The Executive Summary: Republican governors reverse position on Medicaid expansion

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March 7, 2013

Edited by Greg Janetka

MADISON, Wisconsin: This edition of The Executive Summary features a breakdown of the current partisan count and a look at the recent fluctuating positions of Republican governors regarding Medicaid expansion.

Partisan count

Ballotpedia currently covers 13 major state executive official positions across the country, totaling 727 officials. As of today, March 7, Republicans hold 217 (29.8%) of those seats, Democrats hold 125 (17.2%), 1 (0.13%) is an Independent, and 384 (52.8%) are officially non-partisan.

Looking at just the 344 seats that are partisan affiliated, Republicans control 63 percent, Democrats 36.3 percent, and Independents hold 0.29 percent. In each position Republicans hold more seats than Democrats, with the exception of Controller and Natural Resources Commissioner, where the two parties are tied.

In the top four offices - Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State - Republicans hold 113 seats (59.5%), Democrats have 76 (40%), and Independents have 1 (0.5%).

There were 94 state executive seats up for election in 2012. While most seats were retained by the party previously in control, a total of 17 seats had partisan change.

Going forward, The Executive Summary will provide an updated partisan count each month.

Here's a full breakdown by position.

Office Democratic Party Democratic Republican Party Republican Independent Independent Nonpartisan Total seats
Governor 19 30 1 0 50
Lieutenant Governor 14 30 0 0 44
Secretary of State 19 27 0 1 47
Attorney General 24 26 0 0 50
Treasurer 17 18 0 13 48
Auditor 10 15 0 9 34
Superintendent of Schools 3 6 0 41 50
Insurance Commissioner 5 7 0 38 50
Controller 5 5 0 3 13
Agriculture Commissioner 1 11 0 38 50
Natural Resources Commissioner 1 1 0 46 48
Labor Commissioner 0 3 0 47 50
Public Services Commissioner 7 38 0 148 193
Total 125 (17.2%) 217 (29.8%) 1 (0.13%) 384 (52.8%) 727


Republican governors reverse position on Medicaid expansion

Since our last edition, Governors Rick Scott (Florida) and Chris Christie (New Jersey) have joined the growing brood of reluctant Republican governors endorsing Medicaid expansion as outlined under the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare."[1]

The Affordable Care Act, the controversial federal health care reform bill commonly referred to as "Obamacare," was passed in March 2010 to the dismay of many Republican elected officials, including the group of governors - Christie makes eight - who have since changed their tune on Medicaid expansion. An almighty effort, led by a coalition of Republican state Attorneys General, to invalidate the law before several key measures could go into effect ended with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare on June 28, 2012. Officials who had long fought for its repeal were left in a state of dilemma over how to proceed with the few choices which they had been reserved. Going forward, states would have to decide for themselves whether to participate in the federally controlled Medicaid expansion, and a state versus federal health-exchange program. As a statement of dedicated protest of Obamacare, or otherwise guided by their mistrust of the federal government to honor its long term financial promises for the expansion, nearly all GOP governors pledged initially to keep their states outside the sphere of medicaid expansion. As of March 7, 2013, eight Republican governors -- from Arizona, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio -- have since reconsidered the law, if only with respect to Medicaid expansion. Here is some additional information on a selection of these governors and their respective roads to supporting this provision:


Despite Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval’s opposition to Obamacare, he became the first Republican governor in the country to support Nevada's participation in the Medicaid expansion after the Supreme Court ruling.[2] An estimated 604,000 Nevada residents were uninsured as of Dec. 2012, when Sandoval decided to bring a pro-expansion budget proposal to the Nevada Legislature with the intention of entering the state into the federal program. After some initial reluctance to cooperating on any aspect of the controversial law, he concluded that it was in Nevada's "best interest to expand coverage to 78,000 residents" currently ineligible for the state's Medicaid rolls. To encourage the legislature to join him in support of the expansion, Sandoval made the case that participating would save the state $16 million in mental health programs that otherwise would be paid for out of the state general fund. "It would cost the state...more not to opt in," he said.[3]


