posted by Josh Goodman
Only one African-American, Virginia's Doug Wilder, has ever been elected governor of a U.S. state. As a result of developments over the past two weeks, expect that to change this year.
At least five credible black candidates are currently running for governor across the country. Although I wouldn't give any of them individually a better than 50-50 chance of being elected (most have to contend with hotly contested primaries and general elections), collectively they are a strong enough group that at least one of them will probably win.
The most recent entrant is former Oregon Treasurer Jim Hill, who announced this week that he will challenge Governor Ted Kulongoski in the Democratic primary. Although Kulongoski is clearly the favorite, he's angered enough people within his own party that Hill has a shot. Hill also ran for governor in 2002 and finished second in the Democratic primary.
Others have better chances. Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann learned this week that he will have only token opposition in the Republican primary to take on Governor Ed Rendell. His chief primary opponent, former Lieutenant Governor Bill Scranton, dropped out. Rendell will be tough to beat, but polls show a close race.
For months, Deval Patrick, a former official in President Clinton's Justice Department, has been regarded as an underdog in the Democratic primary for governor in Massachusetts. However, the frontrunner, state Attorney General Tom Reilly, has made some missteps lately, most notably botching the selection of a candidate for lieutenant governor. A poll came out this week showing Reilly only leading Patrick 39-30, a good sign for Patrick, since he's still by far the lesser known of the two candidates. If he can win the primary, Patrick will be a favorite in the general election.
Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell also has momentum on his side. State Auditor Betty Montgomery dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination a couple of weeks ago, leaving Blackwell as the frontrunner against Attorney General Jim Petro. Whoever wins will have a tough general election contest, presumably against Democratic congressman Ted Strickland. Ohio has voted reliably Republican in state politics over the past decade, but the unpopularity of GOP Governor Bob Taft and the weak economy make the state ripe for a Democratic takeover.
Lastly, former New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels is running a longshot bid for governor, but his chances of being the Republican nominee are getting better. Billionaire Tom Golisano has decided not to run and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld has been unable to win many supporters in his native New York. As a result, New York Republicans are taking a second look at Daniels and former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso as possible nominees. Any of them will likely lose to state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in the fall.