Although it didn’t draw as much mocking media attention to him as his celebrated “scream” of the 2004 presidential campaign, Howard Dean nonetheless got a rise out of reporters attending the Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington November 9. Among other things, the Democratic national chairman hinted not too subtly that there should be quotas for women and minorities on Democratic Party tickets in different states.
“[Democratic statewide] tickets should look like the people in those states,” the Democratic national chairman told the reporters at the breakfast. He called for Democratic tickets that are “incredibly inclusive.” Dean specifically pointed to Maryland, where State Delegate Anthony Brown, an African-American, was elected lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by white Democrat Martin O’Malley. While hailing Brown as a dynamic candidate and an asset to the ticket, Dean quickly added that he was the lone African-American on a ticket for seven statewide offices that did not include even one woman.
Because of the failure to run any other African-Americans besides Brown, Dean said, Democrats nearly “paid a price for not paying attention to a most significant constituency in Maryland”—an obvious reference to the fact that the Republican nominee for the Senate was the black lieutenant governor, Michael Steele. Dean was also critical of his party in Maryland because candidate Brown “was not front and center.”
“We need more diversity in tickets,” the party chieftain emphasized. “[Minorities] aren’t looking for a place at the table, but a place on the ticket.” He added that getting more diversity is something “we must do.” He also described the Republican Party as “mostly homogeneous”—not mentioning, of course, that, along with Steele in Maryland, the Republican nominees for governor in Ohio and Pennsylvania this year were African-Americans.
When I spoke to Dean after the breakfast, I pointed out that all seven Democratic nominees in Maryland were selected by primary voters and that controller candidate Peter Franchot defeated a woman for nomination to the office. Recalling my home state of Connecticut and how Democratic state party conventions selected a woman candidate for secretary of state in 1952 and a black candidate for state treasurer in 1962 (weeks after the Republican convention made history by nominating a black for that office in ’62), I asked Dean if he would favor eliminating the primary route for choosing nominees and encourage more states to opt for the convention system to try to get his desired diversity on state tickets.
“I haven’t thought it through that far,” he said.
From the States
Taking a back seat to the dramatic Democratic recapture of Congress last week—but nonetheless significant—were the big gains Democrats made at the statehouse level. For the first time in 12 years, Democrats hold governorships in a majority of the states. Oddly, the number of governors went from 28 Republicans and 22 Democrats to 28 Democrats and 22 Republicans.
The six GOP-held governorships that flipped to Democrats this year were those in Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.
Over all, as Democratic Governors Association Chairman and just-re-elected New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson reminded reporters at the same Monitor breakfast, “there are Democratic governors in states with a total of 306 electoral voters and in six of the 10 largest states in the nation.” He added that there are now Democratic governors in five of the eight states in the Mountain West, and said the West is the “new frontier” for Democrats.
Democrats also gained 275 new seats among the 6,000-plus state legislative seats decided by voters and nine legislative chambers switched from Republican to Democratic control: both chambers in Iowa, the Indiana house, the Michigan house, the Minnesota house, the Wisconsin senate, the Oregon house, and, for the first time since James Buchanan was President, the New Hampshire house of representatives (the senate also went Democratic in New Hamshire).
“I can’t believe it, but New Hampshire is becoming a ‘blue state,’” beamed Howard Dean, noting that his party now controls the governorship, both legislative chambers, and both U.S. House seats.
Over all, Democrats have one-party government (the governorship and both legislative chambers) in 15 states, compared to 10 in which both the executive and legislature are in Republican hands. Republicans did gain control of the Montana house by one vote and are in ties in the Montana and Oklahoma state senates, where Democrats previously held the majority.
In 24 states, government is split between the parties and Nebraska, of course, has its unicameral, non-partisan legislature.
Light in the Darkness
One of the few bright spots for Republicans on that dark election night was Minnesota, where Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty won a second term in a state generally considered “blue,” while Democrats were easily taking the open U.S. Senate seat.
Pawlenty won 47% of the vote, compared to 46% for his Democratic opponent, state Atty. Gen. Mike Hatch. About 6% of the vote went to Peter Hutchinson of the Reform Party, which made national headlines in 1998 by being the vehicle former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura used to take the governorship of the Gopher State.
Although winning by 1% of the vote in a three-candidate race is at first glance unimpressive, it should be noted that the strongly pro-life Pawlenty never flinched on any of the red-meat conservative issues, supporting tax cuts and a reduction in the size of government, and backing a tough line on illegal immigration.
Speaking at a Monitor luncheon for reporters on the same day that Dean and Richardson held forth at breakfast, Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman pointed to Pawlenty as someone who should be studied by Republicans nationally, because “he’s someone who can win in a blue state.”
As for talk that Pawlenty should enter the ’08 presidential primaries or be considered for the second spot on a national GOP ticket, Mehlman told reporters: “Gov. Pawlenty is a fantastic leader, and he’s reform-minded. If he has a desire to run for national office, he’d be very effective at it.”
As readers of Human Events know, I had it out with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow in September after the National Republican Senatorial Committee rescued liberal Sen. Lincoln Chafee in the Rhode Island GOP Senate primary by pouring $2 million into strong attack television spots against Chafee’s conservative challenger, Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey.
Snow dismissed my question whether President Bush and the GOP were breaking Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment (“Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican”) by saying that Bush understands what happens in a “zesty campaign.”
Chafee, of course, lost the general election and still maintains his hold on the nomination of John Bolton to be UN ambassador, despite all the money the administration got funneled into the Chafee campaign. Last week, I reminded Snow of his defense of the “zesty campaign” to save Chafee in the primary and asked whether, given Chafee’s continued opposition to Bolton, he felt it was a mistake for national Republicans to have saved him.
“I’m not going to look backward,” replied Snow, “and I believe that Sen. Chafee will soon be a private citizen. He can answer any questions about the positions he takes.”