A Big Day in State Politics

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

Yesterday, March 2, saw several politically significant events occur in state politics across the country.

In Texas, Rick Perry proved that the anti-spending mood epitomized by the Tea Party movement is strong, but incumbents can survive in 2010. Even though he has already served as Governor of Texas longer than anyone else in Texas history, he avoided a Republican runoff by winning over 50% of the primary vote. He and Senator Hutchison started the campaign basically tied in the polls, but Governor Perry’s campaign was successful in portraying Senator Hutchison as part of the Washington free spending culture. While a Tea Party movement candidate was also in the race, her credibility was damaged by her September 11 remarks that probably caused enough voters to move back to Governor Perry, allowing him to avoid a run-off with Senator Hutchison. The fact that she was still able to garner 20% of the vote, should give him pause. Governor Perry’s challenge in November will be to keep the anti-incumbency fever from giving his Democratic opponent, Bill White, a big enough assist to unseat him in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since the 1990s.

In California, Jerry Brown finally made it official and announced he is running for Governor; attempting to become both the youngest and oldest person to hold that office. He left the Governor’s Office in January 1983 after two terms and was last on the national stage in 1992 in an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. If both he and Meg Whitman win their respective primaries in June, it will set up an interesting political dynamic where the nominee of the party not holding the Governor’s race may get tagged with the insider/incumbent label in a year when that label isn’t going to help.

In New York, the political saga continues. According to the New York Times, http://nyti.ms/clFako, Governor Paterson spent a good portion of yesterday in meetings with political leaders discussing the unfolding story of the Governor’s allegedly pressuring a woman to drop a physical abuse complaint against one of his aides. Calls for the Governor’s resignation are growing, and it is possible New York could see a second person take over the Governor’s Office due to scandal in less than two years. The combination of this latest news combined with the ethics investigations of New York Representative Charlie Rangel in Washington, DC is now providing some optimism to Republicans that they can win back control of the State Senate. This will keep Democrats from having complete control of the redistricting process in the state and affecting the outcome of some races for a decade.

There was good political/policy news from Florida. With a statutory formula set to significantly increase the unemployment insurance premiums businesses pay in the state, a bill was passed unanimously in both the House and Senate on their first day of the 2010 session to address this issue. With the Florida economy continuing to hurt, both Republicans and Democrats recognized that a significant increase in the unemployment insurance rates could have pushed some businesses over the edge and led to even more unemployment. Governor Crist signed the legislation before delivering his State of the State address last night. This was not a minor piece of legislation, and Florida showed that even in these hyper-partisan times, bi-partisan support for important issues is possible.

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