2016 Gubernatorial Races: August Happenings in Review

INDIANA: In 2008, Democrat Jim Schellinger unsuccessfully sought the nod to run for Governor.  Some expected him to enter the race in 2016.  However, Mike Pence recently appointed him to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation which all but takes him out of the gubernatorial picture.  Keep your enemies close, or just bad politics?  Wouldn’t a crowded Democratic primary favor Pence?  Meanwhile, as soon as she was in, she’s out: Glenda Ritz dropped out of the Governor’s sweepstakes and will seek reelection as State Superintendent.  Last month, I outlined her fundraising problem and possible civil fines.  Seems they were the deciding factor.  She then endorsed John Gregg in the Democratic primary.  But then Gregg’s other opponent- Karen Tallian- dropped out of the race citing a lack of fundraising.  Although she refused to endorse Gregg, some believe she may end up as his running mate.

MONTANA: Wealthy Republican Greg Gianforte has formed an exploratory committee with no official announcement yet.  That allows him to raise funds, but given his wealth one can surmise that is not the reason.

NORTH DAKOTA:  Republican incumbent Jack Darymple has announced he is not seeking reelection and this creates an open seat now.  In this state, there is no shortage of GOP possibilities to replace him including Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley, Wayne Stenejhem, the state attorney general, Brian Kalk- state public service commissioner and former Rep. Rick Berg.  Speaking of Berg, he lost the 2012 Senate race to [mc_name name=’Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’H001069′ ].

Since her election, she has kept open the possibility of a gubernatorial run should this exact scenario open up and she remains the best hope for the Democratic Party in North Dakota.  But, it comes with a major risk.  Assuming she runs and assuming she wins, she would not be able to choose her successor in the Senate.  Earlier this year, the GOP-led legislature passed a law requiring a special election to fill a US Senate vacancy.  The Democrats cried foul and accused the GOP of doing this to thwart Heitkamp.  So much for that endorsement of democracy and people making choices, not Governors.

A presidential year would be Heitkamp’s best chance at a gubernatorial bid.  However, she now has a voting record in support of many Obama initiatives and since the Heitkamp-Obama link almost created a GOP Senate win n 2012 (she won by 1%), she would be playing with fire.  Further, her next Senate election would be in 2018- a midterm election.  Should Clinton be in the White House, the odds of her reelection would be diminished.  Naturally, national Democrats would like to see her stay put and worry about defending her in 2018.  State Democrats would like to see her run for Governor and feel her chances of relevancy beyond 2018 are greater in Bismarck.  Stay tuned as one is sure that Ms. Heitkamp is being pressured all around right now…

So far, the number of people saying “no” is longer than those considering a run.

OREGON:  Incumbent Democrat Kate Brown secured the endorsement of EMILY’s List further cementing her position as the front runner for the Democrats in Oregon.  This messes up the plans of state treasurer Ted Wheeler who was eyeing a run in 2018 when Kitzhaber, who resigned, would have been term-limited.  If Brown wins the nomination and fills out this term (this is a special election), she would be eligible to run again in 2018.  Hence, Wheeler is now turning his attention to the Portland mayoral race in 2016.  However, Democratic state senator Betsy Johnson- who is quite conservative for a Democrat- may consider running as an independent.  If so, despite the very weak GOP bench in Oregon, it may create an opening and who knows?  Crazier things have happened.

VERMONT: Shap Smith, the Democratic speaker of the state house, is the first candidate to enter the open race in what should be a free for all to succeed Pete Shumlin.

WEST VIRGINIA:  State senate minority leader Jeff Kessler has quietly entered the gubernatorial primary against Jim Justice who has self-financed to the tune of $300,000 thus far.  This is a winnable seat for the GOP so stay tuned…

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