In her 2013 State of the State address, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer resolved her Obamacare dilemma[4]by focusing on the considerable popular support Arizona has shown for expanding patient eligibility. Arizona has voted twice to require the state to provide free care for everyone up to the federal poverty line, which is about $20,000 in household income for a small family.[4] During her speech, Brewer appealed to the Republican controlled chambers of the state legislature to not reject the opportunity to have the federal government finance an expansion seems likely to happen within Arizona anyway. She also highlighted to the economic and job saving potential of including Arizona in the federal expansion.[4]

Even though she decided to embrace this feature of the Affordable Care Act, Brewer made it clear she was not going to settle for less federal funding than what she believes the state needs and will need to finance the estimated hundreds of thousands of newly eligible low-income Arizonans added to the Medicaid rolls, and "protect rural and safety-net hospitals from being pushed to the brink by growing their cost in caring for the uninsured."[5]


On Feb. 20, well after the court’s ruling, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s endorsement of expanding Medicaid arrived in time for him to lay a groundwork persona of compassion for his 2014 re-election campaign. Scott had previously expressed staunch commitment to shunning optional provisions to Obamacare, namely expanding Florida's Medicaid rolls. But the prospect of having to put 3.5 million Florida patients into managed care plans under a federal action waiver convinced him to agree to a three year trial period for expansion, during which the federal government can absorb the costs of adding 1 million low-income Florida residents to the state's Medicaid rolls. "Three years is a reasonable period to judge just how well the expansion is working and to explore further reforms to improve cost, quality and access in health care -- both in the public and private markets."[6]

Scott's appeal to the Republican-dominated Florida legislature to consent to a three year trial expansion pointed to the estimated $26 billion federal dollars Florida could receive in the next 10 years under the expansion, and how providing care to a tremendous share of Florida's 4 million currently uninsured residents is the right thing to do. Reversing his position on the expansion "is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care," Scott insisted.[6]

New Jersey

One week after Scott’s change of heart, New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie unveiled his own pro-Medicaid expansion budget proposal. Like Scott, Christie insists that his overall opposition to Obamacare has not wavered despite his support for entering New Jersey into the federal expansion- a move that could extend insurance coverage to an additional 300,000 low-income residents and inject up to $300 million federal dollars into the state in the upcoming year.[7] Months prior to his announcement on Medicaid, Christie affirmed his disapproval of the federal health care overhaul when he vetoed a bill from the New Jersey Legislature to establish a state-based health care exchange, the other state-level provision within the Affordable Care Act.[8]

Unlike Scott, Christie is not vulnerable for re-election, however he must take into account the relative immediacy of his campaign.[9] Christie’s riding a record high wave of popularity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and he is no doubt hoping to sustain his current party-blind approval rating through to the general election, which will be held November 5, 2013. With that goal in mind, among other factors, Christie stated frankly, “It’s simple. We are putting people first,” about broadening the Medicaid eligibility requirements for New Jerseyans during his state budget address.[10]



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 Chris Christie No
Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Kim Guadagno Ends.png Republican Yes Kim Guadagno No
Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell Ends.png Republican No Terry McAuliffe Yes
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Bill Bolling Ends.png Republican No Ralph Northam Yes
Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli Ends.png Republican No Mark Herring Yes
Superintendent of Wisconsin Tony Evers Grey.png Nonpartisan Yes Tony Evers No

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.

Mark your calendar
March 13Voter registration opens in Wisconsin
March 28Filing deadline for primary candidates in Virginia
April 1Filing deadline for primary candidates in New Jersey
April 2Wisconsin holds general election
May 17-18Virginia Republican Party holds statewide primary convention


The first state executive election in 2013 will take place in Wisconsin, where incumbent Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers is running for re-election. Unlike previous elections where multiple challengers filed to run, Evers only had one challenger submit the necessary signatures required to appear on the ballot.[11][12] The filing deadline passed on January 2, 2013.[11] This negated the need for the scheduled February 19, 2013 primary election. The two will instead face off in the general election on April 2nd.[13]


Heading into the 2013 election, all three state executive offices up for election this year in Virginia are occupied by Republicans, and none are running for re-election to their current posts. Term-limited Governor Bob McDonnell cannot run, and Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli is vying to replace to him. Meanwhile, incumbent Bill Bolling decided to pursue the governorship rather than seek another term as lt. governor, only to find himself shunted aside by Cuccinelli and his party’s decision to change the primary candidate selection format from election to convention. Cuccinelli secured the GOP nomination for governor, being the only member of his party to file by the convention’s Jan. 13th deadline, leaving Bolling to explore an alternative track to the ballot, most likely as an Independent candidate. He is expected to make a formal announcement about his candidacy on March 14, 2013.[14] Seven Republican candidates filed for Bolling’s seat, while two entered the race to replace Cuccinelli as attorney general.

