The Massachusetts Senate special election took place yesterday, with Rep. Ed Markey (D) unsurprisingly winning the seat. Markey was up against former Navy SEAL and private equity investor Gabriel Gomez (R).
While Markey had been consistently leading in the polls, Gomez insisted to the end that he was a serious competitor, largely based off the unpredictability of low voter turnout. In the end, Gomez was unable to attract a majority of Massachusetts’ independent voters, which he needed for the win. Markey ran as the Democratic establishment choice in the race, and this year the Democratic Party put their full weight behind the candidate, hoping to avoid another 2010 mishap when Scott Brown (R) won the state’s special election to replace former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D). Democrats outspent Republicans 2-1 on television and Markey had several key politicians stump for him including former President Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Gomez on the other hand, touted himself as independent from the national GOP Party and did not receive as much support from Republican groups and funders.
Markey will be finishing out the term of former Sen. John Kerry (D) who resigned in February to become Secretary of State. He will take over for Governor Deval Patrick’s interim senator, William “Mo” Cowan. Cowan, Patrick’s former Chief of Staff, chose not to run in the special election. Markey will be up for re-election in 2014, for a full six year term. The special election to fill Markey’s vacated 5th Congressional District will be decided by Governor Patrick and will take place 145-160 days after the seat is officially vacated.
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The ballot is set and the race is heating up. Tuesday marked the final step in setting the tickets for the Virginia 2013 statewide elections. The Republicans selected their nominees in May at a convention, but now the Democrats have narrowed down their field. Terry McAuliffe will be the Democratic nominee for Governor, Ralph Northam for Lieutenant Governor, and Mark Herring rounding out the ticket as the Attorney General nominee. The Republicans nominated Ken Cuccinelli for Governor, E.W. Jackson for Lieutenant Governor, and Mark Obenshain for Attorney General. The general election takes place November 5, 2013.
At the top of the ticket, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli have already started campaigning, but now that the nomination phase is complete, the candidates will be called on to make more statements and outline their positions. With both sides beginning to sling mud, it is important to find out where the candidates stand on the issues that really matter to Virginians. The Virginia Prosperity Project will continue to monitor the race and bring employers, employees, and their families the information that will allow voters to make an informed choice about which candidates will continue to allow Virginia to prosper. Where McAuliffe and Cuccinelli stand on health care, transportation, minimum wage, trade, and taxes matter to hardworking Virginians. These issues are tied to why Virginia continues attract business, grow its economy, and allow the Commonwealth’s citizens to thrive.
The Republicans have chosen their nominees, selecting Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, and Mark Obenshain, but next week the Democrats will take the spotlight as they head to the polls to select their representatives for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. While the Republicans used a convention to decide, the Democrats will be decided using a primary election held on June 11th to select their state-wide candidates.
Terry McAuliffe is the presumptive nominee for Governor, but the race is on for the nomination for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Ralph Northam and Aneesh Chopra are battling it out for Lt. Governor, while voters will decide between Mark Herring and Justin Fairfax for Attorney General.
Virginia has an open primary system, meaning any qualified voter can vote in the Democratic primary. This is because Virginians don’t identify a party when they register, but they must choose between voting in the Democratic or Republican primary, not both. There is still time to apply for an absentee ballot if you can’t make it to the polls, the deadline is June 4th by mail and June 8th in person. Virginia only allows absentee voting with an approved excuse.
Polls will be open 6am to 7pm June 11th.
There will be another open seat in the House when voters go the polls in 2014. Surprising many, Representative Michele Bachmann (R, MN-6) announced via a video on her website that she won’t be seeking reelection to a fifth term. The former presidential candidate and tea-party mainstay was expected to face a tough challenge from Democrat Jim Graves who came within 1.2% of defeating her last November. Despite what would likely have been an uphill battle for reelection, Bachmann said that her decision had nothing to do with her prospects but rather her belief that she had served her time. In the video, Bachmann said, “I have every confidence that if I ran, I would again defeat the individual who I defeated last year, who recently announced he is once again running.”
Jim Graves had official announced his decision to challenge Bachmann, but with her exit, Graves also announced his departure. Graves looked like a strong contender against Bachmann heading into 2014, but with more moderate Republicans now seeing an opportunity, the seat is a harder pick-up for Democrats. The 6th District is a more conservative suburban district that will be a challenge for Democrats to put in play without the divisive Bachmann in the mix. Romney took the district by almost 15% in 2012. No major contenders have had a chance to express their interest, but expect the Republican that emerges in this race to have the advantage.
