The Dakotas have been surprisingly kind to Democrats at the congressional level: The party controls three of the region’s four Senate seats and both at-large House districts. But Republicans have been far luckier in gubernatorial elections: There has been no Democratic Governor in South Dakota since 1979, and none in North Dakota since 1992.
This is obviously an uncharacteristic pattern given that both states are staunchly Republican at the presidential level; it would be more logical to expect voters to elect Republicans in federal races while being more open to voting for Democrats at the state level. The Madville Times proposes an interesting explanation:
Don’t forget that deep down, every South Dakota voter knows South Dakota is a welfare state, and we like sending Republicans to Pierre to keep our taxes down and Dems to Washington to bring home the pork to make up for the shortfall.
2010 could see South Dakota move to that more usual pattern if Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin decides to jump in the open gubernatorial race. (Gov. Rounds is barred from seeking a third term due to term limit laws.)
Herseth Slandin is said to be motivated by the fact that her grandfather occupied the Governor’s Mansion (from 1959 to 1961), and she has repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of a run. Now, her name is popping up with increasing frequency in the South Dakota Press, and Stateline reports that she is “planning a run.”
Herseth Sandlin is the only Democrat likely to make the gubernatorial race competitive. She already represents the entire state, after all, and she easily won re-election races in 2004, 2006 and 2008 - suggesting that state voters have no qualms about voting for her.
On the other hand, her retirement from the House would be a nigthmare for the DCCC, as it would an open seat in SD-AL would instanteaously become one of the GOP’s top pick-up opportunities; it would also displease the DSCC, which is no doubt counting on Herseth Sandlin to run for Tim Johnson’s seat when the Democratic Senator retires.
We will surely have an opportunity to revisit this issue in the months ahead, whatever Herseth Sandlin decides.
Meanwhile, Connecticut’s gubernatorial race heated up over the past few days. First, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced he would not challenge Republican Governor Jodi Rell.
In many ways, this is not a surprise: Blumenthal is completing his fifth term as Attorney General, and all eyes turn towards him every four years. But Blumenthal is far more interested in serving for Senate; is it his fault that neither of the state’s Senate seats has opened up since 1988 and that both Senators have been Democrats? Now that Lieberman left the party, Blumenthal looks set to run against him in 2012 in what could be a huge battle. But that is a discussion for another day.
Within 2 days of Blumenthal’s decision, two Democrats had filed paperwork to run for Governor: Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy (who lost the gubernatorial primary to New Haven Mayor DeStefano in 2006) and Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. A third candidate, former House Speaker James Amann, had already done so at the end of 2008.
In other words, Connecticut Democrats are sure to nominate a credible candidate. Yet, how competitive the race will be remains to be seen: Rell is a popular incumbent who demolished DeStefano by 28% in 2006.