Governor races

Governor races

As President Obama fundraises in Texas, White steers clear

When President Obama arrives in Austin, Texas, on Monday, it will be Gov. Rick Perry (R) standing on the tarmac to greet him. 

Perry's Democratic opponent in November's election, former Houston Mayor Bill White, will be campaigning halfway across the state. 

Texas Democrats are largely steering clear of the president during his fundraising swing through the state. Obama has a speech planned at the University of Texas and two fundraisers — one for the Democratic National Committee in Austin and another for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Dallas. 

Perry, though, does have a meeting set with the president to discuss border security. 

Republicans in Texas are trying to cash in politically on White's absence. Texas Republicans have an anti-Obama rally planned for the steps of the statehouse Monday afternoon, and the Perry campaign is expected to use the visit to tie Obama to White despite the Democrat's absence.  

For his part, White isn't just keeping his distance from Obama. The Democrat, who in 2008 purchased newspaper ads tying himself to Obama, took aim at the president during a campaign event in late July, saying, "I was in the oil and gas business when he was a community organizer."

Polling shows White within striking distance of Perry for November's general election. The latest Rasmussen numbers give Perry a nine-point edge, but a Public Policy poll from June had the race tied. 


Target CEO backtracks on $150K donation to conservative group

Here's some fuel for the argument that even in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, major corporations will think twice before jumping at the chance to fund independent expenditure efforts this fall.

Gregg Steinhafel, the CEO of the retail giant Target, formally apologized in a letter to the company's employees Thursday for writing a $150,000 check to the conservative group MN Forward, a 527 that's running ads in support of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer (R).

Gay-rights groups flagged the donation from Steinhafel noting Emmer's opposition in the Minnesota state House to gay-rights legislation.

From The Associated Press:

Steinhafel said the contribution from the corporate treasury to a political effort, which until this year wasn't allowed, was designed to support his stance on economic issues. Ads run by the group were focused on budget policy, not social issues.

"While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry," Steinhafel wrote.

He added, "The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our unique culture and our success as a company, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests."

OutFront Minnesota, a gay-rights advocacy group, posted an open letter urging Target to take back its money from MN Forward. And "Boycott Target" Facebook groups began to appear.

In the wake of the court's decision in the Citizens United case, critics warned corporate spending could overwhelm the 2010 midterm elections. But others predicted corporations were likely to proceed with more caution given that they have brands to protect.

The AP notes that Red Wing Shoes and Best Buy are among a handful of other companies that have written checks to MN Forward.


Rep. Wamp loses gov. primary to Mayor Haslam

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam (R) defeated Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) to claim the GOP gubernatorial nod Thursday.

Boosted by his support during early voting, Haslam was declared the winner by the Associated Press close to an hour after the polls closed in Tennessee. He'd received more than 131,000 votes, while Wamp, his closest rival, had just less than 70,000.

By Aug. 2 more than 540,000 people had already cast ballots for Thursday's primary, according to the Tennessee Department of State. 

Haslam was the favorite going into the primary vote, with Wamp and Ramsey splitting support from the more conservative wing of the party.

Wamp generated controversy last month when he seemed to suggest that Tennessee should consider secession in light of the federal mandates contained in the Democrats' healthcare reform bill. The eight-term congressman later backed away from those comments.

Ramsey, meanwhile, questioned whether Islam was a religion. He also had the support of some 20 Tea Party groups in the state.

Wamp and Ramsey attacked Haslam for his position on gun control and his record on raising taxes early in his tenure as mayor. It didn't help that Haslam's father, James Haslam II, was involved in a group supporting tax reform in the 1990s.

The other candidate in the race who gained notoriety was retired Marine Basil Marceaux (R). He became an Internet sensation after a speech that included self-references as "Basil" went viral on YouTube. He subsequently appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. He'd registered only 784 votes by the time Haslam was declared the winner.

Democrat Mike McWherter was unopposed for the nomination.


Hoekstra silent on endorsement after Mich. vote

After receiving what he called "$3-million worth of pounding" in the gubernatorial primary, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) doesn't seem eager to get behind GOP nominee Rick Snyder.

Hoekstra sent an e-mail to supporters Thursday thanking them but made no mention of Snyder.

"I am proud of the campaign that we ran," he wrote. "We stayed positive, we never resorted to lies or deceitful practices and we ran a campaign based on ideas and solutions for Michigan's future. The people of Michigan deserve as much."

Snyder dramatically outspent his rivals, with much of it going to his TV advertising campaign. He raised more than $7.3 million, although $5.9 million was his own money, while Hoekstra raised only $1.6 million.

Snyder defeated Hoekstra and Attorney General Mike Cox (R) in Tuesday's primary. He faces Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D) in November.

Snyder, a former top executive at computer maker Gateway Inc., might have trouble rallying the more conservative wing of the Michigan GOP. That's where an endorsement from the more conservative Hoekstra could come in handy. 

