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2014: very preliminary gubernatorial picture.

by: AJNolte

Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 17:19:35 PM EST

And now, da govs. Same story here as in my just-posted senate diary. A general hat tip to Shamlet for his helpful comments on a host of races, Boston Patriot on Florida and Massachusetts, and a specific hat-tip to go-big red state on his in-depth Nebraska knowledge.

You'd think that, given the 2010 we had, Republicans would be fresh out of pick-up opportunities, but there are at least a few Democratic seats which could be on the table in a good year. On the other hand, the RGA will have a lot of incumbents to defend. As problems go, that's a good one, but it makes the list of competitive races in 2014 very long.


Alabama. All the action here is likely to be in the primary, as both Tim James and Bradley Byrne seem to be spoiling for a rematch with Governor Robert Bentley. Bentley's been cozy with the teacher's unions in Alabama, and so is probably vulnerable on his right flank, absent Huckabee swooping in to save him again. There are also rumblings of a possible Bentley retirement, which would shake things up even more.

Arizona. This is a guaranteed open-seat race, thanks to AZ term limits on Jan Brewer. AZ Secretary of State Ken Bennett has reportedly filed paper-work to form an exploratory committee, but I'd be shocked if he has this race to himself in the end. Treasurer Dean Martin is a possible, particularly given the fact that he ran for the office in 2010.  For Democrats, Tempe mayor Neil Giuliano is a rumored candidate, and 2010 nominee and former Attorney General Terry Goddard can't be ruled out.

Florida. Rick Scott may face a primary from either Ag. commissioner Adam Putnam or state CFO Jeff Atwater. His poll numbers have recovered from their low-water mark in 2011 and early 2012, but both men are seen to be ambitious, and one of them might figure his odds are better in 2014 than in a crowded 2018 primary. will probably face either Charlie Crist or his 2010 opponent, Alex Sink. Scott seems to have recovered from his terrible approval ratings earlier in the year, but this one will probably still be a jump-ball.

Georgia. Continuing the streak of southern governors who could face primaries (see AL above), I've heard rumblings of discontent with Nathan Deal in Georgia. Could Secretary of State Karen Handel be interested in a rematch? If they don't pan out, Republicans will probably keep this one. In fact, they'll probably keep this one even if there is a primary challenge.

Idaho. Given the recent failure of education super-intendent Tom Luna's reform package, it's possible governor Butch Otter calls it quits. In this scenario, Luna might run, or congressman Mike Simpson could consider a run. Congressman Raul Labrador would also be a potential wild card in this scenario.

Iowa. PPP showed Terry Branstad in the low forties against several Democrats, and trailing Tom Vilsak. If any big names run, this could be a hotly-contested race, though Branstad is a household name and won pretty convincingly in 2010.

Maine. This is probably the toughest hold for team red in 2014. PPP shows independent Eliott Cutler winning a three-way rematch, and Governor Paul LePage far under water. I wouldn't entirely count out the scrappy former mayor of Waterville, but it's going to be very uphill.

Michigan. Rick Snyder's emergency manager law makes it almost guaranteed he'll face strong Democratic opposition. Gretchen Witmer seems to be the net-roots darling de jure, but I'd bet on the Democratic establishment to rally around Gary Peters.

Nebraska. Dave Heineman is the second Republican incumbent to face term limits in 2014. Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy has apparently already declared for the seat, but won't have the primary to himself. The most likely Republican to challenge Sheehy would be current Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood. This could set up a proxy-battle between Flood and Heineman, who has already endorsed Sheehy. For Democrats, State Senator Steve Lathrop and outgoing University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook have been mentioned, but as was noted in a front page story in the Lincoln Journal-Star yesterday, Deb Fischer's blowout win over Kerrey in the Senate race make things look pretty daunting for Democrats in the near future.

Nevada. Brian Sandoval could face either Catherine Cortez Masto or Ross Miller, but if it looks like he's safe (spoiler alert: right now, it does), these two heavy-weights might take a pass.

New Mexico. Susana Martinez has very strong approval ratings, and has to be a favorite against either Attorney General Gary King or auditor Hector Balderas.

Ohio. John Kasich is going to get a sharp challenge, for governing conservatively in a swing state. Democrats could run former governor Ted Strickland again, ex-AG and current consumer protection bureau chief Richard Cordray, Congressman Tim Ryan or Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald.

