Planning For 2010 — Already
By Louis Jacobson, Special to Stateline
The 2008 election cycle is far from over, but lots of partisan minds already are looking ahead to 2010, with both parties crisscrossing the country to court credible candidates for upcoming governors' races.
While the 2010 gubernatorial cycle offers a mother lode of 36 contests, the parties have something else at stake. Most winners in 2010 will play a major role in influencing the future makeup of Congress, through the states' once-every-10-years congressional redistricting.
As a result, party strategists, in the midst of an "easy" 2008 season with just 11 races, are juggling this year's gubernatorial contests with those in 2010, focusing both on fundraising and on candidate recruitment. They know that the next round of redistricting could alter the partisan balance in Congress, putting 15 to 25 seats in play for one party or the other. The count of state legislative seats also at stake, which will be redrawn in a parallel process, is many times higher.
In most states, a congressional map needs approval from both legislative chambers and the governor. Legislators traditionally have a bigger role in some states, and if gridlock results, the job of nailing down the districts typically heads to the courts. (Six states empower a bipartisan commission.)
"Over the next three years, there's an opportunity for a ton of fresh faces to help shape the future balance of power in the U.S.," said Phil Musser, the national finance co-chairman for the Republican Governors Association. "It's one of the lines that both governors and governors' associations are using to motivate donors, and it's been a powerful argument."
Both the RGA and the Democratic Governors Association began their fundraising and recruiting efforts four years ahead of Election Day, rather than two years, as in the past. The RGA is seeking to raise enough money this year to carry a substantial amount into the 2010 cycle. In 2007, the group raised $21.5 million and carried over a record $9.5 million into this year. In the first quarter of this year, the RGA raised over $7 million and reported $14.65 million on hand - amounts that satisfy RGA officials who are focusing on the 2010 plan.
And the DGA is trying to double its 2006 war chest of $14 million for the 2010 cycle, DGA spokesman Brian Namey said.
Here is a rundown, based on interviews with nearly 40 in-state and national experts, of some key states with 2010 gubernatorial races that could influence redistricting after 2010.
Popular, first-term Gov. Ted Strickland (D) has an edge over three well-known Republicans who may run against him: former U.S. Rep. John Kasich, former Office of Management and Budget director Rob Portman and former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine. Re-electing Strickland would help Democrats redraw what is now a GOP-leaning map and mitigate the expected loss of a seat after 2010.
Strickland is one of three officials who run redistricting in the state, along with the state auditor (Republican Mary Taylor, who looks strong for re-election) and the secretary of state (Democrat Jennifer Brunner, who faces a potentially tough race against GOP House Speaker Jon Husted).
Democrats smell a pickup after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) exits because of term limits. Possible Democratic candidates include Jerry Brown (D), the attorney general and ex-governor (1975-1983); Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Other potential Democrats are Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and state schools chief Jack O'Connell, while possible Republicans include Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, former Rep. Tom Campbell and eBay CEO Meg Whitman.
Democrats hope that winning the governorship and retaining the Legislature will help expand their edge in the nation's largest congressional delegation, which may not gain a seat after 2010.
Personal embarrassments have left Republican Jim Gibbons one of the nation's most vulnerable governors in 2010. Potential Democrats include Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Secretary of State Ross Miller and Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, the son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
If the close state Senate goes Democratic over the next two cycles, it could combine with a solidly Democratic state House and a new Democratic governor to shape an expected new seat and tilt the evenly matched district represented by U.S. Rep. Jon Porter (R).
Pennsylvania: The race to succeed Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who is term-limited, should be highly competitive. Democrats start with a modest edge, with Auditor General Jack Wagner and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. Top Republicans include Attorney General Tom Corbett, 2006 nominee and professional football legend Lynn Swann, who lost to Rendell in 2006, and former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey.
With the Keystone State poised to lose a seat, Pennsylvania could see major changes to its Republican-leaning map. With the GOP likely to keep its edge in the state Senate and with a close state House up for grabs, Democrats could use the governorship to secure some sway in redistricting.
Term-limited Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has been struggling politically because of the state's persistently bad economy, giving the GOP a pickup opportunity. Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D) could be hurt by his association with Granholm. Other potential Democrats include Wayne County executive Robert Ficano and former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer. The Republicans have Amway businessman Dick DeVos, who lost to Granholm in 2006 after spending $35 million of his own money. Others include Attorney General Mike Cox; Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land; and U.S. Reps. Candice Miller, Mike Rogers and Peter Hoekstra.
With both chambers close, all three levers of redistricting will be hotly contested in 2010. If the parties split, the map could end up in the hands of judges - who are currently majority Republican.
Gov. Charlie Crist (R) looks safe for a second term, unless John McCain is elected president and brings him to Washington. The Democratic options include Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; the state's elected chief financial officer, Alex Sink; and state House Minority Leader Dan Gelber. But Crist and a Republican Legislature are well-positioned to craft an expected new congressional seat, bolster vulnerable GOP incumbents and endanger a few Democrats.
The state Senate is teetering in the Democrats' direction, and with the state Assembly already in hand, Democrats will work hard to re-elect Gov. David Paterson so that they can protect their own as the delegation drops by a seat or two. Paterson's approval ratings are mediocre, but the state GOP's position is weak. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is often mentioned, but it's unlikely that the self-styled independent would tolerate heavily partisan line-drawing.
With Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) term-limited, Kansas Democrats seem happy with Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, a moderate former state Republican chairman. The GOP field ranges from U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and U.S. Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt to state Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt.
The Democrats hope a new governor would prevent the GOP from redrawing the districts of U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore (D) and, if she wins a second term, U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda (D).
Other states where 2010 gubernatorial races could influence redistricting are Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
Louis Jacobson is the editor of CongressNow , an online publication launched in 2007 that covers legislation and policy in Congress and is affiliated with Roll Call newspaper in Washington, D.C. Jacobson originated the "Out There" column in 2004 as a feature for Roll Call, where he served as deputy editor. Earlier, Jacobson spent 11 years with National Journal covering lobbying, politics and policy, and served as a contributing writer for two of its affiliates , CongressDaily and Government Executive . He also was a contributing writer to The Almanac of American Politics and has done political handicapping of state legislatures for both The Rothenberg Political Report and The Cook Political Report.