The Executive Summary: One southern titan of state row calls it quits, while another is coming back for thirds

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July 11, 2013

Edited by Greg Janetka

This edition of The Executive Summary highlights the 2014 race for Texas Governor, which, for the first time since 1990, will not feature an incumbent running. We also take a look at the recently created office of Wyoming Director of Education, which will be run by a Arizona state senator, rundown the 2013 and 2014 elections, and, as always, test your knowledge of state executives. Let’s go!

Rick Perry not running for re-election

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) ended speculation on Monday when he announced he would not be running for re-election in 2014, stating “The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership.”[1] Perry first assumed office in December 2000 when then-Governor George W. Bush resigned to prepare for his inauguration as President of the United States. Elected three times since, Perry is the longest serving governor in state history. Perry’s decision reignited speculation about his 2016 plans, leading many to believe he is planning another run for the presidency.[2]

Perry began his state climb in politics in 1985 when he joined the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat. Joining the Republican Party 1989, he served in that chamber until 1990, when he was elected Commissioner of Agriculture. After two terms in that role he became Lieutenant Governor in 1999, where he served until assuming the governor’s mansion the following year.

With Perry not in the running in 2014, the frontrunner in the race for governor is Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. Although he has not officially announced his candidacy, Abbott, a strong social and fiscal conservative, has already raised $18 million in campaign funds.[3] Other potential Republican names include media personality Miriam Martinez, state GOP chairman Tom Pauken, and conservative activist Larry SECEDE Kilgore. No Democratic candidates have stepped forth, but all eyes have been on state Sen. Wendy Davis since she lead an 11-hour filibuster over an abortion bill two weeks ago. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling found Abbott leading Davis by 8 points in a hypothetical matchup. The last time a Democrat was elected to the state’s top post was in 1990.[4][5]

A total of 36 governorships are up for election in 2014. While some incumbents continue to keep mum on their intentions, others have made their positions known. Sitting governors in four states, meanwhile, are unable to run due to term limits. They are Jan Brewer (R - Arizona), Dave Heineman (R - Nebraska), Mike Beebe (D - Arkansas), and Martin O'Malley (D - Maryland).

Worth noting is that a number of Republican governors elected in 2010 did so with massive support from tea party groups during the height of their power. These include eight who were elected in states that went for Barack Obama in 2008 - Rick Scott (Florida), Paul LePage (Maine), Rick Snyder (Michigan), Brian Sandoval (Nevada), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), John Kasich (Ohio), Tom Corbett (Pennsylvania), and Scott Walker (Wisconsin).[6] All of them, with the exception of Synder, have announced they will run for a second term. Several, such as Scott and Corbett, have seen dropping approval ratings and polls showing them with a tough fight ahead.[7][8] Walker, despite stirring up enough controversy with his policies to lead to a recall election last year, does not yet have any solid opposition and looks to be poised for easy re-election. He is also considered a potential candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2016.[9]

Gregory Phillips

Wyoming Attorney General confirmed for judgeship

On July 8, Attorney General of Wyoming Gregory Phillips was unanimously confirmed on a 88-0 vote of the U.S. Senate for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.[10] He was nominated for the seat by President Barack Obama on January 31, 2013.[11]

Phillips had served as attorney general since 2011. Although a Democrat, Phillips was appointed in March 2011 by Republican Governor Matt Mead and confirmed by the Republican-led Legislature.[12] This fact was cited during the confirmation hearing as one of his qualifications for the judgeship as well as to show the respect he has in the legal community. Phillips and Mead have known each other for over 30 years. In 1998 they started a law firm together, which operated until October 2001.[13]

Arizona senator to lead Wyoming Department of Education

Rich Crandall

On June 26, Arizona State Senator Rich Crandall (R) was appointed by Gov. Matt Mead (R) to serve as the first permanent Director of the Wyoming Department of Education. The position was created by the legislature on January 29, 2013. Previously, the elected Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction served as head of the state Department of Education, but the new law made the superintendent a largely ceremonial position.[14]

Wyoming Community College Commission Executive Jim Rose has served as interim officeholder until a permanent director could be found. Crandall’s appointment still has to be confirmed by the Wyoming State Senate. It is unknown when he will vacate his current senate seat.[15][16] Crandall has served in the Senate since 2011. He is President and CFO of Crandall Corporate Dietitians.[17]

Veteran Alabama official pulled out of retirement to fill in as Secretary of State

