By Jim Ellis
May 12, 2017 — It’s been a busy political week even beyond the happenings at the presidential level, and the recent political news will affect the federal political apparatus long after the 2018 election cycle concludes.
Several current campaign announcements in governors races are setting the stage for critical 2021 redistricting battles. These races could well decide which political party will have the easier path toward controlling the US House for what could be the entire decade of the 2020s. The governors elected in the present election cycle will carry redistricting veto power; hence, the 2021 re-draw process is actually beginning right now.
In key states that are projected to gain and lose congressional districts, major gubernatorial campaign announcements were just made that will soon become focal points of the next redistricting process.
In Michigan, a state expected to again lose a congressional district and where Republicans own a 9-5 federal delegation margin within, Rep. Dan Kildee’s (D-Flushing/Flint) has rather surprisingly decided not to run for governor even when he appeared to be his party’s top statewide candidate. His remaining in the House will likely ignite a wide-open 2018 Democratic primary.
Without Rep. Kildee in the statewide race, the leading Democrat appears to be former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, but her status as the current nomination favorite won’t last long as other prominent Democrats will shortly make moves to enter the race.
In Florida, the week’s official gubernatorial announcement is an expected one. Agriculture commissioner and ex-US Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Bartow/Lakeland) will run for his state’s open governor’s contest, and most believe he is at least the leading Republican candidate.
Though only 42 years old, Putnam has already had a long career in elective office. He will complete his second four-year term as the state’s 11th agriculture commissioner, this after serving 10 years in the US House, and following four years in the state legislature. He is the youngest person (22) ever elected to the Florida state House, and came to Congress when he was only 26. In Washington, Rep. Putnam held two leadership positions: House Republican Conference chairman and Republican policy committee chairman.
Though just entering the race, the leading Republican already has significant financial resources backing him. In 2015, an outside political action committee was formed to boost his candidacy, and has currently raised over $10 million to do so. Should he win the Republican nomination, Putnam is sure to face a strong general election opponent, quite possibly former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), the daughter of ex-governor and Sen. Bob Graham (D).
Ohio, another state that will likely lose a seat, is attracting an all-star cast of candidates from both parties for its open governor’s contest, and two more officially joined the campaign this week. For the Republicans, Secretary of State Jon Husted officially joined the enlarging candidate pool that already includes Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine, and US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth).
On the Democratic side, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also became an official gubernatorial candidate. She will battle ex-US Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley), state senator and former Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich for the party nomination with others likely to join. Gadfly former US representative and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is a likely gubernatorial entry, and US Consumer Protection Board chairman and ex-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray is also a potential candidate who would factor prominently in this statewide race, should he enter.
The 2018 governors’ are the races that will have the greatest long-term effect upon the country’s political direction largely because of the redistricting power that the chief executives elected in the current cycle will wield. This week has been important in defining the cast of political players who will ultimately serve in those critical positions.