Nov. 8: Races Dear to Conservatives

By far, the most-watched voting anywhere was in Ohio, where Republican Gov. John Kasich’s reform package—which included proposals to require public employees to pay at least 15% of their healthcare premiums and banned collective bargaining among state employees—went down by a margin of 63% to 37%.

The two races for governor held last night were a wash.  In Mississippi, Republican Lieutenant Gov. Phil Bryant rolled up a margin of 59% to 41% of the vote over Democrat Johnny DuPree, Hattiesburg mayor and an African American.  But in Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear romped to an easy re-election against Republican State Senate President David Williams. 

Bryant, who will succeed fellow GOPer and lameduck Gov.  Haley Barbour, got a bonus last night as Magnolia State Republicans won the state House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction.  

In Virginia, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell had a good evening, as the GOP increased its majority in the state House of Delegates by six seats, and won two additional seats in the state senate.  With the senate likely to come out to each major party having 20 seats each, Republican Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling will cast the tie-breaking vote for GOP rule.

It was not such a good evening for New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie.  Fellow Republicans had hoped his in-your-face charisma could translate into GOP majorities in the state Assembly and Senate.  But it appeared last night that most incumbents were re-elected and Democrats will retain their majorities in both legislative houses.

Arizona: Pearce Down

As much as the national press hailed the recall of Republican State Sen. Russell Pearce as a sign voters were tired of the tough anti-illegal immigration law he had written, the good government group Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF) claimed other reasons for the ouster of the Mesa lawmaker.  PCAF ran the largest independent expenditure in the recall, and while the immigrant law “may have made him into a controversial figure, it was his love of campaign cash, special interest perks and opposition to Clean Elections that led voters to kick him out of the Senate,” according to David Donnelly, head of PCAF’s Campaign Money Watch project.  Pearce was recalled in favor of a charter school principal and a fellow Republican with an easily recognizable name: Jerry Lewis
Connecticut: Convert Punished
Waterbury’s Mayor Michael Jajura had been all over the board politically.  Initially elected mayor as a Democrat in ’01 and re-elected in ’03, he lost renomination in ’05 but was re-elected  in the fall as a write-in candidate.  Jajura, who is pro-life and opposed same sex marriage, won two more terms as a Democrat.  But earlier this year, the maverick mayor, who endorsed Sen. Joe Lieberman’s last re-election bid as an independent and has most recently addressed tea party events, became a Republican.  Last night, he was finally unseated, losing to Democrat and former Police Chief Neil O’Leary.
Kentucky: No Joke
While Democrats won five of six statewide offices, Republicans had one bright spot with the victory of State Rep. James Comer for state agriculture commissioner.  Comer defeated Democrat Bob Farmer, who had won his party’s primary in part because many voters confused him with outgoing Commissioner Richie Farmer. Bob Farmer is a comedian who had apparently told many jokes about Eastern Kentucky. Comer is already considered his party’s sure nominee for governor in 2015, when Beshear will be termed out.
Michigan: The Lone Recall
The Michigan Education Association and other appendages of Big Labor had sought to recall Gov. Rick Scott and several Republican lawmakers for tough budget-cutting measures that became law earlier this year.  All of the recall movements failed except one—that against State Rep. Paul Scott of Genesee County, a staunch conservative and the lone black Republican in the legislature.  Late last night, by a margin of about 232 votes, the recall succeeded and thus Scott became the first state legislator to be recalled since 1983.  The conservative lawmaker has yet to say whether he will run again in 2012.
Pennsylvania: The Race That Really Counted in Philly
Almost incredibly, political reporters and operatives in Philadelphia paid less attention to Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter’s re-election and races for the fifteen City Council seats than they did to the contest for the Republican slot as city commissioner.  The obscure office, in which each party nominates two candidates that voters will choose from for three slots as commissioner, drew attention because of the candidacy of Al Schmidt. A fierce critic of the regular Republican organization of City Chairman Vito Canuso and party counsel Michael Meehan, Schmidt won the Republican slot by outpolling four-term Commissioner and party regular Joe Duda.  Among conservative GOPers who openly backed Schmidt were Sen. Pat Toomey (R.-Penn.) and former gubernatorial candidate Sam Rohrer, who may run for the Senate next year. Schmidt vowed strict enforcement of election laws and conservatives felt he would be more reliable enforcing a voter ID law that has already passed the state House and is likely to soon pass the Senate.