Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Elections are Right Around the Corner

In Governor, House on May 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

By this time next week, we will know the results of a special congressional election and two statewide primaries. And, on May 24, in upstate New York, another congressional vote follows. We will present an update report on the NY-26 race when that particular election approaches.

Saturday, May 14 – West Virginia Governor:
When Joe Manchin was elected to the Senate last year, he left the governor’s office with two years remaining on his final term. Under a rather ambiguous state succession law, it was determined that state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin (D) would become acting governor, but a special election would still be held to fill the unexpired portion of the gubernatorial term. The special election winner would serve the remaining 14+ months of the term but would be eligible to run for a full four years in the regular 2012 election.

Because every West Virginia office holder has a free ride for the special election, both parties drew very crowded fields. For the Democrats, aside from Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, state Treasurer John Perdue, state Senate President Jeff Kessler, and WV House Speaker Rick Thompson are all in the field of candidates. When the biggest Republican name, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) decided not to enter the race, a plethora of eight Republican candidates jumped into the race, led by former Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Westover Mayor Cliff Ellis and Senate Minority Whip Clark Barnes appear to be among the most serious challengers to Ireland.

Heading into Saturday’s election, it appears that Tomblin has a sizable polling lead among Democrats, as does Ireland for the Republicans. The special general election won’t be until Oct. 4, meaning a rather long special cycle. Should Tomblin win the Democratic nomination as expected, he will begin the special general in the favorite’s position.

Tuesday, May 17 – Kentucky Governor:
While the other elections are all of the irregular variety, the Kentucky vote is regular. The Blue Grass State normally elects its governor and statewide constitutional officers in the odd-numbered years. Tuesday should be a yawner in the governors’ race, however. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is seeking re-election and remains unopposed for his party’s nomination. Republicans feature three sets of candidates, as gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates run as a team, even in primary elections. State Senate President David Williams and his running mate, Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, appear to be the decided front-runners for the GOP nomination.

With a clear financial advantage and the voting history trends decidedly favoring the Democratic candidate in Kentucky governor races, Beshear becomes a prohibitive favorite in the major party match-up with Williams for the Nov. 8 general election. Five other offices: attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, and agriculture commissioner, will also being decided during this regular election cycle.

Tuesday, May 17 – CA-36 Special Election
California Rep. Jane Harman (D), who resigned her seat early in the term to accept a position with a foreign policy think tank, forced the Democrats to risk a congressional seat mid-term. Fortunately for them, CA-36 is safely Democratic and the new election laws now allow candidates of the same party to qualify for the general election, meaning their prospects of retaining the seat are even brighter. Considering the field of candidates and the Democratic nature of this district (Obama ’08: 64; Bush ’04: 40) it is likely that two specific individuals will qualify for the special general.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D), who previously ran unsuccessfully for the congressional seat in 1998, losing to Republican Steve Kuykendall who then turned around and lost to Harman two years later, and then subsequently lost a statewide Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, should qualify for the special general election. By bringing in $423,000+ by April 27, Ms. Hahn was the leading fundraising in the race and has significant name identification in the region.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), who was just re-elected to her second and final four-year term as a statewide official, hopped into the race to preserve her long-term political future. Bowen represented large portions of this Los Angeles harbor district during her tenure in both the state Assembly and Senate. Bowen raised $338,000 by the same April 27 disclosure filing deadline. Based upon the strength of the candidates and the CA-36 voting patterns, it would be shocking if someone other than these two ladies moves onto the general election. (There are a total of 16 candidates on the ballot: five Democrats, six Republicans, and five Independents.)

As in the other states hosting gubernatorial elections, the length of this special general cycle is also long. The second election is scheduled for July 12th. A Hahn-Bowen general election will be interesting because both candidates are strong and credible with solid name identification. The summer election will likely become hotly contested because both women possess political strengths. Councilwoman Hahn should place first in the primary and begin the special general election as a slight favorite. In any event, the district will easily remain in Democratic hands, regardless of which of their candidates finally claims the seat in mid-July.
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