Jim Bennett

Seasoned former state executive Jim Bennett will take office as Alabama Secretary of State on July 31, 2013. He was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley (R) to fill the seat being vacated by twice-elected officeholder Beth Chapman, who decided to step down early in order to take a job in the private sector as a political consultant with the Alabama Farmers Federation. Bennett will serve as Chapman's replacement until a successor is formally elected by voters on November 4, 2014. The appointment is effective through to January 19, 2015, when Chapman's term was set to expire. Bennett will not run for a full term in the office when it comes up for election in 2014.[18]

Bennett was nearly a year into his retirement after 34 years of service to the state government of Alabama. His past experience holding public office includes a decade serving as secretary of state and another fifteen years prior that as a Democratic member of the state legislature.[19]

Bennett had previously said that out of the several positions he occupied throughout his career, his favorite was secretary of state.[20] During his tenure as Alabama's chief elections officer, he focused on campaign finance transparency and boosting the integrity of elections through the oft-debated method of voter roll purges.[18] He was elected to his first term as secretary of state on the Democratic ticket, but was re-elected as a Republican, the party with which he remains affiliated today. He recalled that Republicans were more attuned to the issue positions he championed as secretary of state, such as cracking down on voter fraud. "Now you almost have to be a Republican to get elected to statewide office," he added in a 2012 interview.[21]

Bennett was the Alabama Commissioner of Labor up until his retirement in the fall of 2012. He was first appointed in 2003 by Governor Bob Riley and was kept on by Bentley after he became governor.[22] As the commissioner served at the pleasure of the governor, Bennett was not subject to fixed terms or reappointment. However his office was eliminated as a result of a department merger in the fall of 2012.[21] "Jim Bennett has been around through many of Alabama's toughest and best years," said Tom Surtees, Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director, who edged Bennett out to become Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Labor on October 1, 2012 following the merger.[19]

After retiring from public office, Bennett continued to serve as chairman of the board of Jacksonville State University and to operate his business, the History Resource Group., which preserves and protects Alabama's historical assets.[20]

See also: State executive official elections, 2013
State Executive Official Elections Results in 2013
Office Incumbent Incumbent Party Incumbent Running? 2013 Winner Partisan switch?
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie Ends.png Republican Yes Pending
Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Kim Guadagno Ends.png Republican Yes Pending
Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell Ends.png Republican No Pending
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Bill Bolling Ends.png Republican No Pending
Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli Ends.png Republican No (running for governor) Pending
Superintendent of Wisconsin Tony Evers Grey.png Nonpartisan Yes Tony Evers No
Mark your calendar
November 5General election in New Jersey and Virginia

There are three states holding state executive official elections in 2013 -- New Jersey, Virginia and Wisconsin. A total of six officials will be elected. The attention-grabbing positions up for election are Governor of New Jersey and Governor of Virginia. Both made The Washington Post’s list of the top 5 races to watch in 2013.


The first state executive election in 2013 took place in Wisconsin on April 2, 2013. Incumbent Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers won re-election to a second term against challenger Don Pridemore.[23] Evers, a career educator, handily defeated Don Pridemore, a Wisconsin State Assemblyman since 2005. Although the Superintendent of Public Instruction is a non-partisan position, Evers is a Democrat and Pridemore is a Republican.

The race attracted considerable buzz in the lead-up to the election, owing in large part to the controversial education proposals put forth by Gov. Scott Walker (R) in his 2013-2015 budget plan, as well as Pridemore's penchant for provoking the media - with dramatic pronouncements about his campaign agenda or else by creating a blacklist of a number of "liberal"[24] political reporters.[25][26]

Evers received over 61% of the vote, equalling 487,030 votes. This figure points to Evers' growth in popularity since his initial election to the post back in 2009, when he won 439,248 votes and a roughly 15 percentage point victory over a different single challenger, Rose Fernandez.

Below are the official results of the superintendent race, certified by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on April 23.[27]

Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction General Election, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Non-partisan Green check mark transparent.pngTony Evers Incumbent 61.1% 487,030
     Non-partisan Don Pridemore 38.7% 308,050
     Scattering Various 0.2% 1,431
Total Votes 796,511
Election Results via Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.



General election

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) was ineligible to run for re-election in 2013 because of term limits. The term limits Virginia imposes on its governors are more strict than any other state in the country. Under the commonwealth's constitution, no governor may serve back-to-back terms. This means that McDonnell, unlike other governors in their first term, was ineligible to run for re-election.