Democratic primary candidates have until March 28 to file their nominating petitions with the state board of elections. They will be elected at the taxpayer funded primary election on June 11, and the Republican nominee will be voted on by delegates of the Virginia Republican Party at the party-funded statewide primary convention on May 18. The following list of Republican primary convention candidates is official as of January 13, 2013:

Lieutenant Governor candidates

Attorney General candidates

New Jersey

One by one, names of potential Democratic candidates for New Jersey Governor have defected to a new list of names- supporters of presumptive nominee Barbara Buono, a state Senator and currently the only individual from her party to formalize a gubernatorial bid for the upcoming election. On February 2, 2013, Buono’s campaign reported that it had surpassed the fundraising threshold to qualify for the public funding program whereby candidates who raise at least $380,000 can accept campaign funds from the state--controlled by the state election law enforcement commission--in amount proportionate to what the campaign receives directly from the public.[21] The purpose of the program is to lessen the influence of corporate contributions in elections;[22] candidates who choose to accept public funds may not spend more than $12.2 million on their gubernatorial campaigns, and the maximum amount of public (tax-generated) funds that any candidate may receive is $8.2 million.[23] New Jersey employs a two-to-one matching program for qualified contributions.

By the time Buono reached the qualifying mark, incumbent Chris Christie (R) had already raised $2 million for his re-election campaign. Unlike in 2009, Christie stated that he will not accept matching funds in the 2013 primary.[22] Despite Buono’s expanding campaign coffer and list of endorsements, which now includes the Democratic Governors’ Association, she faces what appears to be an uphill battle. The incumbency advantage aside, Christie’s fundraising prowess and popularity--especially since Hurricane Sandy--among heavyweights from both major parties shield him against an upset in November.

Indeed, a Quinnipiac University Poll released February 20, 2013 accentuated Christie’s popularity with New Jersey voters post-Hurricane Sandy. At 74% job approval - "the highest of any New Jersey governor in 17 years of Quinnipiac University surveys" - and 71-23% believing that Christie deserves to win re-election in 2013, the governor is the clear favorite for the 2013 gubernatorial race.[24] According to the poll, Christie's strength is just one of Buono’s weaknesses heading into the primary election season. In a head-to-head match-up, respondents preferred Christie to Buono 62-25, a wide margin that the poll summary suggests is related to her anonymity: 83% of respondents said they did not know enough to form an opinion about Buono. Somewhat ominously for the Buono campaign, this figure indicates that her name recognition has diminished slightly since voters were last asked about her back in Jan. 2013.


Iowa Natural Resources Commission

Legal as it may be, many Iowans are not pleased with their Governor’s latest decision to appoint his son to the state Natural Resources Commission, an unpaid panel charged with handling “contested cases related to fish, wildlife, conservation law enforcement, and park and forestry programs.”[25] [26] Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican currently serving his fifth non-consecutive term as Iowa’s chief executive official, named his 29 year old son, Marcus Branstad, a lifelong outdoor sportsman and “advocate for Iowa’s hunting, fishing and wildlife,” to the seven member, partisan-balanced, panel last week.[25]

The younger Branstad (R) and fellow commission nominee Phyllis Reimer (D) will now have to be confirmed by the State Senate, where Democrats hold the majority. After Branstad revealed his list of appointments on March 1, Iowa Sen. Jeff Danielson, the Democratic chairman of the Senate State Government Committee predicted there might be some resistance in the State Senate to his son’s confirmation, despite assurances from the governor that he had preemptively cleared the choice with the chamber’s Majority leader Michael Gronstal.[27]

Greg Drees, one of the two commissioners who will lose their seats on the board this year, did not conceal his disappointment at the prospect of being replaced by Marcus Branstad while speculating to a reporter from ‘’The Des Moines Register, “You would think a guy would get notice after serving six years...And he appoints his son. Isn’t that interesting?”[27]

Branstad was first elected governor in November, 1982. From 1983-1999, he was the state's longest serving chief executive officer. He retired after 1999 only to re-emerge in 2010 to run for, and win, election to a fifth term.[28]

This week in State Executive Trivia

252px-Question book-3.jpg Who are the current youngest and oldest governors?

