Saturday, June 23, 2007

2008 Governor/U.S. Senate races- Summer 2007

As I did in March, I want to take a brief look at all the Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races that will occur in 2008. These are just thumbnail posts, in which I am not planning to put a great deal of emphasis into any sort of sterling writing and there may even be grammatical errors and stuff like that.

Alabama U.S. Senate

Over the last few months, there had been some hope among the Democrat netroots that Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, a rare statewide office holder for his party, would decide to step up and challenge incumbent Republican Jeff Sessions. Just within the past few days though, Sparks has come to a decision that he would instead defer to State Senator Vivian Davis Figures. Sessions, is one of the most vocal opponents of the current Senate immigration bill and remains a very solid favorite to win reelection.

Alaska U.S. Senate

Longtime Republican Senator Ted Stevens, a political legend in the state, has confirmed that he is under federal investigation related to work done on his home. However, the political power of Stevens and the heavily Republican nature of the state still would make it very difficult for the Democrats to make something stick to the incumbent in a reelection campaign, barring an indictment. If Stevens were to decide to retire, the GOP would also be favored to win an open seat. As of last week, the most prominent Democrat planning to run, in a state where the party has a weak bench, is former State House Majority Leader Nels Anderson Jr., who last lost a third party primary bid for Governor in 2002. However, over the past week (and since I originally wrote this entry), there is talk that Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, whose father once served in the U.S. Senate may be eyeing a Democrat bid for either the Senate seat or perhaps the state’s at large House district. One will have to keep an eye on what mind come on the recruit front for Democrats and the legal front for Stevens.

Arkansas U.S. Senate

Freshman Democrat Mark Pryor is still heavily favored to win another term, although there is apparently talk that the state’s ambitious new Lt. Governor may be considering a primary challenge. In the meantime, former U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks, who has a record of losing past races, is still the most likely Republican to run, although talk of former Governor and current Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee making a switch into a Senate race will probably not die down any time soon. While it is true that the emergence of Fred Thompson in the GOP field may wipe out any slim hopes that Huckabee had in that race, he may feel that he could earn his way onto the national ticket.

Colorado U.S. Senate

This race remains the only guaranteed open Senate race at this point and the one that the Democrats feel most confident about picking up and the one that probably has Republicans the most nervous. At least one Republican candidate who was considered very likely to run, surprised many by saying no, and at this point, the general election matchup looks likely to come down to Democrat Congressman Mark Udall and former Republican Congressman Bob Shaffer, who after a 2004 Senate primary defeat, has since been elected to the State Board of Education. Several analysts believe that Shaffer is to the right politically of the state and would have a hard time being elected, but Udall is also probably to the left of the state. Such a race would be one that would be likely to be heavily influenced on the overall mood of the state related to the Presidential contest.

Delaware Governor

There is not much in the way of developments in this state over the past few months. Lt. Governor John Carney remains the favorite to capture the Democrat nomination for the open seat, although he may still face a primary challenge. No Republican appears to have committed to making the race yet at this point in time. The politics of the state would favor the Democrats, although anything can happen in Gubernatorial races, particularly if there is an overall desire next year for “change.”

Delaware U.S. Senate

Few expect longtime Democrat Senator Joe Biden to be able to capture his party’s Presidential nomination, and while he may also have his eye on a Vice Presidential or Cabinet slot, it remains to be seen if he intends to run for a seventh Senate term. If he is on the ballot for that office, he will be a near certainty to win again. If the seat were to become open, things might get interesting if the state’s at large Congressman Mike Castle would run, but otherwise, the Democrats would likely be favored in an open seat race as well.

Georgia U.S. Senate

Georgia remains a very conservative state and Saxby Chambliss should win reelection to a second term but he has earned the ire of many in his party’s right wing for his support of the Senate immigration bill, and like some other Senators, Chambliss will need to find a way to subside that anger by next year’s election. A couple Democrat challengers have already announced, but few believe they could mount a top tier challenge to Chambliss. Some Democrats will hope that former Governor Roy Barnes, who was defeated for reelection in the year that Chambliss was elected to the Senate might make the run, as he would be their strongest candidate.

