Tough Battles for Governor Highlight of '07 Races

Fletcher

Both Govs. Fletcher of Kentucky (above) and Blanco of Louisiana (below) face tough re-election contests this year.

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Perry

hide captionDon't miss this week's Super Bowl political trivia question!

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hide captionEighteen years ago today, Senate testimony damaging to John Tower spells the beginning of the end of his chances to become secretary of defense.

For all the e-mails I get each week about the 2008 presidential contest – and there are tons – invariably there will be one that says, "Whoa! What's your rush? There's plenty of time to assess the field." I just checked the calendar and you know what? That's true. Obama, McCain, Hillary, Rudy — they're not going away any time soon. There's plenty to say, and plenty of time to say it. Meanwhile, below the radar is something called the 2007 elections, many of which are pretty compelling. And they are coming up pretty soon.

What follows is our 2007 political calendar, which includes not only the key contests that are up this year, but an early-bird schedule of presidential debates.

Feb. 21 – Democratic presidential candidates attend a "forum" in Carson City, Nev., sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Nevada is a late-entry to the 2008 prez sweepstakes, holding the nation's second caucus, after Iowa.

Feb. 27 – Chicago mayoral primary. Richard M. Daley (D) seeking re-election. All candidates run on the same ballot, regardless of party. If no candidate receives a majority, the top two-finishers advance to an April 17 runoff. Daley is expected to avoid a serious challenge.

March 24 – Another Nevada Democratic presidential candidate forum, this one focusing on health-care issues. It's in Las Vegas, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

April 4 – Democratic presidential candidate debate, New Hampshire. Sponsored by CNN, WMUR (Manchester) and the Manchester Union Leader.

April 5 – Republican presidential candidate debate, New Hampshire. Sponsored by CNN, WMUR (Manchester) and the Manchester Union Leader.

April 17 – Chicago mayoral primary runoff (if necessary).

April 26 – Democratic presidential candidate debate, South Carolina. Sponsored by MSNBC.

May 15 – Philadelphia mayoral primary. Two-term incumbent John Street (D) is term-limited. Candidates include two Democratic members of Congress, Robert Brady and Chaka Fattah.

May 15 – Republican presidential candidate debate, South Carolina. Sponsored by Fox News.

May 22 – Kentucky gubernatorial primary. Ernie Fletcher, who four years ago became the first Kentucky Republican elected governor since 1967, is seeking re-election. Fletcher has been under investigation over his administration's hiring practices. He is being challenged in the primary by former Rep. Anne Northup, who was narrowly unseated in November, and by wealthy businessman Billy Harper. Democratic candidates include ex-Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, 1996 Senate nominee Steve Beshear, and state Treasurer Jonathan Miller.

Aug. 7 – Mississippi gubernatorial primary. Haley Barbour (R), who unseated Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove four years ago, is heavily favored to win re-election.

Aug. 28 – Mississippi gubernatorial runoff (if necessary).

Oct. 20 – Louisiana gubernatorial election. All candidates run on the same ballot, regardless of party. If no candidate receives a majority, the top two-finishers advance to a Nov. 17 runoff. A rematch of the 2003 contest, in which Kathleen Blanco (D) narrowly defeated now-Rep. Bobby Jindal (R), is expected. One major difference: The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has drastically impacted the total Democratic electorate. Other candidates are expected to run as well.

Nov. 2 – Democratic presidential candidate debate, Las Vegas. Sponsored by the Nevada Democratic Party.

Nov. 6 – ELECTION DAY. Gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi. In addition to Philadelphia, big-city mayoral elections include San Francisco and Houston, where Democratic incumbents Gavin Newsom and Bill White, respectively, are seeking second terms.

Nov. 17 – Louisiana gubernatorial runoff (if necessary).

Before we hear from some readers, we have this USELESS SUPER BOWL TRIVIA QUESTION for you: OK, so it's the Colts and the Bears on Sunday for Super Bowl XLI. (And yes, I'm upset that the Yankees are not in it.) Question: Who were the mayors of the respective cities the last time the Colts and the Bears won the Super Bowl? (Answer at bottom.)

Now, the questions from readers:

Q: Who was the most prominent Democratic incumbent to lose to a Republican on Nov. 7? – Clifton Goodwin, Fayetteville, N.C.

