50 States, 50 Stories -- 2009 Edition

In celebration of the United STATES of America, here's a thought about politics in all 50 states. For a blast from the past, check out ...
by | July 3, 2009

In celebration of the United STATES of America, here's a thought about politics in all 50 states. For a blast from the past, check out last year's edition. Enjoy the holiday!

Alabama -- The 2010 landscape lost a great Southern name when Sue Bell Cobb, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, announced she's not running for governor. Under Alabama law, she would have had to resign to run, which is probably why she opted to stay put -- much to the relief of Democrats, who value her as their lone representative on the court.

Alaska -- Alaska politics is frozen as everyone waits for Gov. Sarah Palin to decide whether she wants to seek reelection. But, the news that Ethan Berkowitz, one of the top Democratic politicos in the state, is plotting a gubernatorial run tells me that people in the know think Palin isn't running again.

Arizona -- Gov. Jan Brewer wants a sales tax increase and some polling shows that the public is on her side. Arizonans, strangely, are more willing to accept tax increases right now than Californians.

Arkansas -- Gov. Mike Beebe has had a charmed tenure as governor, mainly because he's so good at charming state legislators, but scandals coming out of the prisons system are giving him a few headaches.

California -- Since Antonio Villaraigosa stepped aside, isn't there room for someone else in the Democratic primary for governor? Currently, Jerry Brown is the favorite in both the primary and the general election, but he and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom seem beatable enough that a Democratic congressman, state official or random rich guy might think he or she has a chance.

Colorado -- Bill Ritter has sought a middle ground between business groups and labor unions throughout his tenure, but his mediocre approval ratings suggest that middle ground isn't always safe ground.

Connecticut -- I didn't know this until just the other day: Gov. Jodi Rell never graduated from college. That hasn't stopped her from being one of the nation's most popular governors.

Delaware -- Gov. Jack Markell has started something. Delaware legalized sports betting this year and now New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is supporting a federal lawsuit to allow sports gambling in other states too.

Florida -- Expect an epic battle between developers and those who favor limited growth, as a controversial ballot measure that would allow local voters to weigh in on development plans just qualified for the 2010 ballot.

Georgia -- I'm eager to see whether former Gov. Roy Barnes, who raised $20 million for his 2002 campaign, still has his fundraising touch as he seeks his old job next year.

Hawaii -- Gov. Linda Lingle has thrived as a Republican in a very Democratic state, but it will be interesting to see how she comes out of a fight with public employee unions over furloughs.

Idaho -- A fight with the legislature over a gas tax increase has hurt Gov. Butch Otter's approval ratings and I'm somewhat skeptical he is going to seek reelection next year. If he does, he could be vulnerable -- especially to a challenge from fellow Republican.

Illinois -- Everyone is waiting for Attorney General Lisa Madigan to decide whether she's running for governor or senator. She may prefer to be governor, but unless Gov. Pat Quinn, a fellow Democrat, is badly hurt by his income tax proposal, she won't have an opening.

Indiana -- Gov. Mitch Daniels may be wondering if his life would be completely different with just three more Republicans in the Indiana House of Representatives. Democrats parlayed their 52-48 edge in the House into a confrontation with the governor over education spending, although Daniels managed to get most of what he wanted.

Iowa -- Gay marriage was authorized in Iowa via the courts, which, oddly, could make the subject a bigger campaign issue in legislative races in 2010 than in New Hampshire, Vermont or Maine (which used the legislative process). Conservatives in Iowa feel aggrieved and are likely to be motivated.

Kansas -- Kansans may not know who he is, but Mark Parkinson won't be a caretaker governor. His splashy compromise on new coal plants is proof of that.

Kentucky -- It seemed bizarre when Attorney General Greg Stumbo decided to run for state representative last year. When Stumbo immediately seized the House speakership from a fellow Democrat, it all made sense.

Louisiana -- The legislature keeps saying that it will stand up to Gov. Bobby Jindal and Jindal keeps getting his way. He's the master of the Louisiana political scene, even if he sounds like Kenneth the Page.

Maine -- Forget the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races, the 2009 vote to watch is the Maine ballot measure that would overturn the new gay marriage law -- "Prop 8.1" is what I call it.

Maryland -- Agree with him or not, Gov. Martin O'Malley sure seems sincere in his push (unsuccessful so far) to abolish the death penalty. He seems sincere because taking such a stand does more political harm than good, even in a progressive state like Maryland.

Massachusetts -- Charlie Baker, the head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, may be the most promising potential Republican gubernatorial candidate in the state. Opposition researchers take note: He was a lively, interesting blog on health care.

Michigan -- Jennifer Granholm for the Supreme Court always seemed implausible to me -- not because of her lack of judicial experience, but because of her ugly approval ratings back home.

Minnesota -- Before people get too carried away with a Norm Coleman gubernatorial candidacy, don't forget that he is reportedly under FBI investigation.

Mississippi -- It's a strange question to ask because we've had so many Southern presidents, but I bet that as Gov. Haley Barbour dips his toes in the presidential waters pundits will wonder whether he is too Southern to appeal nationwide. Look him up on YouTube and decide for yourself.