Idaho U.S. Senate

In this very conservative state, there is still speculation as to whether or not three term Republican incumbent Larry Craig will run for reelection. Former Democrat Congressman Larry LaRocco, who was defeated in a race for Lt. Governor last year has already announced his candidacy, regardless of what Craig decides to do. If the incumbent were to retire, Congressman Mike Simpson might run for the Republicans as could Lt. Governor Jim Risch, who also served as the state’s interim Governor for a time last year. Either way, Republicans should have the edge.

Illinois U.S. Senate

Even though two term Democrat Dick Durbin, his party’s number two man in the U.S. Senate, has never faced a Republican opponent who was able to combine political and financial viability, one has to get the sense that the GOP in the state has come to the conclusion that they will not really be able to mount a premiere challenge against Durbin in 2008 and probably will not even try. Some wealthy candidates capable of self-finance had previously been exploring Senate bids, but they seem unlikely to run for that office in order to focus on business responsibilities or a more winning U.S. House race. Currently, the most viable Republican candidate who seems likely to run is a little known physician named Steven Sauerberg.

Indiana Governor

Republican Mitch Daniels is still hoping to rebound enough politically in order to win a second term while the Democrat race is still likely to feature a primary between State Senate Minority Leader Richard Young and businessman Jim Schellinger, now with former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson, who has lost her last couple bids for office, also likely to jump in the race. This should be a competitive general election contest, but the incumbent will probably have at least a slight edge.

Iowa U.S. Senate

Veteran Democrat incumbent Tom Harkin has not formally announced a decision to run for reelection, but it looks very likely and he remains a solid favorite. As is widely known in political circles, every six years Republicans put up a seemingly strong U.S. House member against Harkin and he always manages to win. There has just recently been some buzz about GOP Congressman Tom Latham joining House colleague Steve King in thinking about a race as well as some lesser known businessman, including the long since declared Steve Rathje. Iowa Republicans probably will not really focus on their U.S. Senate nomination until after next January’s Presidential Caucuses.

Kansas U.S. Senate

There do not even appear to be any Democrats who have taken steps to explore a race against Republican incumbent Pat Roberts.

Kentucky U.S. Senate

While Democrats are now favored to pick up the state’s Governorship in 2007, incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader in Washington remains a solid favorite to win reelection in 2008. That is despite the fact that there seems to be a bit of a feud in the State GOP, where McConnell is seen as somewhat of a “boss.” There is talk that former State Supreme Court Justice and two time Gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy may even challenge McConnell in a primary, but that remains to be seen. It will certainly be difficult for any Democrat, such as wealthy cable television magnate Charlie Owen, who has lost several political bids in recent years, to defeat McConnell.

Louisiana U.S. Senate

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, two term incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu is perhaps the most vulnerable incumbent Senator in the country. The state has very unique political circumstances though and it remains unclear who would be her most serious opponent. Right now, there is much speculation that State Treasurer John Kennedy, who also ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in a 2004 jungle primary, is planning to leave the Democrats in order to run against Landrieu as a Republican. Considering the extremely weak standing of political parties as an institution in Louisiana, such a move would hardly be shocking, but it would be interesting. Otherwise, Congressman Richard Baker, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, and former State Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell who lost to Landrieu in 2002 and then lost another statewide race two years later, could wind up being the top Republican. While Landrieu has won tough contests before, the GOP believes that she is especially ripe for the taking in 2008 and that the party will have momentum following state elections in 2007.

Maine U.S. Senate

A highly anticipated general election contest appears nearly set between moderate Republican incumbent Susan Collins and Democrat Congressman Tom Allen. Democrats believe the challenger will be able to capitalize on the state’s liberal leanings in order to oust a GOP incumbent, but Collins remains very popular and is still probably a good match for the state. The first poll out of Maine shows that Collins starts off with a hefty lead over Allen.

