The Executive Summary: Governor of Maine withdraws from national organization

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October 4, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay

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In this week's Executive Summary, we'll bring you a bizarre story out of Maine as well as an update to the Ballotpedia election projections. And of course, all of the usual updates with respect to appointments, resignations and news. Finally, this week's office highlight will be state Treasurers.

Maine governor drops NGA membership

In September, Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) withdrew his state's membership from the National Governors Association, saying Maine was not receiving sufficient benefits for its yearly membership fee of $60,000. “I get no value out of those meetings. They are too politically correct and everybody is lovey-dovey and no decisions are ever made. There are some tough decisions that need to be made in this country and we need to start making them," he said.[1]

According to Jodi Omear, director of communications for the NGA, all governors are considered members even if they do not pay dues. While she would not say which other states, if any, have stopped paying dues, Omear said membership fees vary from $22,000 to approximately $176,000 a year.[1] It was reported that at least three states - Texas, South Carolina, and Idaho - did not pay their dues in 2011.[2]

Created in 1908, the NGA meets twice a year to discuss public policy and governance issues.[2] According to the official publication A Governor's Guide to NGA, “State dues fund the association's lobbying, communications, management services, and a portion of general administration activities."[3] Corporations also provide major funding for the NGA - at this year's winter meeting in February 147 corporations sponsored the event.[4]

Elections

See also: State executive official elections, 2012

This year, 22 states are holding regularly-scheduled state executive official elections. In those elections, a total of 37 state executive seats and 57 down ballot seats are up for election. Wisconsin also held two special recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch on June 5, 2012.

  • 21 states have already held primary elections.
  • Louisiana will hold its primary election for statewide races on November 6, 2012, when all other states hold their general election.
  • As of September 6th, candidate filing periods have closed in all 22 states.

Election projections

See also: Ballotpedia:Statewide projections for the November 6, 2012 elections

This week Ballotpedia updated its election projections. The state executive changes are as follows:

  • North Carolina Governor to Safe R
  • Vermont lieutenant governor to Safe R
  • Oregon Secretary of State to Toss-up
  • Pennsylvania Attorney General to Lean D

Below are state executive projections for top ballot races.

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Democrats

Before election: 23

Projected after election: 16 (9 Toss-ups)

Actual Results: 19 (5 too close to call)
Republicans

Before election: 14

Projected after election: 12 (9 Toss-ups)

Actual Results: 13 (5 too close to call)
MonthSafe DLikely DLean DToss UpLean RLikely RSafe R
August 1, 201254314254
September 1, 201263413344
October 1, 201263413245
November 1, 20127369048
August changes: MO LtGov to Lean R; WV SoS to Likely D; OR SoS to Safe D; OR AttyGen to Lean D
September changes: NC Gov to Safe R; Vt. LtGov to Safe R; OR SOS to toss-up; PA AG to lean D
October changes: IN Gov to Safe R, MO Gov to Lean D; MO Lt. Gov to Likely R, MT Lt. Gov to Toss-up; Oregon SOS to Lean D; Oregon and VT AG to Safe D; MO AG to Likely D; WV AG to Lean D; IN and MT AG to Likely R


Upcoming key dates

DateEvent
October 6Missouri post-primary candidate filing deadline
October 8New Mexico second general election finance report
October 9Campaign finance reports due in Nebraska, Louisiana and Texas
October 15Vermont campaign finance reports due
November 6General Election


Appointments

Alabama department merger edges out elder statesman, new labor commissioner succeeding

On October 1st, after 34 years of service to Alabama government, Jim Bennett retired from public office. The position he left behind is Alabama Commissioner of Labor, which he was originally appointed to in 2003 by Governor Bob Riley and later kept on by current Governor Robert Bentley.[5]

Succeeding Bennett is former Alabama Director of Industrial Relations Tom Surtees, whose department merged with the Department of Labor and retained Surtees to lead. The merger, and Bennett's job as department head, were the casualties of Alabama's recently passed budget -- another notch in the belt-tightening efforts sweeping through debt-plagued state legislatures as of late.[6]

As the commissioner serves at the pleasure of the governor, Bennett was not subject to fixed terms or reappointment. "Jim Bennett has been around through many of Alabama's toughest and best years," said Surtees upon the departure of his predecessor, who indeed has weathered 50 years of political storms in Alabama, from his early days as a reporter covering the civil rights movement -- interviewing the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- to serving a decade apiece as state senator and secretary of state[7] Bennett's evolution from Democrat to stalwart Republican leader mirrors the developments that defined the last half-century of southern party politics.