Pennsylvania. Democrats will take heart in Tom Corbett's underwhelming poll numbers, and probably ignore the fact that a lot of this comes from disaffected Republicans. Bluntly put, this is probably not going to be Democrats best pick-up opportunity, as Pennsylvania loves it's incumbent governors and Corbett has been pretty moderate. I'd expect a Democratic county-level official to make the race here. There are rumblings of a primary challenger from Corbett's right, but given the strength of the Pennsylvania Republican machine, it's hard to imagine such a challenger getting much traction. Still, stranger things have happened in Pennsylvania politics.

South Carolina. The action here is likely, once again, to be in the Republican primary, if at all. Establishment Republicans remain unhappy with Nikki Haley, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them takes a shot at a primary challenge.

Texas. Rick Perry is considering running for a fourth term, and is likely to see another contested primary if he does. Attorney General Greg Abbott is a likely candidate. Democrats will run someone credible, crow about their possible chances of finally turning Texas blue...and probably lose. That said, if Perry does win a primary, he could have a tough time against someone like Houston mayor Bill White. I wouldn't be surprised to see Democrats try to get San Antonio mayor Julian Castro into the race, but seriously doubt he could win statewide.

Wisconsin. Will Democrats go for Tom Barrett a third time against Scott Walker? I doubt it; my guess is that pressure will be on Rep. Ron Kind to run.


Arkansas. Mike Beebe, one of the most popular Democrats left in the south, is retiring here. I think Dustin McDaniel is the most likely candidate here for Democrats, and retired Representative Mike Ross may also run. For Republicans, LG Mark Darr and Land Commissioner John Thurston seem likely, and Congressman Tim Griffin could be interested.

California. Republicans are pretty unlikely to find a strong candidate here, given how poorly we've faired in previous cycles. For Republicans to win statewide in California, there will probably need to be some massive political earthquake. Jerry Brown, however, is on retirement watch. If he does call it quits, L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Camala Harris are all possibilities.

Colorado. John Hickenlooper seems popular and may be difficult to dislodge, but Josh Penry, former LG Jane Norton, Congressman Mike Kaufmann and Attorney General John Suthers are our bench again. Given Suthers' reluctance to run for senate, he might be a possible candidate against Hickenlooper. However, I could also see him bowing out of the uphill race, and waiting for 2018.

Connecticut. Given Dan Malloy's unpopularity, this may be one of Republicans' best pick-up opportunities, and expect 2010 nominee Tom Foley to run again. Foley came close last time, and might reasonably hope for a different outcome in 2014.

Hawaii: Neil Abercrombi is extremely unpopular, and could potentially face a primary challenge. Republicans' entire bench here is named Linda Lingle, although Charles Djou, who has run two quality congressional campaigns in a tough district, is a possible runningmate.

Illinois. In 2010, Pat Quinn was possibly the luckiest Democrat in the country, squeaking bye in a primary, then narrowly defeating his Republican opponent in the general. Republicans will be mounting a strong challenge, probably either in the person of state treasurer Dan Rutherford or congressman Aaron Schock. There may well also be a primary challenge to Quinn.

Maryland. Martin O'Malley is term limited, and will almost certainly do everything in his power to get a sympathetic successor, since he's running for President in 2016. Democratic potentials include LG Anthony Brown, AG Doug Gansler and State Controller Peter Franchot. Frederick Board Chair Blaine Young seems interested for Republicans, but our best opportunity here may be for Franchot to win the primary.

Massachusetts. What are the odds Scott Brown doesn't run for this open seat? Tim Murray is the Democrat most frequently mentioned here, but treasurer Steve Gross, state Senator Dan Wolf of the Cape, and Attorney General Martha Coakley. Brown's best bet here is probably a clown-car primary which splits along regional lines; Democrats want Patrick to retire early, thus clearing the way for Murray to run as an incumbent.

Minnesota. Mark Dayton's somewhat underwhelming win in 2010 means he'll probably be targeted again in 2014. Dayton's approval ratings are high at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them come down a bit. Dayton has a history of somewhat erratic behavior, and for a former Senator, his narrow win over uber-conservative state representative Tom Emmer in 2010 should be a red flag for Democrats. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson is considering, but may not have the race to himself. State senators Dave Thompson and Julie Rosen, state rep. Sarah Anderson and Hennepin County sheriff Rich Stanek are all names that have been floated. The joker in the deck will be the Independence Party, which may put up a strong challenge again in 2014.

