Managing Turnover At The Top

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

Yesterday’s announcement that Vermont Governor Jim Douglas (R) will not seek another term opens yet another Governorship for the 2010 election cycle. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle (D) made his announcement last week. The total now stands at 18 Open Seats. And, with “replacement” Governors in Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Illinois,┬áNebraska and New York — the number of seats that will be Open or are now filled by non-elected Governors rises to 24 — just a hair under 50%. A total of 36 Governorships will be on the ballot in 2010.

While each race is different, for those of us charged with managing issues in all 50 states — that undulating landscape can be dizzying.

After all, as state government relations professionals we are expected to have terrific relationships with the legislative, executive and┬ájustice (Attorneys General) officials in most (if not all) states. With legislative turnover already traditionally very high, the added stress of that many races and new Governors requires some planning. I’ll address Attorneys General in another post.

Here are some To Do’s to manage and take advantage of the turnover that is about to occur:

First of all, now is the time to get your PAC and corporate contribution house in order. That means reviewing the policies you will use to make decisions for the 2010 cycle. And, it means your PAC fundraising (for the states that do not permit corporate contributions) needs to be up to snuff to ensure that you can participate to the levels you need or want. This is especially true in states in which you have facilities and large numbers of employees.

Second, this level of change requires an even closer look at the 2010 state legislative agenda. With many gubernatorial candidates coming from within the legislature, agendas will be skewed and you will need to be prepared for some curveballs. Sharpen your focus on your key issues and states and instruct your lobbyists or those who function as lobbyists to be attuned to the 2010 race dynamics.

Third, consider joining (if you are not already a member of) the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations. They are very valuable ports in these storms. They provide the continuity, the access and the intelligence that accelerates your ability to get to know the leading candidates and eventual winners. The basic membership dues for RGA and DGA are bargains given how many candidates and new Governors you will need to meet over the next year.

Turnover is a constant on our world, but chance will favor the prepared mind (to borrow a phrase) and the most successful SGR programs will take advantage of change no matter how or where it occurs.

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