Massachusetts U.S. Senate

Polls show that longtime Democrat Senator John Kerry, his party’s most recent Presidential nominee is now viewed as being pretty unpopular in what is perhaps the most liberal state in the country, but despite that, few really expect Kerry to have too hard of a race in 2008. A few relatively viable Republican names have appeared to rule out a run, but Kerry has two announced opponents thus far in Ed O’Reilly, a former Gloucester City Councilor, and businessman Jeff Beatty, who ran for the U.S. House in 2006.

Michigan U.S. Senate

At the moment, there do not appear to be any viable Republicans prepping to make a race against Democrat incumbent Carl Levin, and if things stay as they are, he should have a very easy path to another six years.

Minnesota U.S. Senate

In what should be a very interesting and entertaining U.S. Senate contests, Democrats continue to believe that they might be able to unseat freshman Republican Norm Coleman, but there is some angst over if any of their party’s announced candidates, especially former comedian and radio talk show host Al Franken will be nearly strong enough politically to do so. Indeed polls still show Coleman with a sizeable lead over both Franken and wealthy businessman Mike Ciresi. However, the polls both show that Coleman could theoretically face a very competitive race in a state that is traditionally associated with liberalism, but has become much more of a battleground lately. Coleman, who has voted with Democrats on some occasions in the Senate lately, also may now face a Republican primary challenge from his right.

Mississippi U.S. Senate

As long as Republican incumbent Thad Cochran seeks a sixth term, as most expect, he will have among the easiest reelections in the country next year. Democrats would only be expected to make a major push, with someone running like former Attorney General Mike Moore if the seat were open.

Missouri Governor

Over the past few months, first term Republican Governor Matt Blunt has improved his political standing somewhat, but it is still far from stellar and Democrats think they will have a good chance to take this office back with the candidacy of State Attorney General Jay Nixon. Before such a general election would occur though, Blunt might have to contend with a GOP primary challenge, perhaps from State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. It looks like Blunt intends to run for reelection and he would hope to join a long list of Governors in both parties who recovered from political turbulence in their first term in order to survive and win reelection.

Montana Governor

It still looks like first term Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer is pretty popular in Big Sky country and is thus a favorite to win reelection. The very fact though that Montana elects its Governors the same year as a Presidential contest greatly reduces the likelihood of Schweitzer being considered for a national ticket. Former State Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan and businessman Steve Daines as Republicans who are said to be exploring bids for the job.

Montana U.S. Senate

Favored to win a sixth term is Democrat Max Baucus but his reelection contest would immediately look more interesting to political watchers around the country if the state’s at large Congressman Denny Rehberg could be convinced to seek a rematch against Baucus, a dozen years after their first meeting. Otherwise, the GOP nominee might be someone such as State Representative Mike Lange and the terrain in the state will definitely favor the veteran incumbent.

Nebraska U.S. Senate

Things have gotten very interesting in the Cornhusker State in the past few months. In a performance worthy of Hamlet, anti-war Republican Senator Chuck Hagel announced in the spring that he has yet to make a decision regarding a Presidential bid or a Senate reelection campaign. Most now believe that he will not seek reelection. If he does, he would probably be an underdog in a GOP primary to State Attorney General Jon Bruning. Hal Daub, a former Congressman and Mayor of Omaha is also running, despite some statewide losses in the past, and other Republicans might be expected to jump into the race. Several Democrat names are being mentioned as well, as it appears unlikely that Hagel might possibly change parties or mount an independent bid for reelection. The most intriguing of those Democrat names is Bob Kerrey, the state’s former Governor and U.S. Senator, and a past Presidential candidate. Kerrey however has been settled in academia in New York City for the past few years and while he would probably have the nomination for the taking if he were to run, it is worth noting that he recently penned a column in support of continued U.S. military involvement in Iraq, which is a contrast of course from Hagel’s opinion. If Kerrey were to not run, the Democrats might nominate current Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey or rancher and defeated 2006 Congressional candidate Scott Kleeb. Both of those would be credible candidates, but any Democrat non-incumbent would still probably face an uphill challenge in what has become one of the most reliably Republican states in the country.

