Friday, May 04, 2007

2007 Races: May Edition

Another month is upon us and it is once again time to take a brief look at the developments in the three states that will elect Governors in 2007.

Kentucky Governor-

The primary is now just a little more than two weeks away and on this eve of the big horse race in the Bluegrass State, the politics certainly seem interesting.

On the GOP side, incumbent Governor Ernie Fletcher, who many had written off for politically dead and an underdog in the GOP primary, continues to lead his opponents in polls from Survey USA. The latest has him extending his lead over former Congresswoman Anne Northup to double digits. Fletcher certainly seems to be making a bit of a comeback, at least in his own party, and that is causing Northup to strongly push the electability issue, as many in both parties feel that Fletcher would have a hard time winning a general election in November.

Things seem to be even tighter in the multi-candidate Democrat primary, in which the top two finishers appear almost certain to have to face each other in a June runoff. The Survey USA poll showed no Democrat ticket even getting 30 percent of the vote at this point in time, with Health Care CEO Bruce Lunsford, who actually dropped out of a race for Governor and endorsed the Republican Fletcher in 2003, and former Lt. Governor Steve Henry. Lunsford and another potential runoff candidate, former Lt. Governor Steve Beshear have both dealt with allegations of plagiarism in recent weeks and it appears that whomever eventually emerges as the party’s candidate will have some weaknesses.

Many Democrats will have their fingers crossed that the politically embattled Fletcher, who has battled corruption allegations in his term, captures the nomination, as they think he would be a sure loser, but considering the fact that the Democrat primary has been pretty divisive as well, and that the GOP will have over a month to unite behind their nominee, while the Democrats battle it out in a runoff, will not be to the challenger party’s advantage. Expect for there to be calls for the second place Democrat to not push forward in a runoff campaign, but if the result is close, and if the first place finisher finishes several points below the 40 percent threshold, that possibility is unlikely.

At this point, it’s all still pretty up in the air until we at least know who the one Republican and two Democrat candidates moving forward into the summer months, will be.

May rating- Tossup {R}

Louisiana Governor-

There have been major developments in this state over the past month, and they relate to at Republican pickup becoming very close to a sure thing.
The day after the Democrat Attorney General of Louisiana refused to issue an opinion in the quest for former U.S. Senate John Breaux, now a resident of Maryland, to be declared eligible to seek the Governorship, Breaux decided that he could not move forward with a campaign amidst that uncertainty. A lot of political observers had considered Breaux to be the only hope for the party in keeping the office, despite the fact that Breaux had been trailing a Republican candidate, Congressman Bobby Jindal in a couple of polls.

Speculation then turned to Democrat Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu but he too has ruled out a run for the top spot. While a couple other names will continue to be mentioned before the September filing deadline (including bizarrely enough the unpopular incumbent Governor Kathleen Blanco who just announced her retirement plans this spring), there are but two second-tier candidates running as Democrats.

One is State Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who has been in the race for months now, and the other is State Senator Walter Boasso, who until this week, was planning to seek the office as a Republican. In truth, Boasso is probably still a Republican, but because of Louisiana’s unique election system and the historic weakness of the political party as an institution in the state, his party switch, for the purpose of this election, is really not all that extraordinary.

The fact that the Republican Party is so united behind Jindal led Boasso to the decision that the best way for him to have any chance of advancing to the November runoff, would be to run as a Democrat. However, many believe that now that Jindal will face one less Republican opponent on the October ballot, his chances of reaching a majority of the vote in the October jungle primary, and winning the Governorship outright, are probably now greater.

Jindal is very close to having this one called “safe” for him, but not quite yet, as in Louisiana, you never really know what else might happen.

May rating- Likely Republican

Mississippi Governor-

The only significant development in this state is that one Democrat candidate has dropped out due to financial reasons, leaving attorney John Arthur Eaves Jr. to now be considered the almost certain nominee and the person who will win the right to be defeated by the popular GOP incumbent Governor Haley Barbour, in this very conservative state.

May rating- Safe Republican