Democrats Take Back the Statehouses As Well?
Democrats poised to recapture one or both houses of Congress in midterm
elections in two weeks, one area that has gotten less attention is a
possible shift in the majority of governorships. Republicans have held
the majority of statehouses since 1994, and currently control 28 of the
quest to get some of those back, the Democrats are counting on three
strong candidates in states that, despite being deep-blue, have not had
Democratic governors in many years.
Massachusetts and Minnesota are all currently governed by Republicans,
and have been since the early 1990s. This has mostly been because of
entrenched Republican incumbents, party infighting that has led to a
paucity of effective Democratic candidates and Republican coattails in
the strong GOP years of 1994 and 2002. But 2006 is looking like a
Democratic year, and as red states have gotten redder, blue states have
three states, New York is the most likely to flip this year. George
Pataki, a Republican known less for conservatism than for changing his
politics, chameleon-like, in every situation, has been the governor
since defeating Mario Cuomo in 1994, but is neglecting to run for a
fourth term in favor of mounting a quixotic run for the presidency in
essentially taken the New York GOP down with him, leading to the
almost-certain re-election of Hillary Clinton to the Senate, and the
rise to the governorship of Eliot Spitzer. The state attorney general
for the last eight years, Spitzer had made a name for himself bringing
high-profile prosecutions against various business titans such as AIG
insurance, earning him the wrath of Wall Street. Spitzer led opponent
John Faso by 46 points according to a Siena University poll taken Oct.
I-95 is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As the home of Harvard,
Cambridge and Ted Kennedy, the Bay State may be a conservative punchline.
But, with a large plurality of socially conservative, working-class
Catholics, Massachusetts is not nearly as liberal as its reputation
Michael Dukakis left office in 1990, Massachusetts has had four
consecutive Republican governors. William Weld was elected to two terms,
before resigning in 1997 in an ill-fated bid to become ambassador to
Mexico. He was replaced by Paul Cellucci, who was re-elected in 1998 but
resigned himself not long after, this time for the ambassadorship to
Canada. He was succeeded by America’s first pregnant governor, Jane
Swift, but Swift declined to seek re-election in 2002 and was replaced
by the arch-conservative Mitt Romney.
is planning to run for president in 2008, so he dropped his re-election
bid. His Lieutenant Governor, Kerry Healey, is running to succeed him.
She is facing a significant challenge from Deval Patrick, a former
Clinton Justice Department official who defeated two strong candidates
in a September primary. Patrick, who would be the first African-American
governor of the state, has had to face numerous attacks on his
associations with past clients, and was even criticized when it was
revealed that his brother-in-law was an unregistered sex offender. But
despite all that, Patrick led Healey by 13 points in a Suffolk
University poll taken Oct. 11.
closer race is taking place in Minnesota, a state that has not had a
Democratic governor since Rudy Perpich was defeated in 1990 by Arne
Carlson. Carlson served two terms before he was succeeded in 1998 by
former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, who was elected as an independent. In
2002, State Rep. Tim Pawlenty took the governorship, defeating veteran
Democratic legislator Roger Moe and former Congressman Tim Penny, who
ran as an independent.
running for re-election against state Attorney General Mike Hatch, who
had previously run in primaries for governor on two occasions. The two
have run neck-and-neck most of the way, but an Oct. 11 Star Tribune
Minnesota Poll had Hatch leading by 9 points (Peter Hutchinson, a former
Minneapolis schools superintendent, is running as an independent.)
metropolitan areas are known for their staunch liberalism, while much of
its rural areas are staunchly conservative. The battleground in the last
few elections has been the rising “exurbs” around Minneapolis and St.
Paul, which broke for Pawlenty and Sen. Norm Coleman in 2002. If Hatch
can draw well there, he can probably end the Democratic-Farmer-Labor
Party’s gubernatorial drought.
Massachusetts and Minnesota are all blue states in which I’ve lived.
Other blue states, such as Maryland, seem likely to follow that pattern
as well. An underrated part of the Democratic resurgence in 2006 is that
they have finally begun picking strong candidates. In all of the states
mentioned, that may make the difference this year.
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