Press Release: The Top 15 Races We're Talking About
The Lucy Burns Institute staff fills you in on key races up and down your ballot
Madison: October 15, 2012
The writers and researchers on Ballotpedia.org and Judgepedia.org have compiled a list of the top 15 races they’re watching this year:
1. US Senate seat in Massachusetts: Incumbent Republican Scott Brown swept into the US Senate two years ago as part of the Tea Party wave, winning the special election to replace Ted Kennedy. Now he is challenged by Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren in one of the most hotly contested battles that could determine which party controls the US Senate. This race could produce the highest level of spending in this year’s congressional elections.
2. California tax questions: Tax increase questions separately proposed by Governor Jerry Brown, Molly Munger and Thomas Steyer. Tax increases among the questions include sales and income tax increases.
3. Alabama Supreme Court: The “Ten Commandments” judge is hoping to return to the Alabama Supreme Court. Roy Moore was removed from office in 2003 for refusing to follow a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse lawn. This year, he is challenging Judge Robert S. Vance in one of the nation’s costliest judicial campaigns to win back his seat on the Court.
4. Wisconsin State Senate: 16 of 33 seats are up for election with Democrats holding the chamber by a slim 17-15 margin. One seat is currently vacant after Republican Rich Zipperer resigned to become Governor Scott Walker’s deputy chief of staff. The primary election for that seat will be held on November 6 and the general election on December 4. Two incumbents, both Democrats, did not seek re-election in 2012. No Republican candidate filed for election in the open seat left by Spencer Coggs.
5. Governor of Washington: Current Governor Christine Gregoire (D) is not running for re-election this year. Washington is one of three states that employs a top-2 primary system -- meaning there are only two candidates on the general election ballot. Former congressman Jay Inslee (D) faces Rob McKenna (R) in a heated general election. During the primary, the two were separated by 60,000 votes, with other candidates garnering more than 100,000 votes. In other words, this race should be extremely close on election day. Currently the Democratic Party has a trifecta in Washington -- holding both legislative chambers and the gubernatorial position. Republicans will look to break the Democratic hold over the state.
6. California's 30th Congressional District: As a result of redistricting, there are a number of incumbent vs incumbent battles in this year’s elections. One of those lands in California, where incumbent Democratic House members Howard Berman and Brad Sherman will face each other in the 30th Congressional District election. This is the first election using California’s new top-2 election format -- meaning the top-2 vote getters in the primary advanced to the general election, regardless of party. This set up a Democrat-vs-Democrat incumbent contest. The race tends to favor Berman, but Sherman has been courting Republican voters and GOP endorsements in the district, which should lead to this race coming down to the wire. It won’t actually impact partisan control of the House, but it should still prove interesting until the end.
7. Minnesota Constitutional Amendment 2: The proposal would require that all voters in the state show photo identification before voting.
8. New York’s 24th Congressional District: In 2010, Republican Ann Marie Buerkle won election to the US House by 0.3 percentage points over Democratic challenger Dan Maffei. Now, the two are tangled in a rematch in a district that was drawn to be more Democratic than in 2010, which should prove to make her re-election battle difficult.
9. Florida Supreme Court Retention Election: Though no justice has ever lost a retention battle in Florida, this year conservatives are hoping to make history. A Republican “super PAC” and the group Restore Justice 2012 are leading an effort to oust Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince for various rulings in support of Obamacare.
10. New Mexico House of Representatives: Democrats hold the House by a slim 36-33 margin, but 9 of 12 retiring incumbents are Democrats. District 36 incumbent Andrew Nunez (I) was formerly a Democrat, but switched his affiliation this election cycle. He will face LULAC state director Phillip M. Archuleta (D) and restaurateur Mike A. Tellez (R). In District 15, firefighter Emily A. Kane (D) is fighting a tough battle against attorney Christopher T. Saucedo (R) who has strong backing from his party.
11. West Virginia Attorney General: Incumbent Darrell McGraw (D) has held the office of Attorney General since 1992. In his prior two races, McGraw held onto the seat by the slimmest of margins -- less than one percentage point. This year, he faces Republican Patrick Morrisey in a battle that is expected to be highly contested up until election day.
12. Michigan Supreme Court: Though the Michigan Supreme Court race is technically nonpartisan, it has been riddled with partisan conflict between the three Republican-endorsed candidates and three Democratic-endorsed candidates. The loaded race includes a total of seven candidates running for two seats on the court, as well as three candidates running for another seat.
13. Washington Referendum 74: The statewide question asks voters if same-sex marriage should be legalized in the state of Washington.
14. Oregon House of Representatives: The Oregon House is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans at 30-30, meaning that even a single seat flipping parties will swing control of the chamber. Democrats will be at a disadvantage in this battle, as six of eight retiring incumbents are Democrats. District 48 will not feature an incumbent, as Mike Schaufler (D) was defeated in the primary. Facing off for Schaufler's seat will be Jeff Reardon (D) and George Yellott (R).
15. President of the Alabama Public Service Commission: There is one seat up for election on the Alabama Public Service Commission. In an unusual twist, two current incumbents will face-off for the position. Current incumbent Lucy Baxley (D) serves as President of the commission and is seeking re-election. Fellow commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh (R) is challenging Baxley in order to move up on the commission. Cavanaugh has received criticism for having been elected to a four-year term in 2010, only to be looking to shift her position two years later. Baxley and Cavanaugh faced one another in 2008. This year’s rematch -- the only state-level election in Alabama -- should be close until the end.
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