New Hampshire. If you think you've just seen this movie...that's because New Hampshire has a two-year term for governor, like neighboring Vermont. Unlike Vermont, this race could potentially be competitive, if Republicans can find the right candidate against newly-elected governor Maggie Hassan. The issue for Republicans, again, is our seemingly thin bench.

Oregon. Like Senator Jeff Merkley, John Kitzhaber won his last election very narrowly, and is in the mid forties against potential challengers per PPP. Congressman Greg Walden, co-speaker of the state house Bruce Hanna, state Senator Jason Atkinson and party chairman Allen Alley look like our potentials here as well, since Chris Dudley has moved out of state.


Rhode Island. Lincoln Chafee's reelect numbers are currently at an awe-inspiringly low 18%, and the three-way field is likely to be interesting. Democrats already have a candidate here in state auditor Bruce Almonte, and other potentials include general treasure Gena Raimondo and Providence mayor Angel Taveras. For Republicans, 2010 candidate John Robitaille is a potential. 2012 congressional candidate and former supervisor of police Brendan Doherty might actually be able to fail upward successfully here, given that the district he ran in was more democratic than the state as a whole.  

AJNolte :: 2014: very preliminary gubernatorial picture.
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Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy will be challenged in the primary-the question is by whom. The most likely name right now is outgoing Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, who has indicated he will make his intentions known before the end of the year. That could set up a proxy battle between Dave Heineman and Flood. Heineman has already endorsed Sheehy and Heineman and Flood sparred this year over a bill to allow state-funded prenatal care for illegal immigrants. Heineman vetoed the bill and Flood voted in favor of the bill and the successful override. Both made different conservative arguments in favor of their side-Heineman cited it as an illegal immigration issue and Flood cited it as a pro-life issue(Nebraska Right to Life supported the bill). There well may be others who get in the race too. One thing keeping things open on the Republican side is that Lieutenant Governors in Nebraska have a very poor track record of getting elected to higher office on their own.

The Democrats do have some potentially strong candidates who have indicated interest in the race; Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha is the most frequently mentioned name-outgoing University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook(who briefly ran for Senate earlier this year before dropping out when Bob Kerrey got in the race) has also been mentioned. But as was noted in a front page story in the Lincoln Journal-Star yesterday, Deb Fischer's blowout win over Kerrey in the Senate race make things look pretty daunting for Democrats in the near future.

43, R, NE-1.

Excellent info.
Mind if I incorporate your comments into this diary?

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
Go ahead
You can probably condense it into a shorter version than I gave too.

43, R, NE-1.

[ Parent ]
This is a great diary. Allow me to add my $.02 -

AL - There's been significant speculation that Bentley might retire. Assuming he gets a strong primary challenger that can force a runoff, the primary is a tossup IMO.

AR - Martin is not a serious candidate; from the State level our two big names are Darr and Land Comm. John Thurston. It's also been recently speculated that Griffin may be looking more at this race than the Senate seat.

AZ - I'd like Dean Martin to take another whack at this, as he really got unlucky in 2010, but he hasn't been very visible since. I'm suspicious of anyone appointed by Brewer so I hope an alternative to Bennett emerges.

FL - I'd be shocked if Scott doesn't face a primary challenge. The most likely name IMO would be Putnam, as he's likely to be boxed out of 2018 by the more high-profile Bondi.

GA - I think Handel may want a rematch. A lot of FisCons (me included) have never been totally comfortable with Deal, so there may be a real path to victory for her if she runs a smarter campaign than last time and doesn't neglect rural GA in the hopes of running up a huge margin in the suburbs.

MA - The other names most often mentioned are Treas. Steve Grossman, State Sen. Dan Wolf of the cape, and occasionally Coakley. If it looks like Brown is a lock to run here (at this point I'd put the odds at 80%, so very likely but not a sure thing) I think Leadfoot Tim gets the nomination to himself - at least until he crashes.

MD - The best possible outcome for Republicans is for Franchot to win the primary. We have a few candidates (Frederick Board Chair Blaine Young seems to be the most serious) but none have a chance. Howard CE Ken Ulman is also all but certain to run on the D side.

MN - I think Coleman probably goes here if he runs for anything at all; it's no secret he really wanted the Governorship more than the Senate seat in 2002 but bowed to party pressure.

RI - Chafee is a lot less than wildly popular, only 18% would definitely vote to re-elect him as of a couple weeks ago. It looks like Raimondo is probably the prohibitive favorite here... but then again, we said that about the last State Treasurer. Chafee staying in probably helps Republicans and might even make Doherty the favorite.

