Friday Governors Line: The Govs Come To D.C.
The nation's governors descend on the nation's capital today for their annual winter meeting, a gathering that will draw considerable attention thanks to the scads of pols contemplating national bids in attendance.
While the likes of Charlie Crist (Fla.), Bobby Jindal (La.), Mark Sanford (S.C.), Tim Pawlenty (Minn.) and Jon Huntsman Jr. (Utah), all potential 2012 candidates on the GOP side, and Kathleen Sebelius -- a strong candidate for the Health and Human Services opening -- are sure to draw most of the ink, there are also any number of governors looking to cement their political legacies in their final two years in office or win contested reelection races.
There are embattled governors like Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) and David Paterson (D-N.Y.) and a collection of governors term-limited out of office in competitive states -- a list that includes Jennifer Granholm (D- Mich.), Don Carcieri (R-R.I.) and Brad Henry (D-Okla.) to name just three.
In short, the weekend -- and the entire 2009/2010 governors cycle when a total of 38 states will hold elections -- is an embarrassment of riches.
Whether you are planning to attend the festivities or just a pure political junkie, below we offer our take on the ten states most likely to flip partisan control over the next two years. As always the number one ranked race is the most likely to change party control.
Feel free to offer your own thoughts in the comments section below.
Dropping off the Line: Wyoming, Arizona
Coming onto the Line: New York, Tennessee
To the Line!
10. New York (D): Paterson turned the appointment of a Senate replacement for Hillary Clinton into a public relations problem at best and a farce at worst. He looked ineffectual and clueless. And, polling suggests he has incurred significant political damage as a result. A Quinnipiac survey shows Paterson trailed state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo by a whopping 33 points in a hypothetical Democratic primary matchup and tied with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) in a general election trial heat. If Paterson runs for reelection and Cuomo either passes on the race or loses the primary, this seat could be a major problem for Democrats in 2010. (Previous ranking: N/A)
9. Virginia (D): Republicans have to be feeling good about their chances of breaking an eight-year drought in the Commonwealth. State Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) has no primary opposition and, as a result, has seen a cavalcade of national Republican stars in the state to help him raise campaign cash. Democrats, meanwhile, are already on course for a knock-down, drag out battle in advance of their June primary. So far former state Del. Brian Moran has been the most aggressive of the trio -- hammering former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe as a political opportunist of the first sort. State Sen. Creigh Deeds, the only one of the Democratic candidates not from northern Virginia, has largely avoided the mud-slinging. (Previous ranking: 8)
8. Michigan (D): Combine eight years of Democratic control of the governor's mansion with the dismal state of Michigan's economy and you have a recipe for a GOP pickup. Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the race on Thursday, joining state Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoesktra and former state Sen. Tom George in the GOP field. Lt. Gov. John Cherry appears to be the default Democratic nominee but he has drawn middling reviews as a candidate and may struggle to portray his election as a break from the tenure of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) who is term limited. This race is a major trouble spot for Democrats. (Previous ranking: 9)
7. California (R): Former eBay president Meg Whitman's formal announcement that she will run for governor in 2010 sets up a terrific (and expensive) Republican primary battle between her and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. A majority of California's sharpest operatives seem to think Whitman is the favorite but we'll reserve judgment until we see what kind of candidate she becomes. On the Democratic side, everything remains static and will continue to be so until Sen. Dianne Feinstein makes a decision on whether or not she will run. Our guess is that she takes a pass -- a move that would set up a big primary fight between Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Jerry Brown among others. (Previous ranking: 6)
6. Hawaii (R): Republican strategists insist we aren't giving Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R) his due as a candidate. We're willing to be convinced on that front but the fact remains that a GOP-held open seat in a state President Obama won with 72 percent of the vote is a major Democratic pickup opportunity. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, state Sen. Malama Soloman and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann are also weighing the contest. Any one of them would likely start the general election as the favorite over Aiona. (Previous ranking: 4)
5. Tennessee (D): Democrats saw their chances of holding the Volunteer State governorship weakened considerably when Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) took a pass on the race. Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D) isn't running either -- although he has yet to say so publicly -- and there isn't a terribly deep bench for Democrats. Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, who is currently the director of Harvard's Institute of Politics is an intriguing potential candidate but he currently lives in Massachusetts. Any Democratic candidate will start behind either Rep. Zach Wamp or Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslem -- the two leading Republican candidates. (Previous ranking: N/A)
4. Oklahoma (D): Candidates continue to circle this race. The latest is state Sen. Randy Brodgon (R) who joins Reps. Mary Fallin and Tom Cole as potential candidates on the Republican side. The Democratic field is slightly more settled with Lt. Gov. Jari Askins in the race and state Attorney General Drew Edmondson weighing the contest but not expected to make a decision until the fall. The strong Republican nature of Oklahoma means that the GOP nominee starts the general election as a favorite. But, term-limited Gov. Brad Henry's (D) electoral success in 2002 and 2006 suggest that this seat isn't entirely out of reach for Democrats. (Previous ranking: 5)
3. Kansas (D): Two things make this race a very likely pickup for Republicans. First, popular Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) is term limited out of office after eight years. Second, Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is coming back to the state to run for governor. Even if Sebelius winds up leaving office early to take a post in the Obama administration, her lieutenant governor -- Mark Parkinson -- has said he will not run for governor in 2010. The Democratic base in the state is thin and no top tier candidates have come forward. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Rhode Island (R): Candidate recruitment is still ongoing but there doesn't appear to be another Don Carcieri coming down the pipe for Republicans. Carcieri, the Republican governor who is term limited out of office in 2010, campaigned as an outsider with a pragmatic perspective on government and managed to win two terms in this decidedly Democrat state. In 2010, all of the energy appears to be on the Democratic side. State Treasurer Frank Caprio is setting the early pace with more than $1 million in his campaign warchest but Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, state Attorney General Patrick Lynch and Providence Mayor David Cicilline are also considering the contest. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Nevada (R): Republicans and Democrats agree on a simple fact: If Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) runs for a second term in 2010, it's a near-certainty he will lose. Gibbons' travails over his first three years in office are too numerous to document here (if you want a full accounting, make sure to read Fix friend Jon Ralston) but the following headline says it all: "Governor Gibbons hopes to delay proceedings in civil trial." Not good. Rory Reid, the chairman of the Clark County Commission and eldest son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), is raising money for the race and state Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley is also interested. Gibbons has given no indication he is thinking about retiring. If he doesn't, this seat is a party switch. (Previous ranking: 7)
February 20, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories: Governors , The Line
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