Tom Tancredo (I).  Tancredo’s candidacy seemed to be nothing more than that of a spoiler.  But Tancredo overtook his rival on the right very early in the general election season, and this has essentially become a two-man race between Hickenlooper and Trancredo. Tancredo has surged very strongly over the past month, going from 20 points down to about six, and the gap is even closer in some polls.  With Maes now polling in the single digits, it’s possible that his supporters will just end up voting for Tancredo, though it’s more likely that they would simply stay home on election day.
Prediction: Democrat hold.

Connecticut: Tom Foley(R) vs. Dan Malloy (D). Believe it or not a Democrat has not won the Connecticut governor’s race since 1986. This has been a close race throughout with Malloy holding a consistent lead.  There’s been some movement in the past few days, but I think Malloy holds on.
Prediction: Democrat pickup.

Florida: Rick Scott (R) vs. Alex Sink (D). It’s a crazy election season in Florida, and much of the attention has focused on the Senate race as well as a few of the House races, but this has been a bruising contest to replace Charlie Crist. Scott won a contentious primary against the “Establishment” candidate, and has been running neck-and-neck with Sink ever since.  Recent trends have Scott moving up, but the polls on this race have been all over the place. In the end a statewide GOP surge will put Scott over the top.
Prediction: Republican hold.

Georgia: Nathan Deal (R) vs. Roy Barnes (D).  This election has been so nasty that people in New Jersey would probably be offended.  Neither man deserves to win, though it looks like Deal is, umm, sealing the deal.
Prediction: Likely Republican hold.

Hawaii: Duke Aiona (R) vs. Neil Abercrombie (D).  The former Congressman, Abercrombie, has held a steady lead, though once again recent polls show the Republican trending up.  Though Hawaii has been a solidly Democratic state since it joined the Union, Republicans have managed several upsets in recent elections.
Prediction: Democrat pickup.

Idaho: Butch Otter (R) vs. Keith Allred (D).  This is one of if not the most Republican state in the country, and that certainly won’t change this year, even if some voters are confused by the Democrat’s last name.
Prediction: Republican hold.

Illinois: Bill Brady (R) vs. Pat Quinn* (D).  One would think that the near certainty of a jail sentence upon the completion of one’s term (or even before the end) would steer people away from running for governor in this state, but evidently not.  Hopefully Brady will set everything in order before entering Joliet in 2015.
Prediction: Republican pickup.

Iowa: Terry Branstad (R) vs. Chet Culver* (D).  Branstad is the popular former four-term governor, and he has come back to challenge the incumbent.  Culver has governed a bit too far to the left for a state that is just about square in the middle politically, and he has trailed by about 20 points throughout.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

Kansas: Sam Brownback (R) vs. Tom Holland (D).  The former Senator has barely broken a sweat.  Brownback is exceeding 60 percent in most polls, which signifies an easy victory on Tuesday.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

Maine: Paul LePage (R) vs. Libby Mitchell (D) vs. Eliot Cutler (I).  LePage’s lead has grown in recent polls, and now Cutler is threatening to surpass Mitchell for second.  LePage would be the first Republican elected as governor since Bush was president – the first one.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

Maryland: Bob Ehrlich (R) vs. Tom O’Malley* (D).  Well this one’s slightly depressing.  Governor Ehrlich lost to O’Malley in 2006 despite favorable approval ratings, but having an -R next to one’s name was bad enough in 2006, even worse in the People’s Republic of Maryland.  I had high hopes for Ehrlich, but his campaign never got off the ground.  O’Malley, in what has become a fine Maryland tradition, has not run (that I’ve seen) a single positive ad, but has instead focused a full frontal assault on Ehrlich.  The lowest of the low was a preposterous ad demonizing Ehrlich for voting with George Bush 90% of the time while he was in Congress – which he was for all of one term during Bush’s presidency.  One would think that in a heavily Democratic state one would need not bring up the demon specter of George Bush in order to win, but it’s not like O’Malley has an actual record to run on.  Unfortunately the race hasn’t been close.  While most questioned the veracity of a Washington Post poll that had O’Malley up by ten about a month ago, subsequent polls have seemingly confirmed the Post’s poll.  Long story, things continue apace for the east coast’s version of California.
Prediction: Likely Democrat hold.

