Tags: Six | States | Seen | Gubernatorial | Battlegrounds

Six States Seen as Gubernatorial Battlegrounds

Friday, 29 October 2004 12:00 AM

The reason, say analysts, echoes a familiar theme: that all politics is local. Nationally, they say, the presidential and congressional races are largely focused on foreign policy: terrorism, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unsolved nuclear weapons issues with North Korea and Iran.

But in the U.S., Americans are worried about what's happening in their own little corners of the world. They're worried about the escalating price of gasoline and groceries, about whether factories will remain open, about whether schools will have enough money to operate, and whether they can continue to pay for health insurance.

Ultimately, it is those issues which will decide who leads cities, counties and states, say the analysts.

"Usually, in a presidential year there are some inevitable common threads; this year they're in parallel universes," Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate and governors' races at the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter in Washington, told The New York Times.

In six states, the gubernatorial results Tuesday are not a foregone conclusion. And in some of those contests, one party or the other could lose its lock on power. The Times identified them as Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah and Washington.

Why such flux? Because there is a trend at play. The paper says since 2001, in 42 governor's elections including the California recall in 2003, 25 states turned over party control of state houses around the country:

· Indiana: Democrats have controlled the statehouse since 1989, but this year Democrat incumbent Joseph Kernan, who took over in 2003 after the unexpected death of Gov. Frank O'Bannon, is locked in a close race with GOP candidate Mitch Daniels, President Bush's former director of the Office of Management and Budget.

· Montana: Republican Gov. Judy Martz, reeling in unpopularity after a four-year term, isn't seeking re-election. Instead, the race comes down to a close contest between Democrat Brian Schweitzer, a farmer who is campaigning hard on the weak performance of the state's economy, and Republican Secretary of State Bob Brown.

· Missouri: Democrat Claire McCaskill, the state's auditor and a former prosecutor, is campaigning hard on the theme that GOP challenger Matt Blunt, a former secretary of state and one-term state lawmaker, is, at 33, too young and inexperienced. One irony in this cycle's gubernatorial contest: Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, was beaten by McCaskill in the state's primary.

· New Hampshire: There is no shortage of controversy in this state, which elects a governor every two years instead of every four years. GOP incumbent Gov. Craig Benson's weak approval numbers have been grist for the political mill for Democrat challenger John Lynch. Democrats are "making this race about personal destruction of a governor," New Hampshire Republican Party chairwoman Jayne Millerick told the Times.

· Washington: Democrat Gov. Gary Locke chose not to seek a third term. The race comes down to a battle over jobs and party control, pitting Democrat Attorney General Christine Gregoire, and former state Sen. Dino Rossi, a Republican.

Washington's economy has been battered in the past decade, losing about a quarter of its manufacturing jobs in the 1990s. But the state hasn't had a Republican governor since 1985. Says Rossi in a campaign commercial: "Everywhere people are going back to work … Everywhere but Washington."

If Gregoire wins, Washington will the first state in which both U.S. senators and the governor are all female.

· Utah: Sen. John Kerry will be fortunate to get 30 percent of the vote here, but there is a serious challenge to the state's ruling GOP gubernatorial hierarchy, and it's a battle political observers say is at least partly over family names.

The Democrat, Scott Matheson, Jr., is running against GOP candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.; the former is a Rhodes Scholar, a former U.S. attorney and the dean of the University of Utah School of Law, as well as the son of the most recent Democrat governor, Scott M. Matheson, who served from 1977 to 1985. The latter is a former ambassador to Singapore who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and is one of the wealthiest men in Utah, as heir to the Huntsman chemical fortune, says the Times.

"These are two magic names in Utah," Dr. Ronald J. Hrebenar, the interim director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, told the paper. "It's the richest family in the state against the richest family political tradition in the state." The issue of discussion? Economic stimulation and jobs — what else?

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The reason, say analysts, echoes a familiar theme: that all politics is local. Nationally, they say, the presidential and congressional races are largely focused on foreign policy: terrorism, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unsolved nuclear weapons issues with North...
Six,States,Seen,Gubernatorial,Battlegrounds
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2004-00-29
Friday, 29 October 2004 12:00 AM
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