EXCLUSIVE: Ballotpedia SOS Race Tracker - 6 offices in play
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By Joseph Kastner
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|
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: Toss up: Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, and South Dakota Likely Ds: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Vermont Lean Ds: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Lean Rs: Indiana Likely Rs: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Wyoming
Altogether, 11 races are in the Lean-Safe Democratic category, and 9 races are in the Lean-Safe Republican category. If the 6 toss-up races split at 3-3, the party breakdown of the secretary of state offices will go unaltered.
Georgia, Kansas, Ohio
In Georgia, Republican incumbent Brian Kemp, appointed to the position following Karen Handel's resignation to pursue a run for governor, faces a challenge from Democrat Georganna Sinkfield, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Sinkfield, who placed second among five Democratic candidates in the state primary, pulled a huge upset in the runoff contest two weeks later against State Senator Gail Buckner. The caveat, though, is that the voter turn-out for the race was just a little over one-hundred thousand, so that may have played a significant role in that outcome. In spite of her victory, Sinkfield, who was the last candidate to enter the race, finds herself in a huge financial hole according to campaign finance reports.
Republican candidate Kris Kobach puts the Kansas Secretary of State election on the map. Kobach, who faces off against incumbent appointee Chris Biggs in the general election, helped craft the controversial, though nationally popular, Arizona anti-illegal immigration measure, SB 1070. The University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor last ran for public office in 2004, narrowly winning the Republican nomination for the United States House of Representatives, but ultimately losing in the general election by eleven points. A Survey USA poll places him thirty-two points ahead of Biggs heading into September.
In Ohio, Republican State Senator Jon Husted faces off against Democrat Maryellen O'Shaughnessy. O'Shaughnessy is currently the Clerk of Courts for Franklin County. Unlike the Republican candidate for state attorney general, Husted enjoys the support of local gun rights advocates and sports enthusiasts, but a conflict during the course of the primary campaign has drawn the ire of conservative tea party activists. His support for the renewal of the Third Frontier legislation, which would allocate $700 million to fund efforts by Ohio-based companies and research institutions to develop high-tech products, has drawn criticism from two of the major tea party organizations in the state.
- Georgia State Ethics Commission - Georganna Sinkfield 6 Days Before Primary Runoff Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report Summary
- Lawrence Journal-World & News "Kansan Kris Kobach helped write controversial Arizona immigration law" 27 April, 2010
- New York Times "Why Arizona Drew a Line" 28 April, 2010
- KWCH - Channel 12 "Republicans hold solid lead in all statewide races" 17 Aug. 2010
- The Other Paper "Husted blurs the conservative boundaries" 15 April, 2010
- Right Ohio "TEA Partiers Don’t Buy Jon Husted’s Newfound Conservatism" 15 April, 2010