(The results of the mid-term elections, the “Super Bowl” of political junkies, are finally in, and the analyses are being written about the new U.S. House and Senate. But there were other races across the nation—including governorship contests in 36 states, and races for other major statewide and local offices and more than 6,000 state legislative seats.) Among results of interest for conservatives. . . .
California: The Terminator Has No Coattails
With Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s easy win last week long considered a done deal, Golden State GOPers had been working hard for the election of more conservative candidates to some of the other open statewide offices, trying to create what Orange County Republican Chairman Scott Baugh called “a conservative bench for 2010” (when Schwarzenegger is barred by law from running again).
For the most part, their hopes were dashed: State Sen. Tom McClintock, considered the leading conservative in the state legislature, lost a close race for lieutenant governor to Democrat John Garamendi, a former state insurance commissioner. Former State Assemblyman Tony Strickland, another stalwart conservative, was defeated for state controller by Democrat John Chang, and, in a race that drew national attention, former Democratic Gov. (1974-82) Edmund “Jerry” Brown managed a stunning political comeback by winning the office of state attorney general.
The lone race to cause smiles on the right was that for a spot on the State Board of Equalization, which was won by conservative Michelle Steel, wife of former Republican State Chairman Shawn Steel.
Even Schwarzenegger’s appointed secretary of state, moderate Bruce McPherson, lost a race for a full term. Another moderate GOPer, businessman Steve Poizner, won the office of state insurance commissioner.
Delaware: The Son Also Rises
The hottest race in Delaware was that for state attorney general. In large part, it was hot because the Democratic nominee was Beau Biden, son of Democratic Sen. Joe Biden. Speculation was rampant that if young Biden, a former JAG (judge advocate general) lawyer in the Delaware Army National Guard, won, it would permit his father to pass his Senate seat on to him in ’08, when the elder Biden might, he has hinted, run for President.
Beau Biden did win with 53% of the vote. In so doing, he overcame a hard-hitting campaign by Republican Ferris Wharton, who, as chief deputy attorney general, became particularly well known as prosecutor in the nationally watched and tabloid-celebrated trial of rich contractor Thomas Capano for the murder of Anne Marie Fahey.
Florida: The Bush Legacy
Stepping down as governor of Florida after two terms, Republican Jeb Bush leaves a rich legacy of cutting taxes, slashing the size of government and remaining firm on cultural issues.
The very popular lame-duck governor was also able to leave his party in a commanding position in Tallahassee. State Atty. Gen. Charles Crist, who gained some last-minute national notice by ducking a final campaign appearance in Pensacola with President George W. Bush, won the governorship with 54% of the vote over Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Davis. Republicans also took two other high-profile statewide offices, with State Rep. Jeff Kotkamp of Lee County as lieutenant governor and former Rep. (1980-2000) and Clinton impeachment manager Bill McCollum as state attorney general.
Illinois: Tony Almost Takes It
Democrats narrowly retained the position of president of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County (Chicago), one of the most patronage-rich offices in the nation. Chicago Alderman Todd Stroger defeated conservative Republican Tony Peraica, a county commissioner and Croatian immigrant, by 54% to 46%.
Earlier this year, after narrowly winning the Democratic primary, Board President John Stroger suffered a stroke and was kept incommunicado in a hospital by family and political allies. When his resignation of the nomination was given and the subsequent selection of his son, Todd, as the substitute nominee was made by party leaders in a closed-door meeting, outrage among party reformers and most of the Chicago media was fast and furious.
Peraica ran far ahead of the statewide GOP ticket, all of whom lost badly. He handily carried the suburbs but was overwhelmed in Chicago. At one point, the vote-counting stopped and Peraica led a parade of 150 supporters to the county building to demand openness in vote-counting. Said Peraica: “They run better elections in Baghdad.”
Michigan: Tsunami Wave
“It was an anti-Republican national tsunami wave and hard to hold back at any level.”
That’s how Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis summed up the results in Michigan last week. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow won re-election over Republican Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm rolled up 56% of the vote over Amway heir Richard DeVos, Jr., who spent an estimated $40 million of his own money on the race. Republicans clung to their majority in the state senate, but lost the state house of representatives. The line-up in the house is now 58 Democratic seats to 52 seats for Republicans. The GOP also lost all state board and university seats.
The good news for the Water Wonderland GOP was that their two statewide elected officials—Secretary of State Terri Lynn Lamb and Atty. Gen. Mike Cox—were re-elected. Both are considered strong candidates for governor in 2010, when Granholm is termed out.
New York: What’s Left After Pataki
The sweep of State Atty. Gen. Elliott Spitzer into the governorship after 12 years under Republican George Pataki was not unexpected. Not even Democrat Spitzer’s big 69%-to-29% margin over Republican former state legislator John Faso was surprising.
Democratic State Sen. David A. Paterson became the Empire State’s first-ever black lieutenant governor and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo was elected state attorney general. Cuomo, who defeated former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro with 67% of the vote, is the son of former Democratic Gov. (1982-94) Mario Cuomo and older brother of “Good Morning America” anchor Chris Cuomo.
In what became the most-closely watched race for statewide office, State Controller Alan Hevesi was rocked by charges that his state-paid chauffeur had been driving the controller’s wife on numerous personal errands. Although Spitzer and other Democrats distanced themselves from Hevesi, he nevertheless defeated his GOP challenger, Saratoga County Treasurer Chris Callaghan, with 60% of the vote.
For the first time in 64 years, New York Republicans hold no statewide offices. Republicans did keep their majority in the state senate, but lost one seat—that of State Sen. Nick Spano of Westchester County. Democrats now hold more than two-thirds of the seats in the state assembly.
A particularly sad development for conservatives was the apparent loss of “Row D” on the statewide ballot for the state’s 44-year-old Conservative Party. Because Faso on the Conservative line polled fewer votes than Spitzer did on the line of the new Working Families Party (funded in part by leftist billionaire George Soros), the WFP will have “Row D” and the Conservative Party “Row E” in 2008. “Row C” belongs to the Independence Party, founded in 1992 by followers of Ross Perot, which gave its ’06 blessings to Spitzer.
Ohio: Buckeye Blues
In the most devastating results for Ohio Republicans since 1970, all statewide offices fell to the Democrats. Even State Atty. Gen. Betty Montgomery, the lone Republican running for re-election at the state level aside from Sen. Mike Dewine, went down to a Democratic challenger.
This is particularly significant in terms of national politics. Congressional redistricting in Ohio is done by four statewide officials. Barring a complete reversal of last week’s results in 2010, the next redistricting following the 2010 census could be in Democratic hands for the first time since 1981.