R - MD-7

I disagree on Florida
Scott seems to have circled the wagons over the past 6 months. He's still far from the best candidate we could put forth, but he's no longer so unpopular that it'd be worth it for someone like Putnam or Atwater to give up their day job.

MA-Gov depends heavily on what happens to Patrick. Brown had better hope that he stays on, since facing Murray as a short-term incumbent who hasn't had the chance to let Beacon Hill drag him down yet would be a problem. Despite Murray's obvious issues, as Richard Tisei learned it is very difficult to dislodge an incumbent Democrat, and even harder to beat one on a honeymoon.

Brown is best off if Patrick stays on and Dems run a divisive regional primary (Murray vs. Grossman vs. Wolf would do the trick). The late primary would leave Dems fractured and allow Brown to swoop in and build a coalition.

[ Parent ]
Well, there's the whole Chelsea thing whose surface has been barely scratched. I'd argue his ethics issues could be more severe than Tierney's. Also, he wouldn't technically be an incumbent. Very technical difference, but I do think not hearing "Governor Murray" will have a slight but not-insignificant psychological impact.

As for Scott, I think his innate vulnerabilities are still there. Given that I don't think Putnam (or Atwater for that matter) sees his current job as his last elective one, the calculus is whether it's better to try and take Scott on as the generic alternative or wait for 2018 when they could easily get lost in a crowded field.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
Tim Murray=Jane Swift ?
Sometimes an LG locks in after being elevated (Paul Cellucci) sometimes not  

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the comments!
I was particularly waiting on your Maryland thoughts, as I know you're a native. I'll incorporate your recommendations, and those of Go-big Red State.  

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
Some early predix here
I actually do think Strickland, Barrett and Castro will all run...and all lose.

Crist will run as a Democrat and inevitably face a competitive primary challenge. If he survives, he'll probably emerge crippled enough where Scott can win again.

In CA-Gov, I'd wager Brown probably gives it another go and if he doesn't, it's Harris' nomination to lose. In which case at least a B-list Republican probably enters.

Watch McMahon inexplicably enter for CT-Gov.

25, MA-07, Rockefeller Republican. Jeb 2016. Visit me at

Villaragosa (sp?) is positioning himself for a run
Harris isn't going to run for governor. She' likely positioning herself to replace one of the senators.

And Castro just said he won't run and said TX is still a red state.

30/Male/Married/Father of One/Republican/CA-3

Marco Rubio For President!

[ Parent ]
Linda's done
Alternatives to Foley are Danbury Mayor Boughton & House Min. Leader Cafero  

[ Parent ]
I actually don't disagree with anything here.
Other than that I think PA-Gov will be very competitive. Corbett isn't popular.

Two things on Corbett make me think Republicans will hold here.
First, I think a lot of his unpopularity is from disaffected Republicans. There's a perception that he hasn't gotten as much done as he promised (particularly liquor privatization), and Penn State fans are really, really angry with him. I'd be interested in any polling which breaks out Corbett's approvals by party and region. That said, the number of Democrats in PA capable of getting cross-over Republican support is small, and getting smaller. Maybe the newly-elected AG will be one of them eventually, but not yet. Additionally, any Democrat who could win cross-over votes probably couldn't win a Democratic primary.

Also, the eight-year trend in Pennsylvania is really strong. PA just seems to come home to its incumbent governors eventually. PA is one of the assessments I'm least confident in--the grass-roots verses establishment fights in GOP politics can get intense in my former home state which keeps things unpredictable--but I'd have to say Corbett's still the favorite.  

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
His problems are as follows:

1) Failure to deliver on several key conservative goals: property tax reform, pension reform, greater law enforcement funding, and most importantly, privatizing liquor sales.

2) Penn State.  Corbett suffers from two problems.  First, a good portion of the right flank thinks PSU got a raw deal.  Second, Corbett is viewed as not acting fast enough.  Surprisingly, the first one is the bigger problem.  Kane capitalized on both of these, but it did not spread to the legislative races.

3) Hostile legislature.  Corbett might have two Republican majorities, but he is not the type that the legislature likes.  They want someone who will pay attention to them even if they give them nothing.  Corbett has tried to shove budgets down their throats.

