posted by Josh Goodman
If you're like me, you're counting the days until the 2006 election, which is now little more than 6 months away. Undoubtedly, you've heard about the governors' races and some of the federal elections, but there are also plenty of good storylines further down the ballot. Here are the most interesting statewide contests I've heard about so far:
10. California Attorney General -- Jerry Brown's biography on his campaign Web site is over 1,200 words long, but not out of verbosity. It's just that when you've been California's governor, secretary of state and Democratic Party state chairman, a candidate for U.S. Senate and President and the mayor of Oakland (his current job), there's a lot to say. Brown, who's the early favorite to win, is only 68, so there's still time for him to hold a few more offices.
9. Delaware Attorney General -- Speaking of verbose, you've probably both heard and heard of the father of Democratic candidate Beau Biden. That would be U.S. Sen. Joe Biden. Whether the younger Biden is as attracted to the limelight as his father remains to be seen, although it will be hard to match someone who led an Iowa ice cream shop to name a flavor "Joe Biden's Loquacious Peach" when he ran for president in 1988. The Republicans like their candidate, so this race should be competitive.
Eight more races to watch, after the jump.
8. Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor -- Expect the candidates for Pennsylvania's lieutenant governorship not to shy away from political hardball this fall. Keystone State residents will be sick of reading sentences like that one soon, as the media focuses more on Republican candidate Jim Matthews, the brother of Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball. The Democratic incumbent, Catherine Baker Knoll, is best known for criticizing the Iraq War at a marine's funeral. In Pennsylvania, governors and lieutenant governors are elected as a ticket.
7. Nevada Secretary of State -- Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian is also related to a famous figure, but not a politician. His father is Jerry Tarkanian, who won an NCAA men's basketball championship as head coach of UNLV. If Danny also has his father's towel-chewing habit, the debates could get awkward. The Democrats are running their own famous son, Ross Miller, whose father, Bob, used to be governor.
6. Maryland Comptroller -- Octogenarians and oglers alike will be pulling for Democrat Donald William Schaefer as he seeks reelection. Schaefer, 84, a former governor and Baltimore mayor, got into trouble for displaying a bit too much fondness for a young lady's derriere earlier this year. Perhaps equally damaging to his reelection prospects is his close relationship with Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich. Delegate Peter Franchot is challenging him in the Democratic primary and a recent poll showed a close race.
5. New York Attorney General -- This race will likely pit Republican Jeanine Pirro against Democrat Andrew Cuomo in another battle of the tangentially famous. Pirro, a district attorney in Westchester County, gained notoriety when she announced last year that she would challenge Senator Hillary Clinton, only to switch to the AG race in December after a series of gaffes. Cuomo, the son of former governor Mario Cuomo, also abruptly quit his biggest campaign to date -- the 2002 gubernatorial election. Other Democratic contenders include Mark Green, who was nearly elected mayor of New York City in 2001, and Sean Patrick Maloney, a former Clinton administration official who, if elected, would be (I think) the only openly gay statewide elected official in the country.
4. Alabama Lieutenant Governor -- As if you weren't already sick of famous sons, I have more. Republican George Wallace, Jr., son of THE George Wallace, is running for the number two spot in Alabama. The younger Wallace is not known for promoting the racist views that catapulted his father to national fame (he once won an award from the NAACP), although his appearances before groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens have raised some eyebrows. The Democratic nominee is likely to be Jim Folsom, Jr., a former governor and lieutenant governor, who is also the son of a famous former governor.
3. California Insurance Commissioner -- If Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante is elected Insurance Commissioner this fall as part of his state's term limits tango, it will be one of the greatest political comebacks ever by someone who never left office in the first place. As you might recall, Bustamante ran as a Democrat in the election that replaced Governor Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the slogan "No on the recall, yes on Bustamante." To understand how catastrophically bad his campaign performed, consider that not only did he lose to an Austrian bodybuilder, but also over a million more people voted to keep the wildly unpopular Davis than supported Bustamante. That said, California politics suffers from a notorious inertia, so he has a fair shot at beating Republican businessman Steve Poizner in November.
2. Kansas Attorney General -- As famous state AGs go, incumbent Phill Kline is perhaps second only to Eliot Spitzer. Kline, a Republican, has gained national attention for requiring that health care workers tell law enforcement when they learn of sexual activity by people under the age of 16 and by ordering clinics to turn over medical files of women and girls who have had abortions. On both counts, he has suffered legal defeats in recent weeks, but his efforts have made him one of the most prominent social conservatives in state government. His opponent is Paul Morrison, a Johnson County district attorney who became a Democrat to face Kline. The race is expected to be hotly contested and will go a long way toward determining who has the upper hand in the ongoing feud between moderate and conservative Republicans in Kansas.
1. Georgia Lieutenant Governor-- Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition who until recently was a rising political star, is drawing fire for his connections to lobbyist/felon Jack Abramoff. The problems for Reed are compounded because, as a conservative Christian, he looks like a hypocrite for allegedly working on behalf of gambling interests. The result is that he may not survive the Republican primary against state senator Casey Cagle. Although the hapless Georgia Democratic Party couldn't recruit their dream candidate, former senator Max Cleland, they may be handed a victory if Reed is the nominee.