The balance of power in the senate is both extremely tight and extremely important. I get that. But, race for race, the gubernatorial elections are fascinating to follow. We have seven races between 30% and 70% and all of them have national implications. The most interesting part of this list is that in six of the seven races the incumbent (or seat) is a Republican, many thought leaders of their party. Depending on how many of them turn Democratic, the narrative of a Republican wave will be in serious jeopardy. From most likely Republican to most likely Democratic:
1) Wisconsin (36% Democratic): Scott Walker, Republican incumbent, is running against Mary Burke, Democrat. Walker survived a recall vote in 2012 that was directly related to him slashing benefits for public union employees (excluding police and firefighters). He also championed a voter id law that the Supreme Court blocked on October 9, 2014. Both of these issues have become very prominent for the Republicans in the last few years and Walker is a leader within the party for championing them.
2) Arizona (38% Democratic): The incumbent Republican, Jan Brewer, is still the most interesting aspect of this race between Doug Ducey (R) and Fred DuVal (D). Arizona faced boycotts in over its immigration policy, specifically SB 1070. Further, with the shooting of Congresswomen Gabby Giffords and her subsequent push for gun control, Arizona is now a hotbed of discussion on two major national issues.
3) Kansas (48% Democratic): Sam Brownback, the Republican incumbent, is in serious trouble against Paul Davis, the Democratic challenger. Brownback actually implemented serious austerity in Kansas. He cut taxes and cut the budget. This may sound like standard Republican policy, but it is extremely rare to see both cuts so deep (and frequently the taxes are cut, but the budget is not). And, it has been a serious disaster so far. That is how an incumbent governor in a very red state is in serious trouble.
4) Florida (49% Democratic): The current governor, Republican Rick Scott, is up against former governor, Democrat Charlie Crist. Scott is known nationally for two Republican initiatives: cutting funding for public transportation infrastructure and drug testing people on government assistance. But, this election is more about a clash of personalities.
5) Colorado (50% Democratic): Incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper is in big trouble against Republican Bob Beauprez. This time it is signature Democratic policies under attack as Hickenlooper championed: cannabis, gun control, and eliminating capital punishment.
6) Maine (54% Democratic): Incumbent Republican Paul LePage is in serious trouble against Democratic challenger Mike Michaud. LePage has found his way into the national spotlight for a string of insensitive or inflammatory remarks. And, his stand against union works, both real and symbolic.
7) Alaska (56% Independent): Independent Bill Walker is leading incumbent Republican Sean Parnell. Sean Parnell took over the seat when Sarah Palin resigned after the 2008 presidential election.