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EXCLUSIVE: Ballotpedia AG Race Tracker - 8 contests up in the air

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August 27, 2010

2010 AG Elections
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By Joseph Kastner

In Ballotpedia's coverage of the 2010 State Attorney General elections, this is our first race-tracking prediction of predicted outcomes.

Thirty attorney general elections are scheduled for November 2, 2010. Of the 30 seats up for election, 20 are currently held by a Democrat and 10 by a Republican.

In three of the seats up for election, the incumbent cannot run again because of term limits. Of the three incumbent but limited-out attorneys general, two are Democrats and one is Republican:

Several incumbent attorneys general have chosen not to run for re-election, in most cases because they are running for a different office. As of mid-April 2010, it is known that seven incumbent attorneys general who could run again (five are Democrats and two are Republicans) are voluntarily choosing not to seek re-election.

At this point in the 2010 election cycle, all signature-filling deadlines in each of the respective 30 states with attorney general elections have lapsed. There remain five states who still have yet to hold a primary election; these states include Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

For each of the 30 State Attorney General 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 State Attorneys General/Election Racetracking
Month Safe D Likely D Lean D Tossup Lean R Likely R Safe R
August 4 7 3 8 1 5 2

Out of the 30 State Attorney General positions up for election this year, six are guaranteed at this point in time to remain with the political party that currently occupies it. Four Democratic AGs (in Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, and Massachusetts) and two Republican AGs (in Idaho and Nebraska) are incumbents who face no major party competition this November. The Republican Party of Delaware still has a few days left to select a candidate to run against Beau Biden, but it seems likely this office will remain unchallenged going into November.

Here is a breakdown of which states have been placed in the five other categories:

Altogether, 14 races are in the Lean-Safe Democratic category, and 8 races are in the Lean-Safe Republican category. If the 8 toss-up races split at 4-4, that will represent a pick-up of 2 attorney general seats for the Republican Party.

California, Iowa, Ohio

The state AG races in California, Iowa and Ohio merit attention heading into September.

California:

The race in California is between San Francisco District Attorney Democrat Kamala D. Harris, San Francisco's District Attorney, and Republican Steve Cooley (who is the District Attorney for Los Angeles County). Harris, who has been called the "female Obama," is nevertheless struggling to gain traction in this heavily Democratic state against Cooley for the seat that becomes vacant as Jerry Brown, now running for governor, leaves it.

A Field Research poll conducted in late-June/early-July 2010 showed Cooley with a slim three-point lead over Harris.[1] The Field poll of 357 likely California voters also demonstrated overwhelming support (seventy percent) for the death penalty in criminal cases. Harris is known to oppose the death penalty. This may cost her support with some voters and it has already cost her endorsements from state police organizations.[2] One-in-three California voters know nothing about either Harris or Cooley, according to the same Field Poll. That, the lack of support from law enforcement agencies, and some lingering issues related to how her office handled an employee misconduct case, seem to have put Harris underwater so that, improbably, the Golden State may represent a pickup opportunity for the GOP in the AG sweepstakes.

Iowa:

Mike DeWine, candidate for Ohio Attorney General, who represents one pick-up opportunity for the Republican Party in the AG sweepstakes of 2010

A Voter-Consumer Research poll conducted in late-July 2010 showed Brenna Findley, the Republican candidate and Chief of Staff to Congressman Steve King, fifteen points behind incumbent Democrat Tom Miller.

At the same time, despite Miller having been in the same statewide position for nearly sixteen years, voter support stands at only forty-one percent.[3] Anything below the safety of the fifty-percent mark has suggested to some that Miller has left the door open to Findley. While few voters across the state know who Findley is, her campaign can control whether that's still true on November 2. What Findley has right now is the enthusiastic support of Iowa Republicans. As a result, she has been able to raise eight times as much as her Democratic opponent in terms of campaign contributions in May 2010, according to campaign finance reports.[4][5][6]

An additional factor that may weigh in Findley's favor is that, like Pam Bondi in Florida, she has won the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

Ohio:

The race in Ohio is between incumbent Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican challenger Mike DeWine. A Public Opinion Strategies survey of likely voters from across the state published in late-July 2010 not only put DeWine twelve points ahead of Cordray, but, more importantly, showed him with a nineteen point advantage among the highly sought after independent voter demographic.[7] What may hurt DeWine, however, is the fact that he is strongly in favor of gun control regulations, which has lost him the favor of the gun rights community in state.

Joe Kastner does the race-tracking analysis for State Attorney General elections, and for the 2010 Secretary of State elections. E-mail him (kastner.joseph@gmail.com) with any questions or concerns.

References