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Three months to go - Ballotpedia predicts changes in three state executive offices for Democrats

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August 10, 2011

Edited by Bailey Ludlam

2011 Election Analysis: State Executive Offices
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2011's outlook
Governor
Lieutenant Governor
Attorney General
Secretary of State
Incumbency analysis
Political party analysis
State executive elections
Projected outcomes

The November 8, 2011 general elections are just over three months away and state executive office races have begun heating up. Four states are scheduled to have state executive elections in 2011. A total of 13 state executive seats and 13 down ballot seats are on ballots.

Already, three of four primaries have come and gone. However, Mississippi's most recent primary resulted in the scheduling of a runoff for three offices. Louisiana's primary won't be held until October 22. The candidate filing deadline is September 8.

West Virginia, an anomaly in this year's elections, will hold its general election on October 4. Only the gubernatorial seat is up for a vote. Additionally, Louisiana's general election falls later than the norm - November 19.

Though there are still months of campaigning to go, already Ballotpedia has identified several trends in the 2011 state executive election races.

  • Democrats in the top state executive offices are expected to retain at least 3 of the 6 offices. The remaining 3 - Kentucky (Gov. and Lt. Gov) and West Virginia (Gov.) - are toss-ups.
  • As of August 10, 7 of 8 incumbents have successfully won primaries.

The outlook

According to a preliminary look at this year's top state executive offices, several executive offices look poised to switch parties. Ballotpedia produces its first state executive election predictions of the season below, focusing on the top 13 seats which include Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State. Each expected outcome is classified in 1 of 7 classifications. Read more about Ballotpedia's methodology here.

Stay tuned for monthly updates here.
Democrats

Before election: 6

Projected after election: 3

Actual Results: pending
Toss-up

3
Republicans

Before election: 7

Projected after election: 7

Actual Results: pending
Safe D Likely D Lean D Tossup Lean R Likely R Safe R
0 3 0 3 1 2 4

Governor

There are four seats up for election in this year’s gubernatorial elections. Two seats are safely Republican, and two are toss-ups, leaning toward Democrat.

Kentucky

  • Incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear is running to retain his seat. He faced no challenger in the primary election. His opponent, Republican President of the Senate David Williams, did not have a strong a showing in the primary, and garnered less than 50% of the vote against two weaker candidates.
  • Kentucky went 57.5% for McCain in the last presidential election, and is nationally a strong red state. But with the state senate a close lead for Republicans and the state house strongly Democratic, the state political scene is much less moderate. It's still not an easy for Beshear, and with three months until Election Day the outcome is still dependent on Williams’ closing campaign and Beshear’s ability to maintain appeal to the bluegrass state’s more moderate voters. For now, Ballotpedia is calling the race a toss-up.

Louisiana

  • Louisiana's primary is scheduled for October 22, 2011. Louisiana uses an open primary system, wherein all candidates run in one primary. If one candidate earns more than 50% of the vote, they are declared the winner. If no candidate received a majority of the vote, the general election is held and is a runoff between the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation.
  • Republican incumbent Bobby Jindal is running to defend his seat, and as of August 10, 2011, he faces no strong Democratic opposition. His only announced challenger, school teacher Tara Hollis, has no political experience and has raised less than $5,000 for her campaign. Jindal has over $8 million in existing campaign funds and continues to raise more.[1]
  • Jindal is expected to easily win re-election unless a better-financed Democratic candidate enters the race. The most likely challenger would be State Senator Robert Marionneaux, who has not made a formal announcement one way or the other. Even with Marionneaux's name recognition and reputation in the state, it is an uphill battle for any Democrat. Ballotpedia is calling the race safe Republican.

Mississippi

  • Republican incumbent Haley Barbour is term limited from seeking a third consecutive term in office. The Democratic nominee has yet to be determined, and will be finalized in a primary runoff election on August 23, 2011. Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and attorney Bill Luckett, Jr. finished in the top two spots in the partisan primary, though neither cinched the nomination with a majority of the votes.
  • Republican Phil Bryant, the current lieutenant governor, easily defeated four other candidates in the primary, winning his party’s nomination outright. Early polling indicated that regardless of which Democrat is on the ticket, Bryant holds at least a 25 point lead over any challenger. Ballotpedia is calling the race safe Republican.

