Democrats: We have a chance in California, Texas governors' races

The head of the Democratic Governors Association refuses to predict how many statehouses the party will win in 2010. But he says there are opportunities for Democrats.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Democratic Governors Association Chairman Jack Markell speaks at the Capital Hilton hotel in Washington Monday.

The head of the Democratic Governors Association is taking a slightly more cautious stance than his Republican counterpart when it comes to specifying how many governors' races his party would win in 2010.

At a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters on Monday, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the DGA chair, was asked about Republican Governors Association Chair Haley Barbour’s statement that, at the moment, the GOP was on track to win 30 governors' races.

“I don’t think I have got a particular number in mind. I haven’t sort of done the math that way,” he said.

"Traditionally, the off-year election following the election of the president, that party does suffer some losses, so it is a challenging landscape in that way," Markell added.

The battle for control of statehouses is especially crucial this year. The newly elected governors will play an influential role in redrawing maps for congressional and state legislative districts to reflect population changes tracked by the 2010 Census.

Mississippi Governor Barbour sees circumstances in his favor.

“The political environment for Republicans this first half of April 2010 is better than it was the first half of April 1994, when we won 54 seats in the House, took control of the House, the Senate, and more than 30 governorships,” he said Sunday on CNN’s "State of the Union."

“The problem is the election is not today,” he added.

At the breakfast, Markell listed Republican-held statehouses in California, Florida, and Texas as “interesting pick-up opportunities” for Democrats. Later, he said “I don’t think any of those are slam dunks, but we feel good about our chances.”

With unemployment at high levels nationwide, voters are angry. “A lot of the landscape, it is anti-incumbent as much as it is anti-party,” Markell said.

He added that governors' races would be decided on the basis of local issues and performance – and not be a referendum on the Obama presidency or other national issues.

Governors' races “are not nationalizable,” he said. “It really depends upon what is going on in those states, and, again, I think that is the difference between running for governor [rather] than running for Congress or the Senate. People are really looking for those who deliver.”

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