Analysis of election 2003 and hopes for Republican gains in select state governments.
Five states will hold elections for state government in 2003. Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi will vote for statewide officeholders (governor, attorney general, treasurer, et al), while New Jersey, Mississippi, and Virginia will elect state legislators. Key races to watch are the three governors seats, the deadlocked New Jersey senate, and the Mississippi senate and lieutenant governorship.
RESULTS: REPUBLICANS TAKE KENTUCKY, MISSISSIPPI GOVERNORSHIPS, make gains in other statewide offices. New Jersey senate goes Democrat while Virginia maintains strong Republican majorities. LOUISIANA elects Kathleen Blanco 52-48 over Bobby Jindal. Conservative rural parishes went strongly for Blanco mostly for reasons of age, race, and personality.
Virginia: Democrats gained three Assembly seats while Republicans gained a senate seat. A wash overall. The Republican gain helps their narrow edge in the senate to 24-16, and the Assembly now stands at 61-37-2.
New Jersey: "If the GOP can hang on to what they've got, count it as a victory." Well, they didn't. Democrats gained seats in the house and senate.
Mississippi: For the total in-depth scoop, just go to The Magnolia Report. Here's a summary if you won't want to wade through all that.
In the wake of Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck's switch from Democrat to Republican, a couple state senators followed her lead; they are Terry Burton, Travis Little, and Tommy Dickerson. Four house members have switched: Larry Baker, Frank Hamilton, Jim Barnett, and Herb Frierson. The senate stands at 29 D, 23 R after the Little switch, while the house has a sizable Democrat advantage at 82-37-3. The state is trending more Republican as conservative Democrat pols and voters switch their allegiance, driven off by the liberal positions of the national Democratic Party. There is a significant chance that the GOP could take over the senate, and their goal is to reach the 1/3 mark in the house, which is well within reach. A further goal would be 50 house seats, which is doable.
Other legislators rumored to be considering switching have remained Democrats: Reps. Mary Ann Stevens, Mike Eakes, and Sen. Billy Nicholson.
Key senate races include open seats in districts 2 & 22.
Chandler - Fletcher
Kentucky Governor Term-limited incumbent Governor Paul Patton, a Democrat, is embroiled in a sex scandal, and the state has been trending more Republican, making this an excellent pickup opportunity. Governor and lieutenant governor are elected together.
The primary was held May 20th and held few surprises. Favored Democrat Ben Chandler, grandson of Kentucky governor Happy Chandler, squeaked out a win over a surging effort from house speaker Jody Richards. In the process, Chandler engaged in a damaging, dirty campaign with fellow Democrat Bruce Lunsford, who dropped out and endorsed Richards days before the primary. Democrats have united after the primary at the top, but a lot of voters have been turned off of Chandler for his liberal views, negative campaign tactics, and general worthlessness. Chandler's running mate for lieutenant governor is Charlie Owen, a former US Senate candidate and millionaire who has the job of funding the campaign.
US Rep Ernie Fletcher, a sometime doctor, fighter pilot, engineer, and minister, pulled out a convincing win in the Republican primary with 58% of the vote in a 4-way race; his nearest challenger, county executive Rebecca Jackson, got 28%. Fletcher received strong support both from grassroots Republicans and from the Kentucky political establishment. He is a conservative of many talents, as his varied careers attest. He can be expected to run strongly is his congressional distict, which leans Republican but not by much, as he did in the primary. Fletcher's running mate is Steve Pence, a prosecutor who took down several corrupt politicians during Gov. Patton's tenure in office.
The general election campaign has featured aggressive, nasty attacks by the Chandler campaign, while Fletcher has responded somewhat tentatively. Fletcher came out of the primaries with a small lead which he still maintains. A SurveyUSA poll from October 14th showed Fletcher leading 50-44.
Secretary of State (KY) Twenty-something Harvard grad Trey Grayson was unchallenged in the Republican primary; he has had some success raising money for the campaign. Former lieutenant governor Russ Maple won the Democrat primary by a hair. SurveyUSA has this race leaning toward Maple, 47-42, with an upset still possible.
Attorney General (KY) Two damaged nominees made it to the general election: Democrat and deadbeat dad Greg Stumbo and Republican ex-judge Jack Wood. Wood left the judgeship after several irregularities in office back in the 80's, and his primary win was a surprise as he didn't actively campaign. Still, there it is. It will be interesting to see what effort he puts out in the general election and how much support he is given by the state party. At this point the public seems to think Stumbo is less corrupt, as he leads the race by double digits.
Treasurer (KY) Baby-faced Treasurer and Harvard grad Jonathan Miller (D) will face County Commissioner Adam Koenig (R) in 2003. Miller is the incumbent and is favored to win; Koenig could pull close if the rest of the Republican slate does well.
