Gizzi on Politics: Is It 2010 Yet?

Is It 2010 Yet? 

Barely two weeks after the ink on the certificates of election from this year’s races was dry, candidates were already making early moves toward the next election cycle. The increasing demands of fund-raising, coupled with the fact that nominations are determined in more states by costly primaries instead of party conventions, necessitates early starts. Here are some examples …  

California: DeVore and After Term Limits

“Termed out” of the California State Assembly after three two-year terms, conservative swashbuckler and HUMAN EVENTS contributor Chuck DeVore declared the next step in his career in a letter to supporters and on his website November 12: He will seek the Republican nomination to oppose three-term Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) in 2012.  

Not since fellow conservative H.L. (Bill) Richardson carried the Republican standard in 1974 has a sitting state legislator won the GOP nod for the U.S. Senate in the Golden State. But DeVore, a reserve U.S. Army colonel and onetime Reagan Administration official, believes the contacts he has made speaking for conservative causes and candidates in his state for years will yield rich dividends in a primary. Already, 70 elected Republican officials have endorsed the Orange County legislator.  

In a state where moderate-to-liberal Republicans in the mold of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have been more the norm in recent years, DeVore is cut from the same cloth as Rep.-elect Tom McClintock, who carried the conservative colors in the nationally watched ’03 California gubernatorial recall election in which Schwarzenegger first came to office. Just as McClintock was the leading anti-tax Republican in the state senate before his November election to Congress, DeVore was in the forefront of many fights to stop tax increases in the assembly, including one earlier this year when, “in the face of an all-out push from Democrats and our governor, we succeeded,” DeVore proudly told me.  

Asked why he is launching a campaign now, DeVore cited the time needed to put together a skilled campaign team and raise adequate money. Pointing to issues such as Afghanistan, Iraq, energy and price volatility, recession and credit markets, the Republican hopeful said that they “will be even more dangerous with the dramatic left-turn America took [November 4].” As for Boxer (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 3 percent), her prospective foe recalled how he first met her when he worked in the Pentagon and she was a House member. He says, “Her pandering to the far left of her party was as dangerous and irresponsible then as it is now.”  

Illinois: Brady Part of Gubernatorial Bunch  

“As governor, I want to help business thrive, help families grow and prosper, regain trust and unify Illinois.” So wrote Illinois GOP State Sen. Bill Brady just days after Democrats led by favorite son Barack Obama swept the Prairie State. Coupled with an appeal to the President-Elect to retain Patrick Fitzgerald as U.S. attorney in Chicago, Brady became the first Republican to declare for the governorship held by scandal-tarred, two-term Democrat Rod Blagojevich.  

A moderate-to-conservative from Bloomington, the affable Brady made a late-starting but strong bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in ’06. In the race won by moderate State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka (who lost badly to Blagojevich in November), Brady placed third with 18 percent of the vote.

The fourth-place finisher (11 percent) in that race, fellow conservative and former Helene Curtis chief executive officer Ron Gidwitz, is also reportedly eyeing another run for the statehouse. Doug Whitley, former head of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and considered more moderate than Gidwitz or Brady, is also said to be exploring a gubernatorial bid.  

Prosecutor Fitzgerald has set his sights on a number of close associates of the governor and Blagojevich has record-low voter approval ratings.  Nevertheless, he has shown every sign of seeking an unprecedented third term in Springfield. At least two other elected Democrats in statewide office, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulas and State Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, have left open the door to a possible primary challenge.  

“And just you watch, Blagojevich will appoint one of them to Obama’s Senate seat and get them out of the way,” said one seasoned observer of Illinois politics who requested anonymity.  

Michigan: Mike Makes a Move

Less than a week after a very bad election day for Republicans in Michigan, State Atty. Gen. Mike Cox filed papers to run for governor in 2010. A former U.S. Marine and Wayne County (Detroit) prosecutor, Cox narrowly won the state’s top law enforcement office in 2002 and was re-elected by a landslide in ’06. Staunchly conservative on just about every issue, Cox has also been a player in state GOP politics. The attorney general was considered the pivotal person in convincing a good friend, fellow conservative Keith Butler, to run for Republican National Committeeman last year. Detroit minister Butler is now one of three African-Americans on the RNC.  

Cox’s filing came about the same time as 2006 gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVos announced he would not run again in 2010. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Secretary of State Terri Land have also been mentioned and both are also considered conservatives, but Cox is the first to take the decisive step toward a run.  

The Democratic picture is much more complicated. With Michigan’s unemployment rate twice the national average and the world’s economic eyes on its troubled auto industry, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm has record-low approval ratings. She is barred from seeking a third term and may be appointed to a position in the Obama Administration. In either case, the early favorite for the Democratic nod for governor is Lt. Gov. John Cherry, a close ally of organized labor. Other Democratic hopefuls include former Detroit Mayor and American Bar Association President Dennis Archer and Bob Ficano, Wayne County executive and former county sheriff.