The congressman, however, didn't indicate one was forthcoming. "While Diane and I may not know what the future holds for us, I can assure you that we will continue to fight to see these goals become a reality for our state," he wrote.


Palin's closing rally for Handel set

Sarah Palin will be in Georgia next week to rally supporters for Republican Karen Handel less than 24 hours before the gubernatorial runoff.

The two are set to appear Monday at the InterContinental Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) will open the proceedings, according to Handel's campaign.

Voting in the GOP gubernatorial runoff between Handel and former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) starts less than 24 hours after Palin's visit.

The timing of Palin's endorsement of Handel ahead of the July primary helped propel the former secretary of state to first place.

Since then, the tone of the race has become increasingly sharp as Handel pushed back against Deal's suggestion she was too liberal for the GOP nod.

—Updated at 10:08 a.m.


Michigan businessman beats Rep. Pete Hoekstra in GOP governor race

Businessman Rick Snyder (R) easily bested Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and state Attorney General Mike Cox (R) to claim the Republican nomination for governor.

Snyder, a former top executive at computer maker Gateway Inc., claimed 37 percent of the vote, and with close to half the precincts reporting was declared the winner by the Associated Press. Hoekstra was second with 26 percent, and Cox came in third with 24 percent.

Making his first foray in electoral politics, his win was a surprise to many observers.


Brownback wins GOP gubernatorial nomination

As expected, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) easily won the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas.

With five percent of the precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Brownback, who lead challenger Joan Heffington 81 percent to 18 percent.

State Sen. Tom Holland won his uncontested Democratic primary.

Brownback is the favorite to win in November. He did not seek reelection to his Senate seat because of self-imposed term limits.

The race to replace him in the upper chamber has been a nasty campaign between two Republican House members.

Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt have both fought hard for the Republican nomination, as the primary winner is expected to hold the seat in the Republican-leaning state.

Moran has lead in the polls, but early returns have shown the race tightening.


Bernero wins Michigan Dem governor's nod

Fueled by the support of organized labor, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero won the Democratic gubernatorial nod in Michigan Tuesday.

Bernero defeated state House Speaker Andy Dillon (D) 58-42 percent. With 1,599 of 5,732 precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Bernero.

An EPIC-MRA poll released last week by the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV showed Bernero and Dillon were within eight points of each other.
Dillon raised $1.4 million for his bid while Bernero raked in $743,000. But Bernero was also boosted by the support of labor unions, including the Michigan AFL-CIO. Dillon reportedly angered union leaders when he proposed requiring all public employees to join a single, statewide health insurance system.


Tancredo wreaks havoc on Colorado governor's race

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo's (R-Colo.) entry into the race for governor in Colorado has helped Democrat John Hickenlooper to a double-digit lead.

A new Rasmussen poll out Tuesday gives Hickenlooper 43 percent of the vote to Republican Scott McInnis's 25 percent. Tancredo is polling at 24 percent, running on the Constitution Party line.

The dramatic shift in the race is about more than just Tancredo. McInnis has plummeted in the polls since the Republican was accused of plagiarizing large sections of several articles he wrote for a nonprofit group. 

McInnis has admitted some of his writings were not properly attributed to other sources, but he has forged ahead with his campaign for governor even amid signs that most of his support and fundraising have dried up.

McInnis' primary challenger, businessman Dan Maes, has problems of his own. Maes was recently fined more than $17,000 for campaign finance violations. 

In a general election contest with Maes as the GOP nominee, Hickenlooper is still ahead by a large margin. He leads that matchup with 42 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Maes and 24 percent for Tancredo.

The poll surveyed 750 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus four percentage points.   

In a Republican primary debate this past Sunday, both Maes and McInnis downplayed Tancredo's potential effect on the race. But it's clear the former congressman is poised to cause major problems for Republicans in Colorado this fall. 

Tancredo is a former supporter of McInnis, but said he decided to enter the race because he no longer views either Republican contender capable of winning a general election in November. 


Rep. Sanchez files papers for 2014 Calif. gov. run

At least one California Democrat appears to be hedging her bets on Attorney General Jerry Brown's (D) chances of beating former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R).

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) filed paperwork Monday to raise money for a 2014 gubernatorial run, according to the Sacramento Bee

California's governor is limited to two terms so if Brown defeats Whitman in November Sanchez would have to primary him on her way to the Golden State's top job in 2014. If she's planning to run against Whitman, Sanchez must sense something that isn't apparent in the public polling.

A Field Poll in July had Brown at 44 percent and Whitman at 43 percent -- a virtual tie. That will likely change, however, when Whitman starts devoting her financial resources to big TV ad buys.

Brown has spent just over $630,000 since entering the race and now has close to $23.2 million cash on hand, but Whitman to date has spent some $100 million of her personal fortune and will likely go back to the well again before November. She hasn't yet released her latest financial disclosure statement.

If Sanchez wants to compete with that kind of financial muscle, it's best to get started early.