The “Sweet” Sixteen Governors

Continuing our sector review of the 16 most competitive political campaigns reflective of the spirit of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, we today turn to the gubernatorial campaigns:

Arizona: Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is ineligible to seek re-election, so we can expect a tight open seat contest in the Grand Canyon State. So far little action is occurred, however. Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) says he will run; so does former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, also a Republican. No Democrats have yet stepped forward. Richard Carmona, the Democratic senatorial nominee who held freshman Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to a three-point win last November, publicly announced that he will not run for governor.

Arkansas: This is another state where the incumbent, in this case Democrat Mike Beebe, has reached the limit of his allowed service. Thus, a tough open-seat battle is already commencing. Republicans appear to be headed for a consensus candidate in the person of former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3). Democrats could be headed to a primary between former lieutenant governor Bill Halter and ex-representative Mike Ross (D-AR-4).

Connecticut: Gov. Dan Malloy (D) won his seat with only a statewide margin of just 7,604 votes, and thus is expected to again face tough competition. The 2010 GOP nominee, former Ambassador Tom Foley, says he wants to run again. Chances are this race won’t be as close as last time. Gov. Malloy has to be rated the early favorite.

Florida: The Sunshine State gubernatorial campaign could become the most interesting in the nation. GOP Gov. Rick Scott is politically weak and former governor Charlie Crist, this time representing a new political party as he as switched from the Republicans to the Democrats, will be his likely opponent.

Hawaii: Incumbent Neil Abercrombie should cruise to re-election against any Republican, but his angering of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) by not appointing her to the Senate could earn him a primary challenge. Hanabusa says she may run for the Senate, against Abercrombie, or for re-election. We shall soon find out what she chooses. A primary battle will likely be competitive, but Abercrombie will be rated as the strong favorite to prevail, regardless of what early polls may suggest.

Illinois: Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is unpopular and he, too, may be subjected to a Democratic primary challenge. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, often rated as the most popular political figure in Illinois, is apparently preparing an intra-party challenge. Republicans also appear ready to field a strong candidate, possibly in the guise of Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL-18), state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner, or state Sen. Kirk Dillard, the latter of whom barely lost the Republican nomination in 2010. Madigan must be rated as having the advantage in both the primary and general election in the early going.

Maine: Gov. Paul LePage (R) won in 2010 because of a tight three-way race even though he received only 37 percent of the vote. The same situation may re-occur as Independent Eliot Cutler has already announced that he will run again. Both Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) and former governor John Baldacci are publicly considering entering the race. LePage might again survive in a three-way race, but he is a clear underdog against a single opponent.

Maryland: Incumbent Martin O’Malley (D) is ineligible to seek re-election, but is likely to run for president in 2016. Democrats will be heavily favored in what is becoming one of the party’s most reliable states. Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) attracts the most attention of the possible candidates.

Massachusetts: Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is retiring, thus opening up another state’s chief executive race. Democrats will be favored here unless former senator Scott Brown (R) runs. No one has officially announced. Democratic state Treasurer Steve Grossman appears as the most likely potential candidate to actually make the race.

Michigan: First-term Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is seeking re-election and may have drawn a big break with Sen. Carl Levin (D) retiring. The open Senate seat looks to be attracting Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) away from the governor’s race. Peters is widely viewed to be Snyder’s strongest challenger. The governor’s political ratings are weak, but improving. This will be a hard-fought election campaign and could go right down to the wire.

Nebraska: All are awaiting whether Gov. Dave Heineman (R), barred from seeking a third term, will run for the retiring Sen. Mike Johanns (R) seat. The Senate race appears to be Heineman’s for the taking, but he has yet to give any indication that he will run. Until he does, the major contenders for both Senate and governor are hanging back. The race will draw a large number of Republicans. Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler appears to be the strongest Democrat on the political horizon.

Ohio: Gov. John Kasich (R) who, after two years in office, appeared to be headed for a very difficult re-election as an underdog has rebounded nicely and now looks to be gaining significant political strength. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D) has announced a challenge to Kasich. Former attorney general Richard Cordray (D) may follow suit, depending upon what happens with his confirmation to a federal appointment. The race will be competitive, but Kasich now figures to be in the driver’s seat.

Pennsylvania: Another weak incumbent heading toward a difficult re-election fight is Keystone State Gov. Tom Corbett (R). Currently, he trails several potential Democratic opponents. His two most viable foes are Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13), who is planning to run, and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), who lost a close race to Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in 2010 and is undecided about this race. The state has a recent Democratic history, so Corbett could be in serious jeopardy.

Rhode Island: Gov. Lincoln Chaffee is the only elected Independent governor in the United States. The big question is whether he will seek re-election as an Independent or a Democrat. He once served in the US Senate as a Republican. Chafee’s approval ratings are among the worst in the nation. Rhode Island is a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

Virginia: With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) cruising to re-election, the open Virginia governor’s race appears to be the hottest of the 2013 campaigns. Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are already battling in a close race. Expect this to be a photo finish. At this point, either man can win.

Wisconsin: Successfully battling a 2012 re-call campaign, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is again on the ballot in 2014. This election, so far, is less controversial that his previous battle and, it appears, surviving the onslaught has made him stronger. The governor must be rated as the favorite to win a full second term. An early April 2013 Supreme Court race could be a precursor of what’s to come. If the Republican incumbent holds, Gov. Walker could find himself in an almost unbeatable position. At this point in time, no one has yet come forward to challenge him, but that will soon change.

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