Veep Stakes Could Shake up Governorships


Some governors on the shortlist of potential picks for vice president could turn their states upside down politically if they actually got the nod.

If picked to serve in an Obama administration, at least three Democratic governors would have to leave their states to Republicans, who are now second in command. A McCain presidency could mean at least one "red' governership going Democratic "blue."

While many people assume that lieutenant governors are of the same party as the state's No. 1, that is not always the case. In 18 states, voters elect the governor and lieutenant governor separately, a situation that can lead to a split ticket. Democrats currently hold 28 governorships to 22 for the Republicans.

Democratic Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas are often mentioned by political and media analysts as contenders for the No. 2 spot or a Cabinet post under the presumed Democratic nominee, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. But the consequences could cost the party locally.

  • If Virginia's Kaine were picked, the lieutenant governor is Bill Bolling, a Republican, giving the GOP control of the governor's mansion for the first time since 2002.
  • Arizona doesn't have a lieutenant governor, so Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, would take over if Napolitano were tapped, giving the GOP the reins of power in both the Legislature and the governor's office.
  • Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, a Republican, would take over for Schweitzer, whose win in 2004 put a Democrat in the governor's office for the first time since 1989. (Montana is the only state with a Democrat and Republican voluntarily on the same ticket.)
  • In Kansas, Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson switched to the Democratic Party in 2006 after serving four years as Republican Party Chairman and as a Republican state legislator during the 1990s, so his ascension would put his party leanings to the test.

On the Republican side, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is getting lots of buzz. But if he were tapped to serve in a McCain administration, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu would take over.

Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's early support of McCain gives him a leg up in the parlor game of vice-presidential speculation. His successor, Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, is a Republican but she has attracted controversy. The state Senate last February removed her from her simultaneous post as transportation commissioner. Pawlenty was criticized in the aftermath of last summer's I-35 bridge collapse, which killed 13 people, for allowing her to hold both jobs.

Other current governors whose names have surfaced as potential vice-presidential or Cabinet picks come from states where the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket, so the impact would not be as politically upsetting. These include Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R); Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), and Ohio Gov. Ted Stickland (D), who has vowed not to accept a vice-presidential invitation.

History shows it's a good bet at least a few governors or former governors will be packing for Washington, D.C., in 2009.

President Bush turned to four of his fellow Republican governors in his first term: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, sworn in as the country's first homeland security advisor in 2001; Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who was named secretary of Health and Human Services; New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, who became administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 and who was succeeded in 2003 by Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who later became secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Two more governors were tapped in Bush's second term: Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to be secretary of the Interior Department and Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns, who served as secretary of agriculture until September 2007.


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