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Review of the Gubernatorial Rces     Permalink

While there are still primaries to come in half a dozen potentially competitive states, it is nevertheless worthwhile to take a look at the gubernatorial races that are already beginning to become clear. There are an incredible 24 open governor's seats this November, mostly due to term limits, but also a few due to voluntary retirements and one (NV) due to the sitting governor being defeated in a primary. Here is the list

State Retiring Dem governor Retiring GOP governor
Alabama   Bob Riley (R)
California   Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
Colorado Bill Ritter (D)  
Connecticut   Jodi Rell (R)
Florida   Charlie Crist (R)
Georgia   Sonny Perdue (R)
Hawaii   Linda Lingle (R)
Kansas Mark Parkinson (D)  
Maine John Baldacci (D)  
Michigan Jennifer Granholm (D)  
Minnesota   Tim Pawlenty (R)
Nevada   Jim Gibbons (R)
New Mexico Bill Richardson (D)  
New York David Paterson (D)  
Oklahoma Brad Henry (D)  
Oregon Ted Kulongoski (D)  
Pennsylvania Ed Rendell (D)  
Rhode Island   Donald Carcieri (R)
South Carolina   Mark Sanford (R)
South Dakota   Mike Rounds (R)
Tennessee Phil Bredesen (D)  
Vermont   Jim Douglas (R)
Wisconsin Jim Doyle (D)  
Wyoming Dave Freudenthal (D)  

The large number of gubernatorial contests on tap in November is especially important due to the redistricting that will follow the 2010 census. In most states, the congressional districts are set by state law, which gives the governor the power to veto plans drawn up by the state legislature. With some states slated to gain congressional seats and others slated to lose them, this power can come in handy for a political party, so expect furious battles in many states. Here is a list of the most competitive gubernatorial races. The candidate of the incumbent party is listed first. For a discussion of all the gubernatorial races, click on the "Governors races" link on the menu below the map.


Incumbent Challenge Notes
Jan Brewer

Terry Goddard

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) got her job when term-limited Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) took a job in the cabinet. Since she wasn't elected, she may be vulnerable. The most likely Democratic candidate is Attorney General Terry Goddard. Since the most recent person to be elected governor was a Democrat in an otherwise somewhat Republican state, this race has to be considered a tossup at this point.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Meg Whitman

Jerry Brown

Open seat. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) is term limited so the biggest prize of all in terms of possibilities to gerrymander House districts is up for grabs. The Democrats nominated former governor Jerry Brown (D) while the Republicans nominated former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R), who spent over $60 million of her own money on the primary. If she dumps an equal amount on the general election, she could be competitive. Despite being a very blue state, California has had many Republican governors. Furthermore, Brown is an extremely erratic campaigner. He might even decide to go off to an ashram to meditate instead of campaigning this Fall.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Tom Foley

Dan Malloy

With Gov. Jody Rell's (R-CT) announced retirement, this has become a wide open race with the Democrats having a good chance to pick up the governor's mansion. After hotly contested primaries, the Republicans picked former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley (R) and the Democrats picked former Stamford mayor Dan Malloy (D). Connecticut is a blue state and Malloy has run for and won public office before, so he is the favorite.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Bill McCollum

Alex Sink

Open seat. With Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to run for the seat of retired senator Mel Martinez (R) the governor's race was suddenly thrown wide open. Surprisingly, it settled down on both sides very fast, with Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) and Chief Financial Office Alex Sink (D) becoming the overwhelming favorites to get their party's respective nominations. Both are well know statewide. It could be a close race. One possible wild card: McCollum is facing a quirky primary challenge from billionaire Rick Scott who is simply trying to buy the nomination. Historically, it is very hard for an unknown billionaire to beat a well-known politiican in a big state, but in Florida, anything is possible.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Nathan Deal

Roy Barnes

Open seat. With Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA) term limited, former governor Roy Barnes (D) jumped into the race and won the primary. The Republican primary was indecisive, forcing a runoff between tea partier Karen Handel (R) and former representative Nathan Deal (R). Deal won it by a hair. The general election is likely to be close.


Incumbent Challenger Notes
Pat Quinn

Bill Brady

Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) became governor when his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich (D), was impeached and convicted. So far, Quinn doesn't appear touched by the state's boundless corruption, but when you weren't elected to your current office, you are always vulnerable. The Republicans don't have a stellar candidate here, with Bill Brady (R) eking out the narrowest of victories over his primary challengers. Still, Illinois is a fairly blue state and Quinn is somewhat better known than Brady, so the race leans towards Quinn although the Green Party candidate could draw votes from him.


Incumbent Challenger Notes
Chet Culver

Terry Brandstad

Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA) is a moderate Democrat in a moderately Democratic state. However, his popularity is dropping and he could be vulnerable. The Republican is former four-term governor Terry Branstad (R). Since Branstad is a proven vote getter, albeit a decade ago, he could be a tough competitor.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Libby Mitchell

Paul LePage

Open seat. Gov. John Baldacci (D-ME) is term limited, giving the Republicans a shot in this once strongly Republican state. The Democrats nominated state senate president Libby Mitchell (D) in a four-way primary. The Republicans chose the mayor of Waterville, Paul LePage (R). In addition to these two, three independents are also running.