Missouri -- This is a big deal in Missouri and I can't figure out why: After tons of debate and speculation, Gov. Jay Nixon just vetoed a bill to repeal the state's law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Montana -- Gov. Brian Schweitzer flubbed by endorsing Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Democratic primary for governor, but by default he is the more successful head of a national gubernatorial committee. His counterpart, of course, was Mark Sanford.

Nebraska -- Democrats had a nice win in the Omaha mayoral race earlier this year, but do they have any statewide candidates? Republicans hold every statewide office, except Ben Nelson's Senate seat.

Nevada -- The legislature raised taxes over the objections of Gov. Jim Gibbons, which may give the unpopular governor enough anti-tax mojo to survive a Republican primary next year.

New Hampshire -- Gov. John Lynch's decision on the gay marriage legislation -- supporting the bill, but only after more protections were added for religious groups -- was classic triangulation from the centrist politician.

New Jersey -- A reminder of why observers give Gov. Jon Corzine a chance despite lousy poll numbers: Chris Christie, his Republican opponent, has accepted matching funds that will limit him to "only" $11 million in spending.

New Mexico -- Reportedly, the investigation into Gov. Bill Richardson that kept him out of President Obama's cabinet has concluded, so hopefully we'll have some results soon.

New York -- Just how Democratic is New York? A recent poll had David Paterson, one of the nation's three least popular governors (Jim Gibbons and Mark Sanford are the other two), actually up a point on potential Republican candidate Rick Lazio.

North Carolina -- This isn't the start to her term that Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, wanted. The state doesn't have a budget yet, even though both houses of the legislature are controlled by other Democrats.

North Dakota -- Republican governors in the Dakotas always talk about running for Senate, but they never do. Is John Hoeven really going to break the mold next year?

Ohio -- The open secretary of state's office will draw tons of money and attention in 2010, not only because it administers elections in this presidential swing state, but also because the secretary of state is a member of the board that conducts legislative redistricting.

Oklahoma -- The governor's race is interesting, but the downballot races will really tell us how Republican Oklahoma has turned. Oklahoma has 8 Democrats in statewide offices. How many will it have after 2010?

Oregon -- Forget state politics, I want to know whether Portland Mayor Sam Adams will be recalled. His sex scandal is juicier than Mark Sanford's.

Pennsylvania -- Ed Rendell generally has been a politically successful governor, but he sure hasn't had any luck getting the legislature to pass a budget on time. He's now 0 for 7 on budgets being signed before the start of the new fiscal year.

Rhode Island -- Providence Mayor David Cicilline was supposed to be a squeaky-clean rising star and future governor. Labor disputes and allegations of corruption have stalled his rise, at least for now.

South Carolina -- You'd think Mark Sanford's problems would be good news for Democratic gubernatorial candidates, but I don't quite see how the scandal helps their chances in an election that is more than a year away and which won't have Sanford on the ballot.

South Dakota -- If U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin is elected governor next year (she's not even running yet), look for the Democrat to instantly start landing on lists of future presidential or vice-presidential candidates.

Tennessee -- The Tennessee House has 50 Republicans and 49 Democrats, which will make next year's legislative elections fun. Don't forget that it was those 49 Democrats who conspired with one Republican to pick the House Speaker, which should make this quite a grudge match.

Texas -- Gov. Rick Perry's chances are improving in his Republican primary against Kay Bailey Hutchison, which means the Democrats' chances are improving too (Perry is the weaker general election candidate). That's why more Democrats, including State Sen. Kirk Watson, may be getting into the race.

Utah -- I've been dismissive of Democratic chances to win the Utah gubernatorial race in 2010, but if U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson does stand a chance, it may be because of an overly ambitious Republican gerrymander in 2001. Republicans tried to make his district impossibly Republican (it went from 458 square miles to 46,000 according to Politics in America), but he kept winning -- and, in the process, introduced himself to the conservative voters he will need to win statewide.

Vermont -- Most Democrats in the Vermont legislature who voted for gay marriage won't be punished by voters. But what about the handful of Republicans?

Virginia -- Other than Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell, the person who has the most at stake in this year's governor's race is probably the current governor. The election is a referendum on Tim Kaine's tenure as governor and his first test as DNC chairman.

Washington -- King County, Washington (home to Seattle) is conducting all vote-by-mail elections this year for the first time. In a jurisdiction where elections administration has been a trouble spot before (in the 2004 governor's race), we'll see if any problems emerge.

West Virginia -- Though everyone is reluctant to say it, Sen. Robert Byrd's poor health has put Gov. Joe Manchin in the spotlight, now that appointing U.S. senators is a very controversial subject.

Wisconsin -- We still don't know whether former Gov. Tommy Thompson is running for governor, but other top Republicans are already declaring their candidacies, which seems to suggest he's not in.

Wyoming -- Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, has expressed skepticism over Congress' climate legislation. We'll see if he wades into a debate with President Obama, who he endorsed in the Democratic primaries last year. 

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. You can enter an anonymous Display Name or connect to a social profile.

More from Politics