Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kansas Governor Race

Race of the Day

August 19, 2006
80 Days Until Election Day

Kansas Governor

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

Kansas is certainly one of the more strongly Republican states in America but in 2002, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius was able to capitalize on her image as a likeable, non-ideological figure in addition to Republican divisions among moderates and conservatives in the state Republican party, to win election as Governor.

This year, Sebelius seeks reelection as a heavy favorite. Her numbers have been fairly high throughout her first term, and like she did in 2002, she has once again selected somebody from the Republican Party to be her candidate for Lt. Governor on the Democrat ticket. In this case, it is the man who was the state Republican Chairman in 2002, and had been very critical of Sebelius at that time.

Her Republican opponent is State Senator Jim Barnett, who is also a physician. Barnett comes from the conservative wing of the Kansas GOP, but is not viewed as overly divisive. Polling had shown him running somewhat better against Sebelius than other Republicans seeking the nomination and he came out on top in a crowded primary. There has been some talk that former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight, a more moderate Republican who lost in the 2002 primary for Governor, was prepared to jump into the race as an Independent, but there does not seem to be much evidence to back that up. Needless, to say, the presence of another Republican on the ballot would split the vote and help Sebelius win by a larger margin.

Recent polls have all had Sebelius running at just about the 50 percent mark, which indicates that a Democrat can never truly be safe in a conservative state like Kansas. Before the primary, a poll had even shown Barnett within striking distance, but since then, Sebelius has regained a healthy double-digit advantage over her Republican opponent.

Barnett would probably stand a decent chance of keeping the often fractious coalition of Kansas Republicans somewhat together, but it would take something very unexpected in order for him to get just about all the undecided voters in his column at Election Day to give him a chance to win.

So, it certainly appears that Sebelius, another one of the several popular moderate Governors from both parties who govern states that are very favorably disposed to the other party, is in good shape to win another four years. If her margin is big enough, and if the 2008 Presidential nominee were to be male, the daughter of a former Ohio Governor may receive a lot of mention for a spot on the national Democrat ticket.

Barnett campaign link:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 3 D, 11 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 11 D, 17 R