Representative Jo Bonner, a Republican serving Alabama’s 1st District, has announced that he will be stepping down from his seat effective August 15. Bonner accepted the position of Vice Chancellor of Government Relations and Economic Development at the University of Alabama. He has served just over ten years in the House and ran unopposed his most recent re-election bid last November. In a press release, Congressman Bonner said that he wasn’t looking for a change, but that the opportunity at the University of Alabama found him. He currently serves on the House Committee on Appropriations.
Once Congressman Bonner vacates the seat, Governor Robert Bentley will call a special election. Alabama is, with the exception of Representative Terri Sewell, a strong Republican state and should stay safely in Republican hands. Because Bonner’s departure was so sudden, no official candidates have come forward. Some possibilities on the GOP side are state Senators Trip Pittman, Bill Hightower, and Rusty Glover. Potential Democrats might include state Senators Vivian Davis Figures and Marc Keahey.
Missouri 8th District: State Rep. Jason Smith (R) has won the special election to replace former Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson (R) who resigned in January to join the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The state parties choose the special election nominees and the seat was expected to stay in Republican hands. The Democratic nominee was state Rep. Steve Hodges. The current House breakdown is now 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats.
New Jersey: New Jersey held its primary yesterday for the statewide November elections. Gov. Chris Christie (R) and state Sen. Barbara Buono (D) are now the official gubernatorial nominees. This has not been a competitive race so far, with Christie maintaining a 30 point lead over Buono. Besides the gubernatorial race, all 120 state legislative seats are up for reelection. Overshadowing the NJ primary is the recent news of Sen. Lautenberg’s (D) passing. Attention has been focused on Gov. Christie and who he will appoint as successor, Republican or Democrat, to Lautenberg’s seat in advance of a special election in August.
The economy is always a major headline in elections, especially unemployment rates. When looking at the unemployment numbers for the states that have governors up for reelection in 2014, 14 states currently have unemployment rates higher than the national average of 7.5%. How significantly will these numbers affect the elections? While it is true that several of the nation’s most unpopular governors are on this list, including Chafee (I-RI), Quinn (D-IL) and Corbett (R-PA), other governors with high unemployment rates are relatively popular. Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates right now with 9.6% unemployment, yet Gov. Sandoval (R) has positive approval ratings. While unemployment rates may not predict the outcomes of races, it is certainly a factor to keep in mind going into the 2014 elections.
In last week’s blog, BIPAC delivered an overview of all eight open U.S. Senate seats and all nine U.S. House seats. This week we have focused on the six open governors’ races being held between now and the end of 2014. Of the 36 states that have governor races next year, only five of them are open seats, four of which are term limited. Also included in our analysis is the gubernatorial election in Virginia in 2013. The only governor choosing not to seek reelection is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D). This differs significantly from the extremely high number of U.S. Senators who are leaving Congress due to partisanship and age. It is unlikely we’ll see any current governors announce they aren’t seeking another term barring any major events or scandals. We do know however, that as of today there will be at least six new governors heading into 2015. Below is an overview of those states and what we can expect to see between now and Election Day.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is limited to serving only two terms as governor. Beebe won first in 2006 and again in 2010 by large margins and will be leaving office very popular with a 68% approval rating. Despite twice electing a Democrat to the governor’s mansion, Arkansas has shifted fast and hard in recent years becoming a more Republican state (Romney won 60% of the vote), and as a result this election is going to be very competitive. Two Democrats have announced their intention to run, former Lt. Governor Bill Halter (D) and former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross (D). Several other individuals are considering runs in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, the list is much shorter. Three individuals have declared their candidacies: former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchison (R), state Rep. Debra Hobbs (R) and businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Curtis Coleman (R). Hutchison ran unsuccessfully for governor against Beebe in 2006 and is the current front runner on the Republican side. In the few polls that have been fielded, Hutchison leads among all the Democratic opponents, but it’s too early to say he’s a shoe-in. Also affecting the top of the ballot will be the U.S. Senate race in 2014. Sen. Mark Pryor (D) is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senators facing reelection next year.