West Virginia

Lieutenant Governor

Two of the three 2011 races for lieutenant governor are safe Republican holds. The race in Kentucky is a toss-up, leaning toward Democrat.

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Kentucky

Louisiana

  • Louisiana's primary is scheduled for October 22, 2011. Louisiana uses an open primary system, wherein all candidates run in one primary. If one candidate earns more than 50% of the vote, they are declared the winner. If no candidate received a majority of the vote, the general election is held and is a runoff between the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation.
  • As of August 10, 2011, no Democrats have filed to run, though there are still a few weeks to enter the race. Two Republicans, current Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, have qualified, with Dardenne having a clear advantage. Ballotpedia is calling this race a safe Republican.

Mississippi

Attorney General

As of August 10, Ballotpedia is calling two races likely Democratic holds and one a safe Republican hold.

Kentucky

  • Ballotpedia is calling Kentucky’s attorney general race a likely Democratic win. Incumbent Jack Conway has amassed a commanding 20 point lead in the polls, buttressed by immense donor support and strong name recognition following his high profile run for U.S. Senate against Rand Paul in 2010. Republican contender Todd P’Pool began his campaign with a substantial war chest, but new donations have slowed to a trickle, while his opponent's have exploded -- Conway raised almost six times as much as P’Pool in the early summer campaign finance period. Both candidates cruised to uncontested primary victories, but Conway looks to have a substantial edge going into the fall election season.

Louisiana

  • Louisiana’s race has barely gotten off the ground, with only two candidates -- incumbent Republican (and former Democrat) James D. “Buddy” Caldwell and former Republican U.S. Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao -- openly seeking the office. The simple lack of Dem challengers makes the office a safe Republican hold. However, rumors have swirled around former Senate President Joel Chaisson, a Democrat, as a potential late entrant into the race.[2] Chaisson’s entry could shake up what has been a sedate race as the October primary approaches.

Mississippi

  • Mississippi’s race looks to be a likely Democratic win as of August, with incumbent Democrat Jim Hood polling significantly ahead of his Republican challenger, former public safety commissioner Steve Simpson. Hood - who was first elected in 2003 and has never seen a challenger come closer than a 20 point lead in a general election - held a 17 point lead in an April survey by Public Policy Polling.[3] Simpson has gone on the offensive to chip away at Hood’s record, slamming him for failing to join a multi-state lawsuit to block President Obama’s health care reform.[4] Still, Simpson's efforts to undermine Hood's credibility have been stymied scandals in his own shop, from failure to pay property taxes, allegedly lenient sentencing during his time as a state judge,[5] and accusations that he may actually have launched his campaign illegally.

Secretary of State

As of August 10, Ballotpedia is calling one race a likely Democratic hold, one likely Republican, and one safe Republican..

Kentucky

Louisiana

  • Fayard, the only legitimate Democratic contender, has been dogged by a series of political gaffes. Most prominent was a speech in which she called Republicans “cruel and destructive” and claimed to hate them. The Louisiana Republican Party subsequently distributed bumper stickers reading "Caroline Fayard Hates Me" to its supporters. Fayard has also struggled to define herself politically, both claiming to be a conservative and drawing flak for her ties to prominent Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Mississippi

A look at incumbents

A total of 26 state executive seats will be up for election this year. Data available as of August 10 shows that at least 15 incumbents are expected to face a primary in their bid for re-election. A clearer picture will be available following the upcoming August 23 Mississippi primary runoff elections and the Louisiana primaries that will take place on October 22. The filing deadline for candidates in Louisiana is not until September - thus the data related to Louisiana in the chart below is based on incumbents that are tentatively scheduled to appear in a primary.

At this point, a total of 8 incumbents have faced a primary, with 7 moving on to the general election. The only incumbent to be defeated was Kentucky Secretary of State Elaine Walker (D). Walker has never been elected to a state executive position, but rather was appointed to the position in January of this year following the resignation of Trey Grayson (R). A total of 11 incumbents are currently scheduled to be running in the general election. Of the incumbents not running for re-election, two - the Governor of Mississippi and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture - are term limited and cannot seek another term, while the current Mississippi Treasurer is running for lieutenant governor instead.