A: Not a single Democratic governor, senator or House member was defeated on Nov. 7. Two Dem incumbents, Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT) and Rep. Cynthia McKinney (GA), were defeated in primaries during the summer. Lieberman, of course, won re-election as an independent, and Democrats easily kept McKinney's seat.

Q: How many Democratic incumbents in the House who lost in 1994 successfully came back later? How many Republicans who were unseated in 1964 did the same? In other words, is there political life for the GOP House losers after 2006? – Christopher Jay, Anchorage, Alaska

A: Only two Democratic House incumbents who were unseated in the 1994 midterms came back two years later: David Price (NC) and Ted Strickland (OH). Another defeated Democrat, Jay Inslee of Washington, returned to the House in the 1998 election. And still another Washington Democrat, Maria Cantwell, was elected to the Senate in 2000.

As for the Republicans who departed in the 1964 election, nearly a dozen came back just two years later. The defeated incumbents of '64 who returned victorious in '66 were Donald Brotzman (CO), Fred Schwengel (IA), John Kyl (IA), Gene Snyder (KY), Louis Wyman (NH), George Goodling (PA), Henry Schadeberg (WI), and William Henry Harrison (WY). Bob Taft Jr. (OH), who gave up his House seat in 1964 to run for the Senate, also returned in '66, as did Sherman Lloyd (UT), who lost a Senate primary in '64.

Q: You wrote on Dec. 20 that in 1995, the last time the House switched parties, Tom Foley (D-WA), the outgoing speaker, "was defeated for re-election, so he wasn't around when Newt Gingrich became speaker in January." So who turned over the speaker's gavel to Gingrich? – Jon Yuengling, West Norriton Township, Pa.

A: It was the Democratic minority leader, Richard Gephardt of Missouri. Similarly, it was the House Minority Leader, John Boehner (R-OH), who awarded the speaker's gavel to Pelosi earlier this month.

Q: With the recent uproar over Minnesota's new congressman, Keith Ellison (D), wanting to swear the oath of office on a Koran instead of a Bible, I wanted to know if any Jewish members of Congress were ever sworn in using the Torah? – Whitney Muse, Philadelphia, Pa.

A: You know, of course, that all members of the House are sworn in at once, on the House floor and without placing their hand on a prayer book, simply by raising their right hand. It is in the later private, ceremonial swearings-in where members can place their hand on a Bible or a book of religious prayers.

The answer to your question is yes, at least one Jewish member has forsaken the Bible for their ceremonial swearings-in. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) took her oath in 2005 by placing her hand on a Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. And at least two Jewish governors, Linda Lingle (R) of Hawaii and Madeleine Kunin (D) of Vermont, have used Jewish prayer books when they were sworn into office.

In addition, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) was sworn in using a volume of Mormon scriptures in 1997.

IF IT'S WEDNESDAY, IT'S "POLITICAL JUNKIE" ON THE AIR: Remember, not only can you read "Political Junkie" each week, but you can hear it, too. Tune in to NPR's Talk of the Nation, a call-in program, every Wednesday at 2:40 p.m. Eastern, for a stirring 20 minutes on politics. This week: Minimum wage and Iraq in the Senate, and the latest 2008 prez candidates to come forward. Special guest: Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, which sponsored a conservative conference in DC last weekend, keynoted by Mitt Romney.

Also: Don't miss this week's episode of "It's All Politics," the NPR political podcast hosted by NPR's Ron Elving and me that can be downloaded from our Web site. New edition of the podcast goes up every Thursday afternoon. And check out this delightful note from John Evans, all the way from Romania: "I don't typically write fan letters, but I wanted to take a minute and let you know how much I enjoy and appreciate 'It's All Politics.' I live in Bucharest, and every Friday morning I download it for my walk to the school where I teach. Thanks so much for producing a great program that makes my week!"

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION: The Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl once, on Jan. 26, 1986, when they beat the New England Patriots. The mayor of Chicago at the time was Harold Washington (D), the city's first black mayor. The Colts won it only once as well, on Jan. 17, 1971, but back then they were still the Baltimore Colts (and they beat the Cowboys on a dramatic last-second field goal). The mayor of Baltimore was Thomas D'Alesandro III (D), the brother of current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please don't forget to include your city and state.

This Day in Political History: The once-certain nomination of former Sen. John Tower (R-TX) to become secretary of defense hits a snag when conservative activist Paul Weyrich testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that there are serious questions about Tower's personal life (Jan. 31, 1989). Tower's nomination is defeated 53-47 in the full Senate on March 9.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org

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