There are no such term limits on the attorney general, and many were surprised at fomer AG Ken Cuccinelli's (R) decision to run for governor, rather than seek another term. If not for Cuccinelli, outgoing Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling would have been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to succeed McDonnell.[44] Due to the decision by the Republican Party of Virginia to change their candidate nomination method from open primary election to closed nominating convention starting in 2013, and "tea party darling" Cuccinelli's presence in the race, Bolling withdrew his bid for the GOP nod in November 2012.[45][46] About the alternative of seeking re-election to his current post, Bolling stated that “Under normal circumstances, I would be open to the possibility of running for another term as lieutenant governor, but I would not be interested in running on a statewide ticket with Mr. Cuccinelli.”[47] He later said he regretted dropping out of the race as early as he did.[48]

McDonnell had previously pledged his support for Bolling's candidacy, in part because Bolling refrained from challenging McDonnell for governor in 2009. After Bolling bowed out, McDonnell chose to endorse fellow Republican Cuccinelli for his successor, despite Cuccinelli's outspoken opposition to McDonnell's Transportation Initiative, which was considered to be the centerpiece of his gubernatorial legacy. Ironically, Cuccinelli's future general election opponent, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, had been equally outspoken on the issue, but as an advocate and defender of the outgoing governor's approach to amending the state's transportation funding policy.[49][50][51]

In response to the major party picks, the Libertarian Party held a special convention and nominated Robert Sarvis as the party's official gubernatorial candidate.[52]

Like Cuccinelli and Sarvis, McAuliffe faced no primary opponent. Days from the election, McAuliffe held a comfortable polling and fundraising lead over Cuccinelli and Sarvis. Aggregated polling data had the Democratic nominee with an average edge of seven percentage points over Cuccinelli--an advantage that could have been attributed in large part to female voters' 58-34 preference of McAuliffe, since he and Cuccinelli were almost neck-and-neck among men.[53][54] During the last campaign finance reporting period, ending October 28, McAuliffe reported raising $8.1 million to Cuccinelli's $2.9 million, and holding $1.6 million in cash on hand, which was twice the size of Cuccinelli's warchest. Sarvis was trailing both with a reported $81,595 raised and $58,584 on hand.[55][56][57] Hillary Clinton's decision to come out in support of McAuliffe on October 19 - marking her first campaign event appearance since stepping down as U.S. Secretary of State - further enhanced the Democrat's frontrunner status.[58] Former President Bill Clinton threw in his support soon thereafter, followed by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, who joined the McAuliffe campaign effort in the final week of the election season.[59]

The three contenders squared off in the general election on November 5, 2013, which McAuliffe won by a margin of 2.6% percentage points.[60]

Impact of US government shutdown on governor's race

The high profile federal government shutdown coincided with the home stretch of the expensive and high-profile 2013 Virginia governor race, which created a fresh backdrop for the battle between major party nominees Terry McAuliffe (D) and Ken Cuccinelli (R), and provided a brand new context in which to undermine each candidate's character and leadership potential.[61] Each campaign released an ad during the aftermath of the shutdown, which arrived on the heels of the candidates' second debate.[62]

With the nation paying close attention to its government in light of the perceived failure of Congress to work together in the best interests of their constituents, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli's ads each highlighted features of his opponent which most closely mirrored the type of stubbornness displayed by the House and Senate leading up to the shutdown, and to which the general public was, at that moment, so sensitively attuned. That moment, to be more specific, was one month before the general election. As the competition stood, McAuliffe had an overall average lead in the polls of 5.3 points over his Republican foe.[63]

Hoping to use the shutdown to further advance his edge by painting Cuccinelli in with the GOP ideologues in Congress, McAuliffe's ad emphasized Cuccinelli's strong ties to tea party leader U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), since Cruz was an outspoken supporter both of Cuccinelli and the far-right congressional insurgency which, in seeking to defund Obamacare, was regarded as causing the shutdown. The ad cited Cuccinelli's past effort to defund Planned Parenthood, apparently bringing the Virginia legislature "to a standstill," and also claimed Cuccinelli had been sufficiently opposed to Mark Warner's 2004 budget to call for a shutdown of the state government.[64]

Cuccinelli's ad aimed to discredit McAuliffe by referencing articles from The Washington Post and the Richmond-Times Dispatch criticizing McAuliffe's prospective budget plan, which he had allegedly threatened he would shut down the government over in order to get the plan passed. The radio spot also accused McAuliffe of being "against compromise, against working together to find solutions,” and noted how the Democrat sided with his fellow party members in Congress who had vocally dismissed opportunities to collaborate with the Republicans to avert shutdown.[65][66]

A unique opportunity was identified for the solo third party candidate in the race, Libertarian Robert Sarvis, in the shutdown atmosphere, where disillusionment with the standard of government operation ran rampant. Had Sarvis not been barred from participating in the third debate with McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, it was thought that he could have used the reflected spotlight to lure substantial number of voters who, already frustrated by Congress' showcase of two-party gridlock, would be more sympathetic than usual to a non-major party nominee.

