Ballotpedia SOS Race Tracker - Toss-ups down to 3, GOP likely to pick up CO, IA, and KS
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By Joseph Kastner
Unlike the races for State Attorney General, there is not a single office out of the 26 Secretary of State positions up for election this year that will go uncontested in November; therefore, none of the seats is guaranteed to go to either major political party. This is not say, however, that every election will be fiercely competitive. There are at least ten states - 6 currently held by a Republican (Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Wyoming) and 4 by a Democrat (Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin) - where the incumbent faces token competition, an individual who no doubt is sincere in his/her efforts in campaigning for the office, but who stands no real chance of gaining a significant political foothold in the race.
Here is a breakdown of which states have been placed in the five other categories. (R and D and indicate party of current officeholder.)
- Toss ups: Arkansas (D), New Mexico (D), Ohio (D)
- Likely Ds: California (D), Connecticut (D), Illinois (D), Massachusetts (D), Rhode Island (D), Vermont (D), Wisconsin (D)
- Likely Rs: Alabama (R), Arizona (R), Georgia (R), Idaho (R), Kansas (D), Nebraska (R), North Dakota (R), South Carolina (R), Wyoming (R)
- Lean Ds: Minnesota (D)
- Lean Rs: Colorado (D), Iowa (D), Michigan (R)
Altogether, 8 races are in the Lean-Safe Democratic category and 12 races are in the Lean-Safe Republican category. Without factoring in the three toss-up contests, the Republican Party appears likely to pick up at the very least three seats from the Democrats in November.
Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, appointed to the statewide office by Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter in 2009 to fill the vacancy left behind by Mike Coffman following his election to the United States House of Representatives, appears likely not to receive a full elected term in office. He has come under quite a bit of fire lately, especially from State Republican legislators, for seeking a waiver for the state from having to comply with Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act; this waiver was later denied by the United States Justice Department. The MOVE Act requires all states to send out absentee ballots no later than 45 days before the general election; those with primaries in late-August/early-September are ordered to either apply for a waiver or change their primary election date in order to be in compliance with the law.
Buescher’s failure as the state’s chief election official to do something so that a seeking of a waiver could be averted has reflected badly on the state and it appears as though voters are noticing. Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies, a Louisville-based data/information/technology consulting firm, randomly telephoned 954 likely Colorado voters between August 25 and 26, 2010 via an automated system. The polling data shows that Democratic incumbent Bernie Buescher is down six percentage points to Republican challenger Scott Gessler with fifteen percent expressing support for American Constitution Party candidate Amanda Campbell and another seventeen percent still undecided. What is even more intriguing upon closer examination of the numbers is that among unaffiliated or independent voters, it is a virtual dead head among the two major party candidates with Gessler holding a slight two percentage point advantage over Buescher; it should be noted, however, that it is Campbell who comes out on top with this voting demographic, pulling in twenty-seven percent of those interviewed.
Democratic incumbent Michael Mauro, who, last we reported, was down three percentage points to Republican Council Bluffs City Council member Matt Schultz in the latest voter survey, has courted controversy with the release of radio/television advertisements designed to promote programs his office oversees. Beginning on September 27, 2010, Mauro's Office released a radio/television advertisement "intended to help ensure that all Iowans, especially those who are disabled, learn about the Secretary of State’s AutoMARK ballot voting system that allows Iowans living with a disability to vote independently and in private."  While programs like this are no doubt important, critics argue, it is the timing of these advertisements in addition to the fact that Mauro introduces himself as the State's Secretary of State that has State Republican leaders upset.
Two conflicting polls released nearly a month apart have placed the Secretary of State contest in Ohio firmly in the “Toss-up” category. The ‘’Columbus Dispatch conducted a survey of 1,662 likely voters from across the state between August 25 and September 3, 2010 and found Republican State Senator Jon Husted with a slight three percentage point advantage over his opponent, Maryellen O'Shaughnessy, Democratic Clerk of Courts for Franklin County. With rumors suggesting that the situation in Ohio is so grim that national Democratic campaign committees are weighing their options in terms of committee, the secretary of state race, along with all other statewide contests, appeared locked.
However, the latest numbers published by Suffolk University on Thursday, October 7, 2010 have halted those stories. Suffolk interviewed five-hundred likely voters from across the state between October 4 and 6, 2010 and found O’Shaughnessy with a 40-33 lead over Husted. This complete reversal seems a bit odd, especially given that nothing particularly controversial has happened in between this poll and the one conducted by the ‘’Dispatch. However, it should be noted that during the hotly contested United States Senate special election in Massachusetts earlier this year, Suffolk University was the first to report Republican Scott P. Brown with the lead in the race, though for the University, based in Massachusetts, it was a more localized contest.
In four of the seats up for election, the incumbent cannot run again because of term limits, leaving ten seats guaranteed to be open to non-incumbents. Of the incumbent but limited-out secretaries of state, one is Democratic and three are Republican:
- The Democratic Secretary of State who is limited-out is Charlie Daniels (Arkansas)
- Republican secretaries of state who are limited-out are Todd Rokita (Indiana), Terri Lynn Land (Michigan), and Chris Nelson (South Dakota).
In mid-November 2009, it was estimated that five incumbent secretaries of state who could run again (three Democrats and two Republicans) voluntarily choose not to seek re-election. Three months later, however, only the three Democrats remained on the list as both of the Republicans (Karen Handel of Georgia and Ron Thornburgh of Kansas) resigned from office resulting in the governor from each of the respective states having to appoint a replacement; both appointees in these instances were already candidates seeking the statewide office in November:
- Democratic secretaries of state who are voluntarily choosing not to run for re-election are Susan Bysiewicz (Connecticut), Jennifer Brunner (Ohio) and Deborah L. Markowitz (Vermont). Bysiewicz, who over the course of two years switched campaigns from the gubernatorial race to the state attorney general contest, has decided to seek neither higher office nor re-election to her current position, Markowtiz is seeking to become governor and Brunner was in the hunt for her party's nomination for United States Senate, though she ultimately lost to the Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher.
At this point in the 2010 election cycle, all signature-filling deadlines in each of the respective 26 states with secretary of state elections have lapsed. There remain three states who still have yet to hold a primary election; these states include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.
For each of the 26 Secretary of State races in 2010, I have placed the expected outcome in one of 7 classifications. The 7 classifications are Safe Democrat, Likely Democrat, Leans Democrat, Toss-up, Leans Republican, Likely Republican and Safe Republican. These are the standard 7 classifications typically used by organizations such as Congressional Quarterly when assessing the likely outcomes of races for U.S. Congress and governor.
- For the methodology of this racetracking analysis, see Secretaries of State/Election Racetracking
|Month||Safe D||Likely D||Lean D||Tossup||Lean R||Likely R||Safe R|
- The Huffington Post "Military Voting Waivers Denied For Colorado, 3 Other States" 27 Aug. 2010
- Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies "Colorado Statewide Elections Survey Release" 31 Aug. 2010
- The Iowa Republican "Mauro and Fitzgerald – Using Your Tax Dollars to Get Re-Elected" 30 Sept. 2010
- The Columbus Dispatch "GOP resurgent" 5 Sept. 2010
- The Atlantic "A Democratic Bloodbath in Ohio?" 16 Sept. 2010
- Suffolk University "Republicans Leading for U.S. Senator and Governor" 7 Oct. 2010