New Hampshire Governor

Most of the political attention in New Hampshire will be focused on the Presidential primary in both parties, as well as what are expected to be very competitive races for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. There will also be a Gubernatorial contest though and Democrat John Lynch will be heavily favored to win a third two-year term, who should draw a reasonably credible GOP opponent nonetheless.

New Hampshire U.S. Senate

With freshman Republican John Sununu seeking reelection, the eyes of the Democrats are currently on the woman that he defeated five years ago, former Governor Jeanne Shaheen. While she has a comfy job at Harvard University at the moment, Democrats are now more confident that she will be enticed to seek a rematch and they point to a poll from a few months ago that showed she would start off with a lead against Sununu. Some Democrats, who would probably decide to defer to Shaheen are already in the race though, including Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and party activist and 2002 Congressional candidate Katrina Swett. Shaheen would certainly be the most formidable of the Democrats, but Sununu should expect a tough race regardless. Sununu has strong political skills though and will hope that the political landscape in New Hampshire looks a lot less like 2006 and a lot more like every other U.S. Senate race in the state since 1974.

New Jersey U.S. Senate

In a state where Republicans must feel pretty snake-bitten over the past decade, some higher profile names have appeared to take their names out of consideration for a challenge to potentially vulnerable octogenarian Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg. State Assemblyman Michael Doherty and wealthy real estate developer Anne Evans Estabrook have both already signaled their intention to run. Estabrook could wind up being an intriguing candidate, a moderate woman in the mold of former Governor Christie Todd Whitman, but she would need to be acceptable enough to conservatives to capture the Republican nomination against a candidate running to her right before she could truly set her sights on Lautenberg.

New Mexico U.S. Senate

The controversy surrounding the role that longtime Republican U.S. Senator Pete Domenici played in the ouster of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias has certainly cost the New Mexico political legend some capital in his state, but he has probably built up so much of it over the decades that it may not matter too much. As long as Domenici sticks with a reelection bid, he will be considered the favorite, and just how much of a favorite would depend on what sort of Democrat would be convinced to run against him. A real estate developer named Don Wiviott is in the race and joins a couple other rookie candidates while others will wait and see what Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and former State Attorney General Patricia Madrid decide. Both of those Democrats have lost high-profile races in the past though and may still be intimidated by Domenici’s standing, even if it is not what it once was.

North Carolina Governor

Republicans have been shut out of the state’s Gubernatorial office for a while now and probably wish they could face disgraced and disbarred Democrat prosecutor Mike Nifong for the office. That will not happen though as Lt. Governor Bev Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore will fight it out to represent Democrats in the general election. While the primary may be bruising, both candidates have won statewide office before and thus will probably be considered the early favorite against whomever the Republicans nominate. The GOP does currently have some credible candidates in the race, such as attorney and conservative activist Bill Graham (who apparently is not slick enough to identify himself in the state as “Billy”), former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr (who has won statewide office before), and State Senator Fred Smith (whose personal wealth might peg him as the GOP frontrunner). Some other Republicans may also still decide to jump in.

North Carolina U.S. Senate

Liberal blogger types frequently express a belief that first term Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole is a paper tiger who is ripe for the taking in 2008. Her numbers in the state may not be as high as some Senators in other states, but Jesse Helms never was universally loved in the Tar Heel State either and always found a way to defend the Senate seat that Dole currently holds. As far as Dole’s reelection prospects are concerned, a lot will depend on whom the Democrats wind up nominating. There are currently no announced credible candidates but talk exists regarding Congressman Brad Miller, who may be a little too liberal for the state. Other names mentioned, which might fit more into the wishful thinking category are State Attorney General Roy Cooper for retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton. Another possibility is that one of the party’s two candidates for the Gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Governor Bev Perdue or State Treasurer Richard Moore might switch races to run against Dole. A poll out this week shows Dole holding solid, but not insurmountable leads over both Democrats.

North Dakota Governor

All indications are that popular GOP Governor John Hoeven will seek a third term and he should have little trouble winning against what will probably be just token opposition.