Auditor (KY) Linda Greenwell won the GOP nod by being the most vocal critic of Democrat nominee and Patton crony Crit Luallen. This will be an interesting grudge match. The race is essentially tied.
Louisiana: Incumbent Republican Mike Foster is term-limited. The race to succeed him is coming down to the wire with two nominees predicted by few other than yours truly.
GOP candidates include
Jindal has the support of Gov. Foster, ex-US Rep. Bob Livingston, and a host of other Louisiana politicians. He's the leading Republican in the polls and has a good fundraising start. Hunt Downer won the support of another group of the moneyed GOP established, and followed that up with an announcement of a bipartisan group of 33 state legislators who supported him for governor: 18 Republicans, 14 Democrats, and 1 independent. He also has powerhouse US Rep Billy Tauzin in his corner, a former Democrat himself. Compared to that, Kyle and Blossman appear to be on the outside looking in. Blossman has tried to position himself as the conservative choice, but his flip-flop on ___ and ethics controversy as Public Service Commissioner have severely dulled his hopes. Former professor Dan Kyle put away several politicians in this corrupt state as a result of his investigations as auditor, but his anti-corruption message and claim to be the "the taxpayers' governor" have not yet caught on.
Lieutenant Governor This one is very interesting, and much easier to get a hold of. Two Republicans have stepped forward, a 42-year-old white lawyer, Stephen Rue (he's an eligible bachelor, ladies!) and 35-year-old black Hispanic private school director Kirt Bennett, who is being encouraged by the establishment. Amazingly, one Democrat has stepped forward to run as a Republican as well: ex Lt Gov. Melinda Schwegmann! She's not very conservative, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. She had been planning to run as a Democrat until . . . The Democratic Party endorsed Mitch Landrieu, son of the former mayor and brother of Senator Mary Landrieu. Bennett would be competitive in a general election bout, especially if he can draw support from blacks and Hispanics.
Other Louisiana Races Secretary of State Fox McKeithen (R) may running for re-election. Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Bob Odom (D) and acting Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley (D), who took over the responsibilities of elected Commissioner Jim Brown when the latter ended up on the wrong side of the law, as so often happens down on the bayou, will both run.
Mississippi Governor Incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove versus former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour. This one should be fun. Musgrove has had to deal with some problems of ethics and is a relatively weak incumbent, while Barbour is seen as a tough campaigner. There has been one public poll so far, a Mississippi Poll taken in April 2002, which showed Musgrove leading Barbour 49-28. However, only 42% could identify Barbour's political ideology (liberal/mod/conservative), which suggests he isn't too well known yet. And Musgrove's approval rating has plummeted from 69% in 2000 (before election, with low negatives) to 44% in 2002, the second lowest reading in 13 polls spanning five governors and twenty years.
Musgrove must also face a primary challenge from trial lawyer John Arthur Eaves Jr., whose daddy ran for governor unsuccessfully once or twice. Eaves will claim Musgrove sold out on tort reform, and while he has a chance to win the primary his greatest impact will be to deprive Musgrove of campaign funds and leave him weakened against the united Republican front.
PRIMARY: AUGUST 5th
Lieutenant Governor (MS) Key race here, with switching Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck (R) attempting to win re-election as a Republican. Long-time GOP activist Dr. Randy Russell announced he would not run against Tuck in the primary, presumably for the sake of party unity, so Tuck gets a free ride to the GOP nomination. On the Democratic side, state senator Barbara Blackmon will face former Supreme Court judge and gubernatorial candidate Jim Roberts for the nomination. Blackmon is black, like the bulk of the Democrat electorate, and should have the edge for the nomination. In the general election I believe Tuck will have an advantage as a center-right candidate who still has many supporters among Democrats.
Attorney General (MS) Long-time attorney general Mike Moore made a surprise announcement that he would not seek reelection. He's liking planning a senate campaign either against Trent Lott or for Thad Cochran's seat when/if he retires.
Treasurer (MS) Long-time state treasurer Marshall Bennett (D) surprised many by announcing he will not run for re-election; his announcement has been followed by a scramble on both sides for strong candidates to run.
Secretary of State (MS) Two-term Democrat Eric Clark is running for reelection. He will be challenged by Peruvian immigrant Republican Julio Del Castillo of Jackson. Castillo has lived in the US since 1989 and has advocated English immersion, rather than bilingual ed, for immigrant students. Clark is considered the favorite.
Agriculture Commissioner (MS) Democrat incumbent Lester Spell will face either ex-Democrat candidate and current Republican Roger Crowder or Max Phillips of Taylorsville.
Auditor (MS) Republican incumbent Phil Bryant is favored for reelection; so far no Democrat has filed to challenge him.
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