"People are looking for other options they don't like what they have to see from those two parties and we're trying to fill that void with principled advocacy for more freedom in our economic sphere and personal lives," stated Sarvis. His passive warning about "obvious dysfunction of our [federal] government" also existing on the state and local level could have had an especially profound impact on swing voters and the average 9% of voters who were still polling as undecided at the beginning of November.[67][68]

Lieutenant Governor

General election

Incumbent Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (R) did not seek re-election in 2013. Nine candidates filed to fill the imminently-open executive seat, including two Democrats and seven Republicans. State Sen. Ralph Northam defeated Aneesh Chopra for the Democratic Party's nomination for lieutenant governor in the June 11 primary election.[77] Northam's general election opponent was Republican E.W. Jackson. Jackson was nominated by delegates of the Virginia Republican Party at the party-funded statewide primary convention on May 17-18.[78] Northam and Jackson faced off in the Nov. 5, 2013 general election, and Northam won by a margin of over 10 percentage points.[79]

When Virginia voters elected Democrat L. Douglas Wilder, the grandson of slaves, as its 66th Governor in 1989, it was the first time an African-American was elected to the office in the nation's history.[80] Given the state's heritage of trailblazing, it is notable that until Jackson's convention victory, Virginia Republicans had not nominated an African-American for any statewide office since backing Maurice Dawkins' a quarter of a century ago.[81]

A minister at a non-denominational church and relatively new member of the Republican Party, Jackson edged out six primary opponents by emphasizing his commitment to hallmark conservative issues such as smaller government, gun rights and traditional family values. He appealed to the delegation with the promise, "We will not only win an election in November, we will open the hearts and minds of our people and save this commonwealth and save this country."[82]

Regardless of his post-convention promise, Jackson was an unwelcome choice for the state's Republican establishment from the start, thanks to his refusal to divert from, or soften the rhetoric of, his "liberty agenda." The agenda contained the issues mentioned above, none of which were earth-shattering stances for a conservative; Jackson was anti-Obamacare, pro-Second Amendment and anti-federal overreach. His approach to delivering these messages, however, rose more concerns - as well as eyebrows - from the party than was originally anticipated. In August, Jackson referred to the Democratic Party as the "anti-God party" because of its supportive position on same-sex marriage and abortion, cementing his reputation for being impermeable to warnings about how his often inflammatory rhetoric might alienate swing voters or more moderate Republican voters heading into the general election. Then on Sept. 4, The Washington Post reported that his independent streak also extended to his behind the scenes campaign style. After securing the nomination in May, Jackson had not taken advantage of the Virginia Republican Party's massive pool of campaign resources. He declined offers to utilize the party's voter databases and related logistical tools in addition to field office venues across the state- a "virtually unheard-of forfeiture of resources for a statewide candidate."[83]

On the Democratic end, Northam, a pediatric neurologist who was first elected to the state legislature's upper chamber in 2008, wanted to win the lt. governor's office in order to restore Democratic control over the state senate. His campaign focused on improving education and creating jobs in energy efficiency, in addition to reversing the direction the Republican leadership had taken the state on women's health issues. "Their crusades to shut down reproductive health centers and to mandate costly and invasive medical procedures for women seeking abortions have embarrassed the Commonwealth, and have inserted government between doctors and their patients."[84][85]

The final campaign finance reporting cycle prior to the general election showed Northam maintaining an ample fundraising lead over Jackson, adding to the consistent edge he had shown in the polls. Jackson's remarkable refusal to accept assistance from the Republican Party had no doubt hindered him from overtaking Northam in money and/or voter support. His proven difficulties adhering to the state board of elections' filing protocols, having twice needed to amend his documentation of loans or donations, likewise boded unfavorably for the GOP nominee heading into the home stretch of what was an ultimately unsuccessful campaign.[86][87]

