Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arizona Governor Race

Race of the Day

Arizona Governor

July 29, 2010
96 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2008 Presidential Race: Red State (West)

Outlook: Likely Republican

As the passage of Arizona's illegal immigration law and the subsequent legal challenges surrounding it continue to be of the country's major stories, it is worth noting that the state's lightning rod Republican Jan Brewer owes her job to the Democrat President of the United States and a Democrat Cabinet Secretary.

Four years ago, Arizona comfortably reelected it's Democrat Governor Janet Napolitano, but after the election of Barack Obama to the White House, he nominated the Governor to be Secretary of Homeland Security. That not only took Napolitano out of the Arizona political scene, where many had wanted her to run for U.S. Senate, but elevated the state's number two constitutional officer, Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer to the office of Governor. At the time, there was talk that the term-limited Napolitano was anxious to get out of town due to the state's fiscal issues and that the burden could fall to a Republican replacement. However, it was ultimately the decision of these two prominent Democrats that Brewer should be the state's Governor.

As Brewer took office, she did indeed clash with the state's GOP Legislature over budget matters and saw her job approval ratings fall dangerously low. Conservatives opposed her and she appeared to be one of the most vulnerable Republican officeholders in the country in advance of the 2010 election. She gained a small handful of strong Republican primary challengers, including the state's politically rising star Treasurer Dean Martin. Not only did Brewer run significantly behind likely Democrat nominee, Attorney General Terry Goddard, who had twice failed to win the Governorship in the 1990s, but she seemed unlikely even to win nomination in her own right.

Her political fortunes took a turn though with the passage of SB 1090, and her signing of it. The law, which among other things, authorized local police to arrest illegal immigrants with just cause, has proven to be highly popular in Arizona and around the country, but also extremely controversial and divisive to those on the left who deride it as racial profiling. The Obama Administration has sued Arizona to block enforcement of the law and just this week a federal judge has issued an injunction against it, as Brewer has vowed to appeal and continue the fight. All of that has put Democrat candidate Goddard in a bit of a difficult position as the state's Attorney General. He has tried to have it both ways on the issue, and Brewer removed him as the state's lead lawyer on the federal lawsuit.

As Brewer signed the law and has received a large amount of media attention in her defense of it, she has seen her popularity in Arizona rebound immensely in the state, and she has also become something a hero to Republican activists around the country for her standing up to the Obama Administration. While her primary opponents stayed in the race for a while, the two most credible ones have recently ended their campaigns, giving Brewer an all but clear shot at Goddard in November.

While polls had once showed her trailing the Democrat by near double digit margins, Brewer began to slowly rebound in those polls, and is now shown holding a double digit lead of her own over Goddard. While political observers from around the country will watch to see how she does with the state's growing Hispanic population, there is no doubt that the illegal immigration issue has put her in the driving seat in the Grand Canyon State and has significantly hurt Democrats in a way that could be quite significant in other Arizona races.

A couple of years ago, Jan Brewer might have been surprised to find herself as Governor, and then eventually at the forefront of a national debate, but she is a prime example of just how unpredictable politics can be.

Brewer Campaign link:

2010 Governor Races predicted thus far: 0 D, 3 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 7 D, 9 R