The youngest governor in the nation is South Carolina’s Nikki Haley (R). Born January 20, 1972, Haley is currently 41 years old. When she was elected in 2010 she became the state’s first female governor, first minority governor, and youngest governor.[29] Richard Nixon was serving as President when she was born and the number 1 song in the country was Don McLean’s American Pie.[30]

At the other end of the spectrum, California Governor Jerry Brown (D), born on April 7, 1938, is 74 years old, making him the oldest incumbent governor in the country and the oldest to serve in California.[31] Of course, this is Brown’s second time serving as governor. He first held the position from 1975-1983 (known at the time by the nickname ‘Governor Moonbeam’), making him just 37 when he took office. When Brown was born, Franklin D. Roosevelt was serving as President and the number 1 song in the country was Benny Goodman’s Don’t Be That Way.[32]

Recent news articles



  1. The New York Times, "In Reversal, Florida to Take Health Law’s Medicaid Expansion," February 20, 2013
  2. Stateline, "Seizing Medicaid Expansion as a Means to Reform," February 12, 2013
  3. The Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Sandoval supports Medicaid expansion," December 13, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Office of the Arizona Governor, "State of the State Addresss," January 14, 2013
  5. East Valley Tribune, "Brewer address: Ariz. should expand Medicaid, CPS efforts," January 14, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 Governing, "Florida GOP Gov. Scott Endorses Medicaid Expansion," February 21, 2013
  7. ‘’, “Gov. Christie to announce expansion of Medicaid in budget speech, sources say,” February 26, 2013
  8. Susan K. Livio, The Star-Ledger, "Christie to let Obama create health insurance exchange," February 15, 2013
  9. ‘’Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “2013-2014 Gubernatorial races,” March 4, 2013
  10. ‘’Think, “Christie to support Medicaid expansion,” February 26, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 Green Bay Press Gazette “State Superintendent Supreme Court Justice will face challenges” Accessed January 8, 2013
  12. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Candidate List-Spring 2013 Elections," accessed January 2, 2013
  13. WTAQ “State public school superintendent candidates take jabs at each other” Accessed January 8, 2013
  14. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Bolling says major announcement set for March 14," February 7, 2013
  15. The Washington Post, "Snyder raises $450,000 for lieutenant governor bid," January 15, 2013
  16. Washington Post, "Scott Lingamfelter announces run for lieutenant governor," June 28, 2012
  17. Washington Post, "Virginia Sen. Stephen Martin plans to run for lt. governor," June 20, 2012
  18. Village News Online, "State Senator Martin decides to run for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia," June 27, 2012
  19. Washington Post, "Jeannemarie Devolites-David running for lieutenant governor," September 24, 2012
  20. Washington Post, "Del. Bell to run for Virginia attorney general," December 5, 2011
  21., "Sen. Buono raises almost $250K in first month of campaigning," January 2, 2013
  22. 22.0 22.1 The Star-Ledger, "Buono qualifies for public matching funds in N.J. governor's race," February 4, 2013
  23. New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, "Press Release," June 19, 2012
  25. 25.0 25.1 ‘’The Des Moines Register, “Branstad nominates son to Iowa Agency,” March 2, 2013
  26. ‘’Iowa City Patch, “Patch Poll: Was Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointment of son to state board appropriate?,” March 2, 2013
  27. 27.0 27.1 ‘’The Des Moines Register, “Branstad defends appointment of son to resource panel,” March 4, 2013
  28. Office of the Governor of Iowa Terry Branstad, "About the Governor," accessed October 27, 2012
  29. SC Now, “NIKKI HALEY --Happy birthday Madam Governor,” January 20, 2013
  30. Take Me Back To, “Thursday, 20 January 1972,” accessed March 6, 2013
  31. News10, “Jerry Brown: 74 and going strong,” April 6, 2012
  32. Take Me Back To, “Thursday, April 7, 1938,” accessed March 6, 2013