Jan. 25, 2018 — Earlier this month, we set the stage for the Senate and House campaigns. Today, we look at another important election platform, that of the nation’s governors. Though these races will elect people who will obviously determine future individual state policy, most of the 2018 gubernatorial winners will carry redistricting veto power in 2021. Therefore, these elections also carry national implications.
Of the 36 governors’ campaigns, 17 will be open races mostly due to state term limit laws. While the Democrats must protect the preponderance of US Senate seats this year, the opposite situation exists in the governors’ races. Here, Republicans must defend 26 state houses, 13 of which are open seats.
Of the 13 GOP incumbents seeking re-election, three are actually running for governor for the first time. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), and Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) were all lieutenant governors who ascended to their current position because the person elected in 2014 is no longer in office.
Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain arrangement over campaign finance violations. The other two state chief executives, Terry Branstad (IA) and Nikki Haley (SC), accepted positions in the Trump Administration. At this point in the election cycle, all three unelected governors are favored to win a full term.
Wisconsin Democratic state chairman Mike Tate officially proclaimed that his party and the liberal grassroots organization, United Wisconsin, will coordinate efforts in a recall campaign against Gov. Scott Walker (R). The attempt to cut his four-year term short by more than two years is in response to his aggressive stance against the public sector unions, which collectively are the key fundraising component of the Democratic coalition. This is a curious move, because their recall efforts against various Republican state senators early this year largely failed. Only two Republican incumbents fell, one who held a heavily Democratic seat and another who was caught in a highly publicized extra-marital affair.
The Democrats’ task will not be easy. They have slated Nov. 15 to begin their signature gathering effort. They must collect 540,206 valid signatures in a 60-day period. This means they could obtain as many as 2,000,000 in that short duration, all from qualified Wisconsin voters, in order to ensure the recall process will move forward.
Factoring in the length of the signature gathering, verification, and challenge periods in addition to the six-week campaign cycle, then a possible subsequent recall election would be sometime in May. If such a recall election is forced, it would be a very interesting precursor to the presidential campaign, especially since this current recall could also be portrayed as a referendum on the current state of national affairs, and even on President Obama himself if the Republicans play their campaign hand in a strategically sound manner. If Walker were to retain his office in this crucial and highly definable swing state, it could signal what’s to come in the general election.
The Wisconsin Democrats have decided to enter a very high-stakes poker game, one in which they have much to lose. Should they be successful in forcing the recall election, it will likely prove to be an exceptionally relevant warm-up match for the national main event.