Oklahoma U.S. Senate

Conservative incumbent Jim Inhofe, a frequent critic of global warming alarmists is heavily favored to win a third full term in a state that seems to approve of his political stances in Washington. About the only Democrat who is said to be thinking of a run against Inhofe is youthful State Senator Andrew Rice, who could probably be described as a bona fide liberal, and therefore not exactly a great statewide prospect in Oklahoma.

Oregon U.S. Senate

Democrats appear to be openly frustration by their inability thus far to recruit a top tier opponent to two-term Republican incumbent Gordon Smith in this Democrat friendly Pacific Northwest state. Several prominent Democrats have taken their names out of consideration and while others are still mulling over a challenge to Smith, liberal attorney Steve Novick and businessman Ty Pettit are the only announced contenders who might be able to capture the nomination. For his part, Smith has been taking steps to distance himself from the Bush Administration on matters such as the Iraq War, and could potentially face a primary challenge from his right. As of now, Mr. Smith still has the upper hand to go back to Washington.

Rhode Island U.S. Senate

Not many people expect a Republican challenger to have any chance whatsoever in winning a U.S. Senate seat in Rhode Island in 2008, and it might be interesting to see who in the GOP might even be willing to challenge two term Democrat incumbent Jack Reed.

South Carolina U.S. Senate

Based on a variety of factors, but especially on his active leadership on behalf of what immigration reform hardliners call “amnesty”, freshman Republican Lindsay Graham is potentially in very serious danger in a Republican primary. However, it looks like Graham might be lucky in the fact that a formidable fellow Republican might not be available to take him on. The name which had been most frequently mentioned was that of recently elected State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, who had sought his party’s nomination for Senate in 2004 as a first time candidate. In a shocking development though, Ravenel was just recently indicted on federal drug charges and is currently suspended from his office. It is safe to say that he will not be running against Graham. Democrats do not seem very anxious to challenge Graham now either, and he may wind up cruising to a second term, despite the fact that he gets booed when speaking before a state party audience. It might be worth keeping an eye on if a conservative independent candidate might be a general election nuisance to the Republican incumbent and if such a hypothetical candidate could make the Democrats an afterthought in this race in the extremely Republican friendly state.

South Dakota U.S. Senate

As has been the case for months, the first question that will need to be answered is if two term Democrat Senator Tim Johnson, who survived a bout with death in late 2006, will decide to run for reelection. Johnson is said to be continuing to recover and could return to his U.S. Senate duties in the next few months and his colleagues continue to help him raise funds for a potential reelection campaign. Democrats would like people to believe that Johnson is intent on running, with the belief that he would be very hard to defeat, in part on the sympathy factor. However, the truth probably is that no firm decision has been made on if Johnson will run again or not, and it would remain to be seen just how much he would be able to campaign. If Johnson were to retire, things would be in a good deal of flux as Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the state’s lone House member could run. However, her Congressional seat would probably then become somewhat likely to go Republican, as would an open Senate seat if Sandlin were to seek reelection to the House. As for the Republicans, there is a belief that popular Governor Mike Rounds is not overly interested in mounting a Senate campaign and would almost certainly not run against Johnson. At this point, a State Representative named Joel Dykstra and businessman Sam Kephart are running. The GOP also has its own Johnson, Dusty, an elected State Public Utilities Commissioner, who might also run. The bottom line to all of this is that an active reelection campaign by Tim Johnson would favor his reelection, although that would be far from a sure thing, while an open seat would probably favor Republicans, unless Sandlin runs, in which case, the GOP may focus more on picking up her House seat.

Tennessee U.S. Senate

With Fred Thompson poised to enter the Republican Presidential field and speculation continuing to swirl around Democrat Al Gore, the U.S. Senate contest in the Volunteer State is far less interesting. First term Republican Lamar Alexander, whose Presidential ambitions seem to be a thing of the past, seems an easy bet to win another term in Washington.