The Democrats problems:

1) No Democrat is going to appeal to any of those groups except a small rural segment who wants more local law enforcement funding.  If anything, privatizing liquor stores might be the worst issue for them.  The unions oppose it but everyone else in their coalition supports it.  Ditto with property tax reform.

2) We will likely see a brutal Democratic primary.  McCord will not get this on a silver platter.  I expect McCord to get at least one SEPA challenger allowing for a western PA candidate to sneak in.

29, Republican, PA-6

[ Parent ]
I take it no PADem is in a position to clear the field for a centrist?
I would think despite his primary loss Jason Altmire would match up well against Corbett: young, blue dog, yuppie, from Pitt burbs?  

Wouldn't scare off moderates or rile up conservatives. And smooth enough for SEPA burbs

[ Parent ]
Who is likely to face Corbett?

Altmire?  McCord?

34/M/D/NY-01 DKE:Socks The Cat

[ Parent ]
I'd guess McCord
or maybe Casey if he decides he's really dissatisfied with the Senate. Though if Corbett looks stronger we could see more of a "B" list candidate.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
Two races you omitted
VT, NY, TN, WY, SD, KS, OK - those will all be snoozer re-elections for their incumbents, I agree. But HI and ID may get interesting.

Idaho - The defeat of the Luna Laws at the ballot box may mean Otter gets a serious challenge or simply gives up a bid for a third term out of frustration. I'm not sure what it would look like without Otter (possible replacements include AG Wasden and Luna himself) but I think this race will be a lot more interesting than I did a week ago.

Hawaii - Abercrombie is the most unpopular governor in America according to PPP IIRC. Because our bench starts and ends with Lingle I want her to take a crack at a third term, given that Hawaiians have very different standards for electing a Governor vs. a Senator. Djou would make a good running mate for her.

R - MD-7

also, we could see some musical offices with Risch returning home to the Governor's office and Simpson taking the Senate seat.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
If he does anything, it's retirement. I don't see him running for Governor as I don't think he really wants to be governor. If he did, he wouldn't have run for Lt. Gov as an incumbent. Butch Otter probably would have backed down if he ran, and, if not, Risch, as an incumbent, probably would have crushed Otter, who's a little on the strange side.  

Male, LA-01
Scott Walker '16

[ Parent ]
Remember that Otter had a big head start
and ID has perhaps the strongest "wait your turn" philosophy in America. Remember that Idaho has only had one competitive primary (for a winnable race) in the last 30 years, in 1994-Gov. It's very possible Risch simply agreed to have priority for the next open Senate seat as a consolation prize.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
Good call; I'll add them.
What are the chances Raul Labrador tries to move up? I was intrigued by his unexpected, cinderella wins in 2010.

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
Look for Coleman here. However I think Stanek is an interesting choice and possibly could be the strongest candidate.  He's from the optimal location and has name recognition and a great reputation in the Hennepin County suburbs.

Saint Paul (MN-4)  

Stanek would be fairly strong
But there are a lot of skeletons in his closet. He isn't from the best part of Hennepin County to exude cross-over appeal (He is from Maple Groveer, which is very Republican) and there is the little issue that he was forced to resign from his Public Commissioner post because of a racist tirade. Granted he has made some amends since then, but expect Dayton and his allies to hit him hard on that issue if he runs.

I am a Tom Rukavina Democrat.

[ Parent ]
Yea it would be better if he was from Bloomington or Minnetonka, but he's won countywide in Hennepin so he has a lot of recognition in these swingy/left leaning places.

As for has past comments, will Dayton bring them up? Absolutely. But he's managed to win two Sheriff races with this known. Most people (in the metro) are well aware of his comments already. And minority groups endorsed his Sheriff campaign.

Even with his issues, he brings much more to the table than Coleman or anyone else.

Saint Paul (MN-4)  

[ Parent ]
Stanek is much stronger than Coleman
Coleman really has no shot statewide anymore after the stunts he pulled in the recount. Had he conceded after the recount was certified, his reputation would not have taken the huge hit it did.

I am a Tom Rukavina Democrat.

[ Parent ]
Either Brown or Baker will run for Governor. And one will step aside for the other
Murray will run, he's got nothing to lose. He may even be acting Governor at that point. However, I don't think there is a situation in which he has the primary to himself. Someone will challenge him. Brown isn't going to scare away ambitious Democrats anymore. And an ambitious Democrat would look and see Murray or an open seat as an opportunity. Grossman, Coakley and Wolf have that written all over them.

Baker '14
R, MA-3


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