With Redistricting Approaching, New Focus On Gubernatorial Races

Lots of folks got bent out of shape over Tuesday's Republican primary for governor in Florida, and not simply because the "outsider/Tea Party" candidate upset the "establishment" candidate.

This being the year when redistricting takes place, the battle for governorships around the country plays an even more important role than usual.  Florida is among the states projected to pick up a congressional seat for 2012 — along with Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Arizona.  Aside from the last two states, where congressional lines are drawn by an independent commission, redistricting is the responsibility of the state legislature, which more times than not will draw districts in a way that reflects its political leanings.

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Similarly, a bunch of states — such as Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are slated to lose seats; aside from Iowa and N.J., the other states will decide on how to draw the lines in a completely political process.

Whether the states are losing or gaining seats, the party of the governor will play a crucial role in deciding who has the advantage. States that gain/lose House seats will also see the number of electoral votes allotted to them in the 2012 presidential race change as well.

And that's why many Republicans are extremely nervous about the situation in Florida, where Rick Scott won the GOP primary over establishment favorite Bill McCollum.  Scott is a darling of the Tea Party, and he can self-finance his campaign.  But he was also the CEO of a hospital chain that was hit with a $1.7 billion fine over charges of Medicare fraud.  It will be an issue that Democrat Alex Sink is certain to raise this fall.  (Of course, Sink may have her own problems; Bud Chiles, the son of the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, is promising to run as an independent in the general election.)

On Thursday's "Morning Edition" on NPR, Peter Overby and I will be there to walk you through what's at stake.  I'll be on to talk about the individual gubernatorial races and discuss their importance, and Peter will follow with a piece on the roles played by the Democratic and Republican governors associations (the DGA and RGA) and how they are becoming major players in national politics.

The segment begins at 6:10 a.m. Eastern and will be repeated every two hours, until you get sick of listening to it.

Back to Florida, CNN's Peter Hamby reports that the Republican Party of Florida has scrapped plans for a pair of unity rallies scheduled in the wake of the bitter and nasty Scott-McCallum primary.  It seems to have broken down because of "logistics."  But "unity" might be hard to achieve in the wake of McCollum's statement on Monday "that he would be reluctant to back Scott as the GOP nominee," according to Hamby.

As far as rating the 37 gov. races on the ballot this fall, I'm tempted — but not quite there yet — to move Florida into the "leaning Democratic / expected GOP losses" column.

But there's one change in the ratings since my last visit back on July 15:  I'm moving Maine, where Gov. John Baldacci (D) is term limited, from Democrat Favored to Tossup.

SAFE DEMOCRATIC (2): Arkansas (Mike Beebe), New York (open — David Paterson retiring).

DEMOCRAT FAVORED (4): Colorado (open — Bill Ritter retiring), Maryland (Martin O'Malley), New Hampshire (John Lynch), Oregon (open — Ted Kulongoski term limited).

TOSSUP DEM SEATS (6): Illinois (Pat Quinn), Maine (open — John Baldacci term limited), Massachusetts (Deval Patrick), New Mexico (open — Bill Richardson term limited), Ohio (Ted Strickland), Wisconsin (open — Jim Doyle retiring).

EXPECTED DEM LOSSES (7): Iowa (Chet Culver), Kansas (open — Mark Parkinson retiring), Michigan (open — Jennifer Granholm term limited), Oklahoma (open — Brad Henry term limited), Pennsylvania (open — Ed Rendell term limited), Tennessee (open — Phil Bredesen term limited), Wyoming (open — Dave Freudenthal term limited).

EXPECTED GOP LOSSES (5): Connecticut (open — Jodi Rell retiring), Hawaii (open — Linda Lingle term limited), Minnesota (open — Tim Pawlenty retiring), Rhode Island (open — Don Carcieri term limited)*, Vermont (open — Jim Douglas retiring).

TOSSUP GOP SEATS (3): California (open — Arnold Schwarzenegger term limited), Florida (open — Charlie Crist leaving to run for Senate), Georgia (open — Sonny Perdue term limited),

REPUBLICAN FAVORED (7): Alabama (open — Bob Riley term limited), Alaska (Sean Parnell), Arizona (Jan Brewer), Nevada (open — Jim Gibbons defeated in primary), South Carolina (open — Mark Sanford term limited), South Dakota (open — Mike Rounds term limited), Texas (Rick Perry).

SAFE REPUBLICAN (3): Idaho (Butch Otter), Nebraska (Dave Heineman), Utah special (Gary Herbert).

*Rhode Island: Former GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee is running for governor as an independent and has a shot at winning. But in either event, the Republicans will not retain the governorship.

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