Attorney General

General election

Note: Recount likely

In March 2013, Governing magazine rated Virginia's open attorney general seat as "vulnerable" heading into the 2013-2014 elections because incumbent Republican Ken Cuccinelli was not running for re-election.[89]

The race to replace Cuccinelli began at the primary nomination stage; both Republican convention and Democratic election candidates drew primary contests. On May 18, two "strong fiscal and social conservatives"[89] -- state Sen. Mark Obenshain and state Rep. Rob Bell -- competed for delegate votes at the Republican Party of Virginia's closed nominating convention, which Obenshain won.[91] The nominee's late father, GOP politician Richard Obenshain, died in a plane crash during his 1978 campaign for U.S. Senate. Obenshain faced state Sen. Mark Herring in the general election. Herring defeated former assistant U.S. Attorney for Virginia Justin Fairfax in the Democratic primary election, which took place on June 11, 2013.[92][89]

Although Obenshain was considered the early front-runner, polls showed Herring leading by a very slim margin in late October 2013, a likely effect, or occupational hazard, for Obenshain, of sharing what had become a contaminated GOP ticket. One week before election day, at least two influential backers - Planned Parenthood and Independence USA PAC - hoped to widen the gap with roughly one million dollars worth of media spots lampooning Obenshain for his past support of a "personhood" amendment, which would have banned birth control and abortions regardless of the circumstances," in addition to his stance against increased background checks on prospective gun owners. Independence USA PAC was heavily driven by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The PAC had already invested millions into ads hammering "far-right" Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli for his affiliation with the National Rifle Assocation (NRA), and the buys against Obenshain sought to lump the lesser-known AG contender together with Cuccinelli, who was the most recognizable, and possiblly most troubled, candidate appearing on the party's statewide ticket in 2013. Meanwhile, the NRA went on the counterattack; the organization unleashed a $500,000 anti-Herring ad into targeted Virginia markets.[93][94] The NRA's assistance paled in comparison, however, to the $2.6 million infusion from the Republican State Leadership Committee into the effort to elect Obenshain, whom the committee viewed as the only hope for preventing Democrats from scoring a clean sweep of the state-row races in 2013.[95]

New Jersey

General election

(Governor & Lieutenant Governor running-mate listed together)


New Jersey held primary elections on June 4 for governor. Republican incumbent Chris Christie and Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono faced one challenger each, though ultimately neither presented much of a challenge. Both Christie and Buono secured their respective party nominations with roughly 90% of the vote.[110]

Former Atlantic City Councilman Seth Grossman was the sole Republican to brave a run against the popular first term governor, whose star has long been on the rise but turned meteoric in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Grossman's campaign criticized Christie for being overly moderate, while Buono's opponent Troy Webster, adviser to the mayor of East Orange, believed he was uniquely suited to making New Jersey friendlier to "the working poor and middle class families who have been literally 'thrown under the bus.'"[111] Grossman and Webster were endorsed by the weekly publication NJ Today.[112]

In New Jersey, gubernatorial candidates have 30 days to select a lieutenant gubernatorial running-mate to share the ticket with in the general election. Christie has already secured his current Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno as his running-mate, and Buono is expected to make her pick soon. Buono and Christie, along with a number of third party and independent candidates, will square off in the general election on November 5, 2013.

Christie is heavily favored to win re-election, with his campaign raising nearly double that of Buono's so far and averaging a 30% edge over his Democratic competitor in the latest polls.[113] He also has bipartisan support, which is crucial in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 700,000, according to party registration statistics provided by the New Jersey Department of State.[114]

See also: State executive official elections, 2014

Ballotpedia has counted and is currently tracking a total of 215 state executive positions in 42 states that will be on the ballot next year. That is more than double the number of positions that were elected in 2012, when 94 positions were elected. The eight states that are not holding executive official elections in 2014 are Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

The offices up for election include:

Notable candidates

252px-Question book-3.jpg
Q. All 50 states have a governor and an attorney general, but not all states have a lieutenant governor and a secretary of state. How many states do not have these positions?

A.: Five states do not have a Lieutenant Governor position. Those states include: Maine, Arizona, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Oregon. Three states - Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah - do not have a secretary of state. The positions of lieutenant governor and secretary of state are connected in more ways than other pairs of executive offices to the extent that their most central duties become interchangeable when either position is absent. In each of these three states with no secretary of state, the lieutenant governor assumes the role of chief elections officer; in most states without a lieutenant governor, the secretary of state assumes the role of first in the line of succession to the governor.


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