Texas U.S. Senate

Democrats would still love to recruit a top tier challenger to freshman GOP Senator John Cornyn, who despite the very heavily Republican lean of the Lone Star State has not achieved universal popularity during his term in office. Thus far, the only Democrats to announce a run against Cornyn are a couple of lawyers, Emil Reischstadt and Mikal Watts, neither of whom are believed to be very strong statewide hopefuls. Others will hope that former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, the man whom Cornyn beat for the seat in 2002, ex State Comptroller John Sharp, who has since lost two campaigns for Lt. Governor, State Representative Rick Noriega, State Senator Kirk Watson, or even former Governor Mark White, who has been out of office for a generation, might decide to run for the Senate. In any event, Democrats always have a tough road ahead of them in any statewide Texas election.

Utah Governor

Republican Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. is supporting John McCain for President while his father, a prominent Utahan, is supporting Mitt Romney. The rest of the state has very little doubt that the younger Huntsman will win a second term in office.

Vermont Governor

For three times now, liberal Vermont has elected Jim Douglas, it’s moderate Republican Governor to a two year term. While he will probably never be able to truly rest easy, Douglas seems to be in good shape to win once again in 2008, as no prominent Democrats are said to be planning a campaign at this time.

Virginia U.S. Senate

It still is unknown if veteran GOP Senator John Warner will run for reelection. There appear to be mixed signals being given, but if he does run again, this race probably is not on anyone’s radar. If the seat were to become open in a state where Democrats believe they have become a lot more competitive in recent years, it would be one of the hottest races in the country. The odds on favorite to replace Warner on the Republican side still figures to be Congressman Tom Davis. Democrats are still keeping a wait and see approach but their strongest candidate would clearly be former Governor Mark Warner, but he may instead be focused on a spot on the national ticket in 2008 or another run for Governor in 2009. If that is the case, he will not be running for the Senate in 2008, regardless of what John Warner does.

Washington Governor

All systems still appear to be a go for a rematch between first term Democrat Governor Christine Gregoire and the man she narrowly defeated in 2004 under disputed circumstances, now former State Senator Dino Rossi. If 2008 is a solid year for Democrats, the odds may favor another term for Gregoire, but she will likely have a very tough race on her hands regardless in what could be the closest Gubernatorial contest of the year once again.

West Virginia Governor

Popular Democrat Governor Joe Manchin is still expected to easily win a second term as his state’s chief executive and there probably will not be much more to say about this particular race for a long time.

West Virginia U.S. Senate

Most expect Democrat incumbent Jay Rockefeller to seek a return to the Senate for a fifth term and to be able to do so fairly easily, but politically promising Republican Secretary of State Betty Ireland is said to be considering the race. Perhaps she may have a hunch that Rockefeller might surprise folks and retire. Also said to be pondering a run is businessman and former State GOP Chair John Raese, who has lost to Rockefeller in the past, in addition to other Mountain State Democrats, including a 2006 Senate race.

Wyoming U.S. Senate- A

The state will now see two U.S. Senate contests in addition to a race for its at large Congressional seat and the regularly scheduled one will see two term incumbent Republican Mike Enzi seeking reelection, in what is expected to be the least competitive of the three races.

Wyoming U.S. Senate- B

Very shortly after being reelected in 2006, Republican Senator Craig Thomas was diagnosed with leukemia which sadly took his life a couple weeks ago. Just yesterday, the state’s Democrat Governor, in compliance with state law which gives the state party of the departed Senator a major say, appointed Republican State Senator and physician John Barrasso to serve in the U.S. Senate until a special election can be held in November 2008. It is almost a certainty that the Senate’s newest member will run for the office next year for what would be an additional four years. The fact that Barrasso, who once narrowly lost a U.S. Senate primary, was appointed by a Democrat might embolden some other Republicans who were not selected by Governor Dave Freudenthal to run instead in a primary against Barrasso, but the edge for the nomination would probably be with the incumbent. For his part, Freudenthal, who is popular in the state, is said to not have much interest at all in running for the Senate against the man he appointed, and thus Republicans should probably have an edge in keeping this seat. A few credible Democrats are looking into this unexpected election opportunity now though, although some of them may feel they face better odds in a House race against an embattled Republican incumbent who might not even survive her own primary.