When Bennett was first appointed secretary of state in 1993 by then-Gov. Guy Hunt to fill a vacancy in the office, Bennett was already entrenched into the Democratic establishment, having represented the party for 15 years between both chambers on the state legislature, and he stayed with the party though his first full elected term as secretary of state. In 1998, he ran for his second term as a Republican. In an interview given the day before the merger took effect, along with his retirement, Bennett recalled the circumstances of the party switch. He said that Republicans were more attuned to his issue positions, such as cracking down on voter fraud, adding, "Now you almost have to be a Republican to get elected to statewide office."[7]

Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Schools

The torch has been passed, though it burns differently than before. On June 4, 2012, Oregon's long-serving superintendent of education Susan Castillo announced that she would be resigning from office at the end of the month to take a job as regional vice president of the educational non-profit organization Project Lead The Way.[8] She was first elected on May 21, 2002, and began her third term in January 2011. Castillo's departure, over two years ahead of schedule, marked the end of the office's approximately 150 year run as an independent, elected position. A new law passed in 2011 transferred "responsibility for the state's half-million students attending 1,200 public and charter schools" to the governor, who will appoint a chief education officer for assistance, as well as a "superboard that oversees spending and policy for every level."[8]

Succeeding Castillo (in essence, if not title) is veteran school district superintendent, teacher, principal, and administrator, Rob Saxton. Saxton was appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber in July 2012 and confirmed by the Senate on September 14th to serve as Oregon's first Deputy Superintendent of Education.[9]

Kansas Secretary of Labor

On September 20th, Governor Sam Brownback (R) named former Republican Topeka State Rep. Lana Gordon deputy secretary of the department of labor. That same day, he ousted Karin Brownlee from the position and named Gordon interim secretary.[10] Brownlee was appointed labor secretary by the governor in January of 2011 and served until Brownback ordered her to step down for undisclosed reasons.[10]

Following her unceremoniously abrupt dismissal, Brownlee commented that while she had been confident in the department's upward trajectory under her leadership, she is satisfied with the work her team was able to accomplish during her brief stint in office. “I respect the role of the governor," she maintained diplomatically. Kansas labor secretaries are selected by appointment rather than elected by the people; they serve at the pleasure of the sitting governor and are not subject to reappointment or term limits. It is an executive position in the Kansas state government, earning an annual salary in excess of $100,000.

Connecticut Commissioner of Labor

A new commissioner of labor is set to begin work this week in Connecticut. Governor Dan Malloy (D) on August 29, 2012 appointed Sharon Palmer as the new commissioner, following the resignation of previous commissioner Glenn Marshall.[11][12] Marshall resigned on June 29, 2012, citing family reasons.[13] Palmer will officially take office on October 5, 2012.[14] Dennis Murphy took over as interim commissioner between July 2012 and October 2012 and will resume his position as deputy labor commissioner.[12]

Featured office

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Featured office: Treasurer

Quick facts about treasurers

Every state in the United States has a treasurer, though some have a different official title for the office. The treasurer of a state is the official charged with overseeing revenue and finances and generally acting as the state's chief banker. Most states elect the treasurer and, of those states, it is common for the treasurer to be a Constitutional office. Some states, however, treat the position as a member of the Governor's Cabinet, thus making the position a gubernatorial appointment.

While some states authorize the governor to appoint an individual to the office, 37 others have opted to have public voters select the office holders. These states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

As opposed to treasurers in the corporate world, state treasurers are often elected partisan offices who administer various programs and have control over financial decisions without being involved in the highly detailed day-to-day bookkeeping and accounting.

In some states, the treasurer may share financial duties with a Comptroller, a Chief Financial Officer, and/or an Auditor. Areas that often fall under a treasurer's job description include:

  • Debt management and debt policy
  • Disaster preparation
  • Pension fund administration
  • Oversight to prevent fraud with public money
  • Payroll matters for public employees
  • Investing public funds and managing portfolios

Recent news articles

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bangor Daily News, "LePage pulls out of National Governors Association," September 30, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 CNN, “GOP-led states skipping payments to governors association," February 24, 2011
  3. National Governors Association, “A Governor's Guide to NGA," accessed October 2, 2012
  4. National Journal, “Corporate Money in Politics? Old News." February 25, 2012
  5. Associated Press, "AP interview: Bennett's 50 years around government," September 30, 2012
  6. Alabama Department of Labor, "Alabama Department of Industrial Relations merger with the Alabama Department of Labor," September 24, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 Associated Press, "AP interview: Bennett's 50 years around government," September 30, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 Oregon Live, "Oregon's state schools superintendent resigns, leaving the governor in charge of education," June 5, 2012
  9. Oregon Department of Education, "Deputy Superintendent's Biography," accessed September 28, 2012
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Witchita Eagle, "Kansas governor ousts labor secretary," September 21, 2012
  11. Courant Blogs, "Malloy Names Sharon Palmer Acting Commissioner Of Labor Department," July 3, 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 Connecticut Employment Law Blog, " Head of Teachers' Union Nominated as Next Department of Labor Commssioner" accessed October 2, 2012
  13. Hartford Business, "CT labor commissioner resigns," July 3, 2012
  14. Connecticut Office of Governor, "GOV. MALLOY APPOINTS SHARON PALMER TO LEAD CONNECTICUT'S LABOR DEPARTMENT" accessed October 3, 2012