Incumbent Challenger Notes
Martin O'Malley

Bob Ehrlich

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) will be running for a second term in this very blue state. Early in his term he raised taxes, which lowered his approval ratings somewhat. Former one-term governor Bob Ehrlich (R) wants to get his old job back, so this will be a rematch of the 2006 election. O'Malley beat Ehrlich in 2006, but the wind is blowing a different way now. Likely to be close.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Virg Bernero

Rick Snyder

Open seat. Term-limited governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) is leaving, which is probably a good thing for the Democrats as she was not all that popular. Also, the economy of her state is a complete disaster, although it is not really her fault that General Motors has had little interest in the past 30 years in producing cars that people actually want to buy. Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D-MI) was next in line but decided not to run. The Democratic nominee ended up being Lansing mayor Virg Bernero (D). Rick Snyder (R) won a tough GOP primary. The race probably leans slightly Republican because the voters are so angry about the economy and the Democrats are in charge now.


Challender Challenger Notes
Tom Emmer

Mark Dayton

Open seat. Some people are talking about Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) as a possible presidential nominee in 2012. He hasn't discouraged that kind of talk, and he decided not to run for a third term in 2010 to concentrate on his presidential run. Former senator Mark Dayton (D) decided to get back into politics and won the DFL (Democratic) primary. State representative Tom Emmer (R) won the Republican primary. The race is clouded by the presence of a third-party candidate, Tom Horner. It could be close.

New Mexico

Challenger Challenger Notes
Diane Denish

Susana Martinez

Open seat. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) is term limited. Lt. Gov Diane Denish (D-NM) is runing for the Democrats. What about the Republicans? Well, Obama carried the state in a landslide, the Democrats control both Senate seats, all three House seats, all statewide offices, and both chambers of the state legislature (by nearly 2 to 1 margins). The Republicans control nothing, so the best they could come up with is the Dona Ana County District Attorney, Susana Martinez. With both candidates female, New Mexico is sure to get its first woman governor. Martinez would be the first Latina, but the current governor is a Latino, so that is less of a breakthrough.


Incumbent Challenger Notes
Ted Strickland

John Kasich

Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) crushed his Republican opponent, Ken Blackwell, in 2006 and has remained relatively popular since then. But with the Ohio economy in the toilet people need to blame someone and the governor is always on everyone's short list. Former representative John Kasich (R) is his opponent and since he is not in office now, he can claim he's not responsible for the economic mess. It is likely to be close.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Dan Onorato

Tom Corbett

Open seat. With two-term governor Ed Rendell (D-PA), retiring in 2010, the governor's mansion in a key swing state will be up for grabs. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) was running but dropped out leaving the nomination to Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett (R). The Democrat is Dan Onorato, the County Executive for the county containing Pittsburgh. Neither candidate is an incumbent and Pennsylvania has many more registered Democrats than registered Republicans on account of Hillary Clinton's refusal to drop out of the presidential race in 2008. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Although Pennsylvania is a blue state, Corbett is better known than Onorato. Hard to tell what will happen.

Rhode Island

Challenger Challenger Challenger Notes           Polls
Frank Caprio

John Robitaille

Lincoln Chafee

Rhode Island is one of two New England states with a three-way race for governor. The incumbent, Gov. Don Carcieri (R), is term limited. Former senator Lincoln Chafee is trying to make a political comeback as governor. He will face off against the state Treasurer, Frank Caprio (D), and a Republican, probably John Robitaille, who has no chance. Chafee is still popular in the state and New England has had independent governors before, so he has a fair shot at winning.


Incumbent Challenger Notes
Rick Perry

Bill White

The fight to unseat Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), the longest serving governor in Texas history, is going to be a humdinger. Perry first had to beat back a primary challenger, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, which he did handily. Now he has to face off against the popular former mayor of Houston, Bill White (D). White is the first Democrat in years with a decent shot of being elected governor because the state's growing Latino population is highly Democratic and Perry has made a lot of enemies during his tenure.


Challenger Challenger Notes
Tom Barrett

no R

Open seat. Wisconsin law allows Gov. Jim Doyle (D-WI) to run for a third term but he has decided not to. Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett (D) is running to succeed him since the lieutenant governor, Barbara Lawton (D-WI) is not interested in the job. The Republicans have a primary in Sept. between Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) and former congressman Mark Neumann (R).


Challenger Challenger Notes
Brian Dubie

no D

Open seat. Vermont was one of the Republicans' few bright spots in New England. If four-term governor Jim Douglas (R-VT) had run for a fifth two-year term, he'd probably have won, but he is not running, so the Democrats have the edge now. Possible Dems are former lieutenant governor Doug Racine, Secretary of State Deborah Marowitz, and Treasurer Jeb Spaulding. Only one Republican filed: Lt.Gov. Brian Dubie(R-VT).

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