The Campaign Spot

The 2014 Governors’ Races That Aren’t Really Races

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The 2014 Governors’ Races That Have No Actual Races

Yesterday I mentioned that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval heads into 2014’s general election with no major competitors on the Democratic side. There are two other 2014 governors races where, so far, the state Democratic Party has effectively chosen to concede.

In Tennessee, incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Haslam faces a primary challenge… from a guy whose primary issue is that he wants the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to return his pet raccoon. You see, he really enjoyed showering with his raccoon, and no, that’s not some obscure metaphor.

Presuming Haslam can survive that challenge, he’ll head to the general election Democrats have two guys no one has ever heard of and who have no web sites, and Mark Clayton. No, not the Miami Dolphins receiver from the 1980s.

He’s run before, and embarrassed the state party last cycle, too:

In Tennessee, Clayton’s policy ideas set him apart from many other Democrats: He is unusual in opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but he’s downright exceptional in saying that the Transportation Security Administration “mandates [transsexuals] and homosexuals grabbing children in their stranger-danger zones.”

He has been a volunteer for Public Advocate of the United States, a Falls Church-based organization that was branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-gay rhetoric.

During Clayton’s failed Senate run in 2008, his Web site suggested that the U.S. government might be replaced with a “North American Union” and that Google was working against him at the behest of the Chinese government.

Heck of a pick, Tennessee Democrats! I can see why you love this guy! The state’s filing deadline is April 3, and the Tennessee primary is August 7.

What’s really remarkable is that from 2003 to 2011, Democrat Phil Bredesen lived in the governor’s mansion, and he won 68 percent in his reelection bid in 2006. Breseden departs, and the bench is empty.

It’s a similar story in Wyoming, where incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Mead is still missing a Democrat opponent. (Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill is challenging Mead in the GOP primary.) Some may scoff, “it’s Wyoming, the state of the Cheneys, of course the Republicans are dominant” – but Mead was preceded by Democrat Dave Freudenthal, who won narrowly in 2002 and then by a wide margin in 2006. Here we are, eight years later, and the Democratic bench for the top of the ticket race isn’t just weak; it’s nonexistent.

For comparison, in Idaho, Democrats are running a member of the Boise school board against a two-term incumbent. At least he’s done something and his campaign platform isn’t primarily about fighting the vast conspiracies out to get him.

There’s one state where Republicans are still looking for a candidate:  Vermont, where incumbent Peter Shumlin can pretty much schedule his inauguration ceremony for next year. For prespective, he’s pledging the state will have single-payer by 2017, even though it’s missing deadlines – sound familiar? – and other state Democrats are publicly expressing worries.  Emily Payton’s web site lists her as a “Republican/Independent” but she clarifies on her blog, “After the primary she will continue as an Independent for Governor representing De Udder Party candidate.” She also “insists a complete overhaul of US [sic] monetary systems is needed,” which is a tall order for an aspiring governor of Vermont. The Green Mountain State already has a declared Marijuana Party candidate for governor.

There are blue states where Republicans have some little-known candidates carrying their flag in the gubernatorial races, but few where their dearth of talent compares to the Democrats in Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

In Maryland, where Martin O’Malley is term-limited, Republicans have county executive David Craig and state delegate Ron George, as well as businessman Larry Hogan and Charles Lollar. All underdogs, but at least some of those guys have run and won races before; Lollar’s currently serving as a Major in the Marine Corps Reserves as an Intelligence Officer. Serious guys.

In Massachusetts, where Deval Patrick is term-limited isn’t running for a third term, Republicans have 2010 nominee Charlie Baker, a former state cabinet official under Governors Weld and Cellucci, and former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, as well as Mark Fisher.

In Rhode Island, where technically-independent Lincoln Chaffee announced he wouldn’t seek a second term, Republicans have Cranston Mayor Alan Fung and entrepreneur Ken Block. Fung, the first Asian-American mayor in the state, running Rhode Island’s third-largest city, has been elected mayor three times and before that won a seat on the city council race.

In California, Republicans have State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Neel Kashkari. It’s understandable Republicans might want to write off a state that rejects Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman for Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown, but neither one of these guys is likely to be an embarrassing amateur.

(You know who else is running for governor in California? Cindy Sheehan. I wonder if she wonders where the media went, and why they never call her anymore.)

Anyway, this gubernatorial crop is a good sign for Republicans; you want your best players out on the field, no matter the odds, because you never know when that heavy favorite might suddenly have a gaffe, get caught in a scandal, or somehow otherwise implode. 

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