Massachusetts: Charles Baker (R) vs. Deval Patrick*(D) vs. Timothy Cahill (I).  Boy, what good luck for Deval Patrick, an unpopular incumbent, to have a third party get in the race and possibly split the anti-incumbent vote.  It’s a good thing this is totally not coordinated and as such more proof of the corruption and incompetency of this administration.  But you know what, sometimes luck runs out.  Scott Brown demonstrated one chink in the armor here for the Democrats already, and there are going to be a few surprises in the House as well.  That is going to help Baker across the finish line in the end.
Prediction: Republican pickup.

Michigan: Rick Snyder (R) vs. Virg Bernero (D).  With roughly ten people in the state still employed in the private sector, the incumbent party is not likely to do very well.  This race has never been close, and Bernero is not going to close the gap in four days.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

Minnesota: Tom Emmer (R) vs. Mark Dayton (D) vs. Tom Horner (I).  Here’s a shocker: an uber-tight election in the state of Minnesota involving a spoiler candidate.  You rarely see this.  Dayton has held onto a slim lead, but I think his relative unpopularity in the state will give Emmer the victory.
Prediction: Republican hold.

Nebraska: Dave Heineman* (R) vs. Mike Meister (D).  Congratulations Mr. Meister, you were mentioned in the body of a blog post tat will be read by roughly the same amount of people that will vote for you on Tuesday.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

Nevada: Brian Sandoval (R) vs. Rory Reid (D).  In most cases  name recognition is a good thing, but when your father is slightly more popular than Barry Bonds (outside of San Francisco), then it’s not so helpful.  The “Rory, just Rory” campaign was a nice attempt as disassociation, but not quite good enough.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

New Hampshire: John Stephen (R) vs. John Lynch* (D).  Despite pretty much every factor being against him, Lynch has maintained a low double-digit lead.  This could be a race that closes real fast over the weekend, but it’s looking more and more like Lynch will hold on.
Prediction: Likely Democrat hold.

New Mexico: Susana Martinez (R) vs. Diane Denish (D).  Martinez has gotten a lot of attention in conservative circles.  She’s a dynamic candidate that could become a big player on the national stage with a successful term in office.  She’s held a consistently big lead over Denish, and appears to be cruising to victory.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

New York: Carl Palladino (R) vs. Andrew Cuomo (D).  This is more depressing than the Maryland race.  There were a couple of polls that had Palladino within striking distance, but then he opened his mouth.  I actually like Carl,  but evidently the voters of New York prefer the bumbling son of the former governor.
Prediction: Definite Democrat hold.

Ohio: John Kasich (R) vs. Ted Strickland* (D).  It looked for a while that Kasich was surging to a comfortable win, but the embattled incumbent has made up significant ground lately.  Polls show Kasich still leading, but now in that uncomfortable margin of error.  I’m predicting that Kasich holds on, but this one is going to come down to the wire.
Prediction: Republican pickup.

Oklahoma: Mary Fallin (R) vs. Jari Askins (D).  I’ve actually met the Democratic candidate, who is currently the Lieutenant Governor.  She is a very charismatic and smart politico who would very likely be a favorite in most other states and most other years.  But not Oklahoma in 2010.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

Oregon: Chris Dudley (R) vs. John Kitzhaber (D).  This one is a true tossup.  Dudley has moved out to the slightest of leads, but this is going to be one of the last elections called on Wednesday morning, if then.  If Dudley wins, he’ll be the first Republican governor since Reagan’s administration.
Prediction: Republican pickup.

Pennsylvania: Tom Corbett (R) vs. Dan Onorato (D).  This has been a bit like the Republican Senate race.  Corbett has consistently been ahead by double digits, but a couple of polls a week back showed some tightening.  More recent polls show Corbett once again ahead comfortably, and now polling in the low 50s.  Tuesday could be a complete bloodbath for the Democrats at every level in the state.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

Rhode Island: John Robitaille (R) vs. Frank Caprio (D) vs. Lincoln Chafee (I).  Caprio was famously non-endorsed by President Obama, and now trails the former Senator by a couple of points. Robitaille has actually moved ahead of Caprio in some polls, but they’re basically playing for second.  The Republicans currently hold this seat, so this would be a loss of one governorship for the party.
Prediction: Likely Spineless party pickup.