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was Arizona’s Secretary of State when former Governor Janet Napolitano (D) was picked to serve as Sec. of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration in 2009. Because Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor, the next position in line to fill a gubernatorial vacancy is secretary of state. As a result, Brewer was sworn in as governor in January of 2009. Gov. Brewer has been a controversial governor on issues such as immigration, redistricting and, more recently, Medicaid expansion. Her popularity has taken a rollercoaster ride over her tenure and it’s unclear where her approvals will be when her term ends. Despite growing Hispanic and Latino populations that increasingly identify with Democrats, Arizona is still fairly conservative. As a result, the field for the Republican nomination is growing every day. Of the candidates who have declared or shown interest, Sec. of State Ken Bennett (R) seems to be a favorite pick but he has yet to formally announce. Former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman (R) and 2010 AG candidate Andrew Thomas (R) are the only two individuals to have publicly declared their candidacies. Individuals considering the Democratic nomination are former Board of Regents Chair Fred Duval (D), state Rep. Chad Campbell (D) and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D). Duval officially announced his intention to run in April and has already received endorsements from three former Democratic governors and is the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is also term limited and will leave office with a reputation as a stalwart for the Democratic Party and liberal policies. During his tenure he repealed the death penalty, signed same-sex marriage legislation, as well as stricter gun control laws. His ambitions for the presidency in 2016 are no secret, and he is finishing his term with modest approval ratings. Despite not being overwhelmingly popular compared to other Democratic governors, his endorsement of Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (D) should be enough for Brown to secure the Democratic nomination. Maryland’s deep blue tilt should all but guarantee Brown a seat in the governor’s mansion. However, it is still early and state Rep. Heather Mizeur (D) and Attorney General Douglas Gansler (D) are also planning to run for the nomination. A Republican winning the general election isn’t likely, but there are still a number of candidates considering a run for the nomination. The individuals most likely to announce as of today are state Delegate Ron George (R) and Harford County Executive David Craig (R).
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) is term limited and is expected to leave office well-liked with approval ratings in the 60s or 70s. Nebraska is a conservative state and the next governor is very likely to be a Republican. The subject that is shaping the governor’s race more than anything else is the open U.S. Senate seat that was created when Sen. Mike Johanns (R) announced his decision not to run for reelection. As a result, there are two statewide offices open at the top of the ticket in Nebraska in 2014. Several Republicans are interested in the opportunities creating large candidate pools in both primaries, and Heineman’s recent decision not to run for the Senate seat has left the field wide open for both races. For the governor’s race, state Sen. Charlie Janssen (R) is the only Republican to officially announce he’s running. Others are sure to jump in but it will depend on who gets into the Senate race. On the Democratic side, a handful of candidates are considering but no one has officially announced because of the uncertainty surrounding the Senate race. Time is needed to tell how this election will turn out.
Massachusetts Massachusetts is one of 12 states that do not have gubernatorial term limits. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) will not seek a third term for governor despite being eligible to do so, and even though he had a rough first term Patrick should leave office relatively well-liked. It’s still early in the cycle but the pool of candidates stepping up to run has been small and the process has been slow. Two candidates have officially declared to run: Joseph Avellon (D), a business executive and former Chairman of The Wellesley Board of Selectman, and Evan Falchuk (I), an attorney running as an Independent. No Republican candidates have announced, but Charlie Baker Jr. (R) a health care CEO and former cabinet secretary is mentioned frequently. He ran for governor in 2010 but lost to Gov. Patrick by six points. Also mentioned is former U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R), but he has not made a decision and has also been eyeing the New Hampshire Senate race. In recent elections Massachusetts voters have elected Republican governors to balance out the liberal legislature. Before Gov. Patrick’s election, Republicans held the governor’s mansion since 1990. But with Democrats having a 3 to 1 voter registration edge over Republicans, unless a standout Republican wins the nomination, the next governor is more likely to have a D next to his/her name than an R.
Virginia The Virginia governor’s race is being held in November of 2013 instead of 2014, but it is one of only a handful of open governor’s seats this cycle and is certainly worth mentioning. Virginia only allows governors to serve one term at a time, and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is termed out at the end of this year. The race to become Virginia’s next governor has made significant headlines. Virginia’s evolution as a swing state and history of acting as an off-year thermometer for how voters are feeling about national politics makes this a marquee race. The Republican nomination became official two weekends ago when Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) was nominated by a state Republican convention. The primary for the Democratic front runner is not until June 11th, but former DNC Chair and businessman Terri McAuliffe (D) is guaranteed to win the nomination. The two candidates have left something to be desired for Virginia voters. Cuccinelli’s strong stances on social issues alienate key moderate voters, and Terri McAuliffe, who lost the Democratic nomination in 2011, is seen more as a national party figure, as opposed to a local in tune with the needs of Virginians. This race is going to be very competitive and surveys have shown the candidates taking turns in leading the polls. A component of who wins this race will depend on how disciplined that candidate is in advocating what he is for, as opposed to what his opponent is against.
There is a time for politics and a time for governing. The time for politics is over the time for governing is upon us.