Office Total seats Seats up for election Incumbents running (Primary) Incumbents won primary Incumbents lost primary Incumbents running (General)
Governor 50 4 3 2 0 2
Lt. Governor 45 3 1 0 0 0
Attorney General 50 3 3 2 0 2
Secretary of State 47 3 3 1 1 1
Treasurer 48 3 2[7] 1[7] 0[7] 1
Auditor 47 2 0[8] 0 0 1
Public Services Commissioner -[9] 3[10] 1 1 0 3
Insurance Commissioner 50 2 1[11] 0[11] 0[11] 1
Agriculture Commissioner 50 3 1[12] 0 0 0
Total 378 26 (6.88%) 15 7 1 11

Note: last updated August 10, 2011 - two primary elections remain pending. A Mississippi primary runoff and the Louisiana state primary. Incumbents running for office in Louisiana are tentatively scheduled to appear in the primary election. However, that remains pending. If no other candidates file, the incumbents will instead face challengers in the General election.

Political party overview

The chart below reflects the state executive offices up for election in 2011, nine, and the total United States political party breakdown prior to the November general elections for those offices. However, the Public Services Commissioner office was not included in this chart as totals are not currently available (some states have more than elected officer).

There are 14+ distinct state executives offices in the United States, not all are reflected here.

Of the eight offices up for election (not including Public Service Commissioners) there are an estimated 387 officers, of which 128 are appointed and nonpartisan. However, of the elected officers, currently 27% are Democrats and 40% are Republicans.

Pre-2011 general election political party breakdown
Office Democratic Party Democratic Republican Party Republican Independent Independent Nonpartisan Total seats
Governor 20 29 1 0 50
Lt. Governor 15 30 0 0 45
Attorney General 21 22 0 7 50
Secretary of State 15 20 0 12 47
Treasurer 16 21 0 11 48
Auditor 12 14 0 21 47
Insurance Commissioner 5 6 0 39 50
Agriculture Commissioner 1 12 0 38 50
Total 105 (27.13%) 154 (39.79%) 1 (2.58%) 128 (33.86%) 387

Editor's note: Bailey Ludlam, Greg Janetka, David Godow and Lauren Rodgers contributed to this report.

See also

News

Ballotpedia News

References

  1. Nola.com, "Gov. Bobby Jindal still has no well-financed Democratic rivals," July 27, 2011
  2. ‘’Bossier Press, “Attorney General race taking center stage,” July 20, 2011
  3. ‘’Y’all Politics, “Poll - Jim Hood leads Simpson by 17 points,” April 11, 2011
  4. ‘’Majority in MS, “Simpson: Hood’s Position on Obamacare was ‘last straw’,” July 26, 2011
  5. ‘’The Sea Coast Echo, “Priest Murdered,” July 12, 2011
  6. ‘’cn|2 Pure Politics, “Down ballot Democrats begin with leads; Auditor race is closest in cn|2 Poll,” June 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Tentatively incumbent John Neely Kennedy will appear in the Louisiana primary; pending updates regarding Louisiana candidates. In Mississippi, incumbent Tate Reeves is not running for the office, instead he is a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi in 2011. In Kentucky, incumbent Todd Hollenbach won the Democratic primary.
  8. Mississippi incumbent Republican Stacey Pickering is the only incumbent running in 2011. Since multiple candidate did not file, a Mississippi primary for the Auditor office was not held. Instead Pickering will face Reform Party candidate Ashley Norwood in the November general election.
  9. A total number of Public Service Commissioners is not currently available. State totals vary, with most having between 3 and 5.
  10. All three seats up for election are in the state of Mississippi.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Tentatively incumbent James Donelon will appear in the Louisiana primary; pending updates regarding Louisiana candidates. In Mississippi, since multiple candidates did not file no primary election was held for the insurance commissioner office. The general election contest will be between incumbent Republican Mike Chaney, Democrat Louis Fondren, and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer.
  12. Tentatively incumbent Michael Strain will appear in the Louisiana primary; pending updates regarding Louisiana candidates. In Mississippi, current incumbent incumbent Republican Lester Spell is retiring in 2011. In Kentucky, Republican incumbent Richie Farmer is ineligible for re-election due to term limits.