South Carolina: Nikki Haley (R) vs. Vincent Sheheen.  Haley has had to endure charges about an affair by a local blogger during the primary, and the Democrats have been on the offensive against her since then.  But she’s held a near double digit lead throughout, and looks like she’s set to win.
Prediction: Likely Republican hold.

South Dakota: Dennis Daugaard (R) vs. Scott Heiderpriem (D).  Democrats haven’t won a gubernatorial election in South Dakota since 1974.  That will not change this year.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

Tennessee: Bill Haslam (R) vs. Mike McWherter (D).  Just not a good year for the Democrats in the Volunteer State.  If they couldn’t carry the state in what was an otherwise big year for them in 2006, there’s even less of a chance now.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

Texas: Rick Perry* (R) vs. Bill White (D).  There was some hope that White could unseat Perry, and some early polling had White within shouting distance.  But Perry has moved comfortably ahead.  Perry will become the longest-tenured governor in the nation, a remarkable achievement for a guy that seemingly even the Republicans in the state don’t even care much for.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

Utah: Gary Herbert* (R) vs. Peter Corroon (D).  Yeah right.
Prediction: Definite Republican hold.

Vermont: Brian Dubie (R) Peter Shunlin (D).  The state that sends a Socialist to the US Senate also tends to vote Republican on the gubernatorial level.  This race is an absolute dead heat right now.  I’ll flip a coin and go with the Dem.
Prediction: Democrat pickup.

Wisconsin: Scott Walker (R) vs. Tom Barrett (D).  It’s definitely not looking good for the Democrats in Wisconsin on any level.  Walker’s in the low-to-mid 50s in most polls.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

Wyoming: Matt Mead (R) vs. Leslie Petersen (D).  This has actually been a tough place for Republicans to win governorships.  Not this year.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

Final Analysis: My final tally, if my math is correct, is the Republicans winning a net nine seats from the Democrats, with one governorship switching from Republican to Independent.  That would give the GOP 32 governorships, with 17 for the Democrats, and one Independent.  There are a lot of close races, so that tally could be much different when the dust is settled, but all in all it should be a good night for Republican gubernatorial candidates.

14 Responses to Where They Stand: Gubernatorial Races

  1. Jay Anderson says:

    “While the south started voting for Republicans on the presidential level around the time of Barry Goldwater …”

    It was Eisenhower that first got the South voting for Republicans for President. In 1952, Ike won Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida (and, if you count “border states”, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Maryland); in 1956, he won those same states, except for Missouri, and added West Virginia and Kentucky.

    Goldwater was able to crack the deep South, but not for reasons I’d be particularly proud of.

  2. Patrick says:

    The importance of the governerships is that this is the year for reapportionment, and the governor may have a role, depending on the state’s law.

  3. Gary Keith Chesterton says:

    I’ll give Maryland one thing. It’s been easier to register my historic sports car with heavily modified and highly illegal V8 engine in Maryland than in DC, my other address of record. DC is more blue than Maryland.

  4. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Paul, this is the best analysis of the gubernatorial races I’ve read. My only disagreements are in Colorado where I think crazed Tom Tancredo will win, and Minnesota where I think crazy, and certifiable, Mark Dayton will win. Our bottom line totals are precisely the same.

  5. Paul Zummo says:

    Thank you, Donald. I thought it would be helpful to have them all in one place.

    And now tomorrow, all 435 House races.

    Errrr, maybe not.

  6. Pinky says:

    Great observations about New England. All of the states but Maine have elected Republican governors in recent years. I can’t wait for this red state / blue state myth to disappear.

  7. Joe Green says:

    Seems to me, Paul, that, quite the contrary, federalism is on the decline as the rights of states have been eroded by a tide of tyranny from the halls of Congress and the White house. Arizona is the latest in a long line of victims.

  8. Paul Zummo says:

    You won’t get much disagreement from me, Joe. SCOTUS has turned the 10th Amendment into a mere “truism,” and the trend has certainly been towards more power in the hands of the federal government. But federalism isn’t completely dead yet, and state government still retain a great deal of autonomy. Hopefully we can reverse the trend in the coming years.

  9. Art Deco says:

    There were a couple of polls that had Palladino within striking distance, but then he opened his mouth.

