Sunday, September 04, 2011

2011 Governor Races

September Update:

For the first time this year, I will take a brief look at the four contests on the ballot for Governor in 2011. I will follow up with another update in October, and then again with final predictions for those that will be decided in November. However, there is just not much in the way of drama in any of these races.


While Kentucky is one of the strongest Republican states on the federal level, and solidly anti-Obama, Democrats still have the ability to do very well at the state and local levels. Despite the national political environment, it looks as if first term incumbent Governor Steve Beshear is headed to a relatively easy win, and that his coattails may bring other statewide Democrat candidates into office with him.

Having ousted an unpopular first term Republican four years ago, Beshear has managed to stay more in the good graces of his state's voters. His Republican opponent, who easily captured the nomination is the State Senate President, David Williams. I do not know the particular issues that have been driving this Bluegrass State election, but polls show Beshear well ahead. Only the conservative nature of the state may prevent him from topping 60 percent of the vote, but that will remain to be seen.

In the state that made Colonel Sanders famous, Williams has apparently taken to having a chicken be a part of his campaign, and refers to Beshear as being "All Feathers, No Cluck."

Complicating the race for the Republican ticket among conservatives may be the fact that Williams went through a messy divorce several years back and while he is now remarried, the court documents from that divorce have been part of the campaign. Additionally, Williams' running mate, the aptly named State Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, saw his wife file for divorce during this current campaign.

September rating: Likely Democrat

Williams campaign link:


Down on the Bayou, an even less competitive race has shaped up with popular first term Republican Governor Bobby Jindal headed for a stress-free reelection.

While he would have been a heavy favorite against any opponent, all of the prominent Louisiana Democrats who had considered taking him on, have passed on the race. That leaves just one announced Democrat candidate to face Jindal, Tara Hollis, a 33 year old teacher who claims to be a disappointed former Jindal supporter. She has less than $1,000 in campaign cash while the incumbent is sitting on a fund of $9 million. When all is said and done, and if no other Democrat meets this week's filing deadline, Hollis may finish behind Ron Ceasar, an African-American running as an Independent.

Jindal should easily surpass 50% of the vote on October 22, making a runoff unecessary and then he will likely be subject to speculation as to if he may be in line to become the 2012 GOP Vice Presidential nominee.

September rating: Safe Republican

Jindal campaign link:


The Magnolia State is the home of the one Gubernatorial race this year that will not feature an incumbent. Popular Republican Governor Haley Barbour is term limited and surprised many by not running for President this year.

While Barbour's closest allies were believed to prefer a different Republican in June's primary, that round was won, without a runoff needed, by the state's Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, who had long been planning his run for the state's top job.

The Democrat candidates for the job were far less known and far less formidable than the leading GOP candidates. An August runoff though did produce an historic first for the state as Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree became the first black major party nominee for Governor of Mississippi in modern times. The state, with the highest percentage of black citizens in the nation, has not had an African-American statewide official since Reconstruction, and that is unlikely to change this year.

There is little reason to believe that racial tensions will be at the heart of the general election this year. Mississippi is just a very conservative, Republican leaning state, and Bryant would be heavily favored over any opponent.

September rating: Likely Republican

Bryant campaign link:

West Virginia:

The Mountaineer State did not have a Gubernatorial election originally scheduled for this year, but the 2010 election of Democrat Governor Joe Manchin to the U.S. Senate produced a legal battle that resulted in an outcome that mandated a 2011 special election to formally replace him. The office will again be up during the regularly scheduled election in 2012, and such a quick turnaround could be a double edged sword to either party, depending on the political circumstances in the state next year.

For now, it looks as if the person, who as State Senate President, was elevtated to replace Manchin, Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin, will be able to take the qualifier "Acting" out of his current job as Governor. Tomblin had to survive a very contentious special primary, in which he was challenged by several high profile Democrats. The campaign was personal at times, but Tomblin, who was considered the most conservative of the Democrats in the field managed to win the multi-candidate race by a solid margin.

On the GOP side, the more conservative candidate also won the nomination. Businessman Bill Maloney, who was backed by many in the Tea Party movement easily surpassed his main opponent, former Secretary of State Betty Ireland, who was easily seen as the most electable Republican in the race.

While West Virginia is also a state that is now solidly Republican at the Presidential level, Democrats still do very well everywhere else and Tomblin has had a large lead on Maloney from the start and should be considered a heavy favorite for an election that will be decided on October 4th. It will remain to be seen whether 2012 will produce a rematch, or if a stronger Republican, such as Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito may take the option of a run for Governor.

September rating: Likely Democrat

Maloney campaign link: