Category Archives: Governor

Utah’s Matheson Won’t Challenge Sen. Hatch

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) announced yesterday that he will not challenge GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch next year, closing the door on at least one possible statewide challenge. He did not rule out running against Gov. Gary Herbert (R), however.

Matheson, knowing he was facing an adverse redistricting situation as Republicans have full power in Salt Lake City, has repeatedly said he will be on the 2012 Utah ballot but refused to say for what office. In addition to potentially running against Herbert, the congressman could conceivably seek re-election in either Congressional District 2 or new District 4. None of the US House seats are favorable to a Democrat, but Matheson has won repeatedly in a heavy Republican district since his original election in 2000.

Though Mr. Matheson still has several political options before him, none of them are particularly good. Running statewide in 2012 with an unpopular President Obama leading the Utah Democratic ticket will not result in Matheson having a favorable turnout model.

During the redistricting special session, it was clear that Gov. Herbert was lobbying for a plan that would give Matheson a district he could win, thinking the Democrat would stay put if he had a reasonable chance to do so. The state legislature rejected that approach and Herbert acquiesced to their wishes and signed the bill, an action that may have endangered himself. There’s more to come here, but this decision is yet another favorable occurrence for Sen. Hatch who, at one time, appeared to be facing the most serious challenge of his long 36-year Senatorial career.

Jindal Re-elected in Louisiana

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), as expected, romped to a second-term victory on Saturday night in the statewide primary election. Because the governor garnered 66 percent, well over the minimum majority requirement of 50 percent plus one vote, he was elected outright and will not face a Nov. 19 run-off election.

The Republicans swept the statewide ticket, which was expected, because Democrats only fielded candidates in the governor’s, agriculture and forestry, and insurance commissioner offices. All of the statewide elections were decided, so the only contested run-off races will be at the district level. Little change as it relates to party division occurred in the legislative races.

Jindal, for all intents and purposes, won the race at the candidate filing deadline because Democrats were never able to recruit a credible challenger, thus leaving the governor virtually unopposed. The runner-up in this race was Democratic educator Tara Hollis, who could only pull 18 percent. Turnout was light, 1.022 million voters participating, or 35 percent of those registered. Four years ago when Jindal was first elected in an open seat election, the turnout was 1.27 million people.

Wisconsin Democrats Announce Walker Recall

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.

Tomblin Withstands Maloney’s Challenge in West Virginia

Acting West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) successfully withstood a strong gubernatorial special election challenge from Republican businessman Bill Maloney last night, winning a tight 50-47 percent victory. An overwhelmingly Democratic state in voter registration (53 percent D – 29 percent R), the Mountain State has been voting decidedly Republican in recent national elections. In fact, no Democratic presidential candidate has carried the state since 1996. But, for state contests, the Dems have remained in control as they again did yesterday.

Tomblin will fill the final year of Joe Manchin’s (D) second term as governor. Manchin resigned the office when he was elected to the US Senate last year. He was heavily involved in campaigning for Tomblin and certainly could have made the difference for his Democratic successor in what evolved into a close race. The senator is the state’s most popular elected official.

Polling showed the race closing fast in Maloney’s favor, but it was a question whether his charge was too little, too late. He under-performed in the coal country, which is a good sign for the state’s Democrats. The party’s federal candidates were ravaged here during the 2010 election as a direct result of the President’s Cap & Trade legislation.

Though the GOP, particularly through a $1.8 million Republican Governor’s Association independent expenditure, tried to tie Tomblin directly to President Obama – attacking mostly on healthcare as opposed to Cap & Trade – the strategy came up just short. This may be an example of how an offensive on a federal issue may not necessarily carry over to a state race.

Turnout was very low, just under 25% of the state’s 1.2 million registered voters. An average congressional special election usually broaches participation rates in the 35% range, with statewide contests usually doing better.

Gov. Tomblin is eligible to run for a full term next year. It remains to be seen if Maloney runs again.

Assessing the Nation’s Governors Contests

Often times the trends set in the nation’s governors contests become a precursor to the national presidential elections. This year, four states are choosing chief executives and, if anything, the patterns associated with these races suggest a return to more normal voting behavior. In Louisiana, now becoming a staunch Republican state, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is seeking a second term. To date, and candidate filing closes today, he does not even have a major opponent. Jindal is virtually assured a second term.

Next door in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant who easily won the Republican gubernatorial nomination to succeed two-term Gov. Haley Barbour (R), appears headed for a landslide victory in November over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). If successful, Bryant will deliver the fifth consecutive Mississippi gubernatorial election for his party. Kentucky, one of the most loyal of Republican states in the presidential election but a place that almost always elects a Democratic governor, is again falling into a familiar voting pattern. While President Obama trails the top GOP candidates here according to the latest polls, incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed toward an easy re-election this November.

West Virginia, however, is bucking the landslide trend. In a special election to be decided Oct. 4 because Joe Manchin left the governorship to succeed the late Robert Byrd in the US Senate, interim Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) suddenly finds himself in a tight contest against GOP businessman Bill Maloney. The latest Public Policy Polling survey (Sept. 1-4; 708 likely West Virginia voters) gives the Democrat only a 46-40 percent lead, down from his previous double-digit leads. But closer races are becoming a more usual voting pattern for West Virginia, as the state continues to trend more Republican. Expect the campaign to tighten even more as Election Day approaches.

Can these normal gubernatorial elections suggest a return to a more predictable vote in next year’s presidential contest? Quite possibly. If so, expect a much closer result than we witnessed in 2008.
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