    That is ‘Paladino’. Much of the embarassment surrounding his campaign can be attributed to the behavior of the Republican establishment, who have abandoned him. The New York Republican Party is a cliquish institution, and those chaps react very badly to characters they view as unclubbable. That would enclude Messrs. Paladino and Hoffman, whose potential as candidates was stunted by the behavior of other elected officials and party hacks.

    What is interesting is that some engaging candidates are running for Congressional seats this year, but they did not seem to be able to recruit anyone of note for the state-wide contests. The state party chairman attempted to recruit a Democratic politico from Long Island to run for Governor (for whatever reason). The clubmen on the state committee were not buying and nominated the amiable Mr. Lazio. Mr. Paladino petitioned for a primary and dispatched the clubmen’s choice so thoroughly that it revealed a chasm between them and their voting public (about which I would wager they give not a damn).

    Some time decades hence there may be in New York an authentic political party organized in opposition to the rule of public employee unions and fixers. Right now what there is is a rancid fund raising and patronage mill thoroughly dominated by mediocrities.

  10. Aaron B. says:

    Yes, here in Illinois, our governors make the license plates, literally.

    In my area of downstate Illinois, it seems like what’s been going on at the national level has filtered down to every other level. At every level, we’ve had Democrats in charge for a while, and they’ve gotten arrogant, wasteful, and sloppy about covering their tracks. Whether it’s Congressman Phil “I don’t worry about the Constitution” Hare putting his foot in his mouth again, or our mayor and top city officials taking an afternoon off for a celebratory golf outing after maintaining their majority in the last election, or our sheriff driving his work vehicle all over the place on personal time; the story is pretty much the same: people who think we can’t live without them, so they can do whatever they want.

  11. Elaine Krewer says:

    “the near certainty of a jail sentence upon the completion of one’s term (as Illinois governor)”

    That is particularly true if said governor is a Democrat.

    The last elected Democratic governor to avoid criminal conviction or imprisonment was Adlai Stevenson — yes, THE Adlai Stevenson who ran against Ike twice. EVERY other Democrat elected in the last 60 years — Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, and Rod Blagojevich — ended up being convicted of some crime, although in Walker’s case, the offense for which he went to prison (some kind of S & L loan fraud) occurred long after he had left office and become a private citizen.

    Republican governors have a much better (though not perfect) track record of staying out of jail. In the last 60 years, one (George Ryan) ended up in jail; one (William Stratton) was acquitted of tax evasion charges; and three (Richard Ogilvie, Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar) have clean records. I’d say that bodes better for Brady.

    I think Brady will win in Illinois, though it won’t be a blowout. Democrats can, of course, take Chicago and Cook County for granted, but the suburbs or “collar counties” outside Chicago are still on the fence.

    The esteemed Illinois political blogger Rich Miller of Capitol Fax foresees disaster of Biblical proportions for Democrats downstate. No Democrat, whether running for General Assembly, Congress, or statewide office, is safe south of I-80.

  12. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “The esteemed Illinois political blogger Rich Miller of Capitol Fax foresees disaster of Biblical proportions for Democrats downstate. No Democrat, whether running for General Assembly, Congress, or statewide office, is safe south of I-80.”

    Music to my Downstate heart Elaine!

  13. Elaine Krewer says:

    Don, it should be noted here that if Quinn loses on Tuesday, the 60-plus-year streak of ELECTED Democratic Illinois governors ending up as felons will remain unbroken for at least four more years, since Quinn was not originally elected governor but succeeded Blago after the latter’s impeachment.

    The only other exception to this Democratic-governors-becoming-felons rule was Sam Shapiro — the Democratic lieutenant governor who succeeded Otto Kerner when the latter was appointed a federal judge. Shapiro served only 8 months in 1968-69 and ran for election in his own right but lost. Unfortunate, since he was by all accounts a smart and honest guy.

  14. lisag says:

    California please vote for Meg Whitman! If Brown wins, this state will become a gay marriage state, there will be extensive embryonic stem cell research, and cap and trade will be implemented, causing more business to leave the state. Schwarzenegger’s troubles in leadership are hurting Meg. If a republican state house is voted in you will see major changes in the state with Meg. Don’t be turned off by her ability to pay her own way. She is a successful, courageous woman ready to serve the people of the state, not labor unions, not extreme environmentalist, not the liberal agenda hurting our schools.

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