Seven Elections to Watch in Early 2010

I know you're sick of end of the year and end of the decade lists (which invariably bog down in the question of whether ...
by | January 4, 2010

I know you're sick of end of the year and end of the decade lists (which invariably bog down in the question of whether it really is the end of the decade), so I have something completely different: A beginning of the year list!

Lucky us, we don't have to wait until November for some good elections. Here's my list of the seven more interesting state and local elections (I'm not including congressional races) that will occur in the first three months of 2010. Feel free to add your own suggestions of ones I've overlooked.

7) New Hampshire State Senate District 16, February 16 -- This race takes place in a reasonably competitive (slightly Republican-leaning) district in a competitive state that is central to Republican comeback efforts at both the state and federal level. If the G.O.P. is to have a shot at winning the New Hampshire Senate (where Democrats hold a 14-10 edge), they need to hold this seat, which was vacated by Republican Ted Gatsas when he was elected mayor of Manchester.

6) Illinois Governor Republican Primary, February 2 -- Republicans have a wide-open race as they try to retake a measure of power in Illinois state government (and retake the governorship they held for 26 years prior to Rod Blagojevich's 2002 victory). Former Attorney General Jim Ryan (the 2002 G.O.P. gubernatorial nominee) is the nominal frontrunner, but with seven candidates who are reasonably credible and without a primary runoff, anything could happen.

5) Illinois Governor Democratic Primary, February 2 -- Illinois' Pat Quinn will be the first incumbent to face a serious primary challenge this year, but certainly not the last. The race has mostly focused on fiscal issues, as state Comptroller Dan Hynes has argued that Quinn has gone to far in supporting tax increases. Quinn looks like the favorite, although a bungled prisoner-release program is causing the governor headaches at a bad time.

4) New Orleans Mayor, February 6 (likely runoff March 6) -- The Big Easy has a big field of candidates, both black and white, who are looking to be the city's first new post-Katrina mayor (Ray Nagin is term-limited). The biggest name is Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, brother of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who narrowly lost a runoff against Nagin in 2006.

3) Oregon's Tax Measures 66 and 67, January 26 -- Oregon is home to a great tax fight this month, as voters will weigh in on whether to raise income taxes on wealthy individuals (Measure 66) and raise taxes on corporations (Measure 67). The tax increases were approved by the Oregon legislature last year, but are being challenged by a "people's veto," setting up a major showdown over the size of government.

2) Virginia State Senate 37th District, January 12 -- Democrats are clinging to a 21-19 edge in the state Senate and could use a victory in this seat previously held by Republican Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli to pad their margin. If Republicans win and if somehow they can flip another seat in the Senate, they'll regain complete control of Virginia state government. The district is based in Fairfax County, which has trended Democratic in recent years, but where Republicans had a good 2009.

1) Texas Governor Republican Primary, March 2 (possible runoff April 13) -- The contest between Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has been everything that everyone expected: a highly competitive, bitter grudge match filled with twists and turns. With Houston Mayor Bill White the likely Democratic nominee, Republicans face a real risk of losing the governorship of the nation's second largest state, making their choice this spring all the more important.

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

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