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PBS NewsHour

12 sitting governors at risk of losing in November


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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to politics.

So much of the attention during these midterm elections has been focused on which party will control the U.S. Senate. But there’s a story developing around the governors. Of the 36 gubernatorial races across the country, 12 sitting governors are at risk of losing. If that were to happen, it would be the most in half-a-century.

Here to fill us in is the “NewsHour”‘s political editor, Domenico Montanaro.

So, Domenico, a half-a-century. You’re saying it’s unusual to have this many seats at risk.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: It’s very unusual.

I mean, just like House members and members of the Senate, governors really usually have very high incumbency reelection rates. When you look over the past 20 years, there’s been 88 percent of governors who have run for reelection who are reelected. You can — in fact, you can see three times in the past 20 — 20 years or so, you have had 100 percent reelection rate.

So it’s very unusual what’s happening now, that it could be as low as 57 percent if all 12 of those governors lose. I mean, this hasn’t happened since 1962, where you had 11 governors lose back then. Now, even if half of those governors were to win, and you lose, wind up with six sitting governors, that’s the worst that we have had in a quarter-century. 1990 was the last time as many as six have lost.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, of course, this raises the question, why?  Why is this happening this year?  And you have divided the governors up into different groups, starting with the Tea Party Republicans.


And really there are three big reasons overarching for this. We’re talking ideology, economics and numbers. You mentioned the Tea Party Republican governors who have run. You know, there’s the old axiom in political reporting that all politics is local, but it’s turning out that a lot of these folks, all politics is turning out to be national, because you have people like Sam Brownback in Kansas, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Paul LePage in Maine who are swept in, in 2010 during that Tea Party wave, who really rode that wave to victory, and this time around they’re experiencing some backlash for seeming to govern more ideologically.

Usually, a governor’s seat is a place where they’re seen as doers, people who are managers, can get stuff done. And that’s why it’s actually been a very good launching pad to the presidency, as opposed to senators.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And some of these races, we have seen, have gotten very nasty. We were talking about Florida earlier.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes, no question about it. The Florida governor’s race, you have seen a high level of nastiness.

But there’s other governors, Republicans who are in trouble. And when we talk about economics, three of the governors who are in jeopardy here, you can see Nathan Deal, Rick Snyder, and Sean Parnell in Alaska, they each have some of their own issues, Deal dealings with ethics, Snyder with being in a blue state generally, and Sean Parnell has this weird independent thing that’s happening.

But all three of those states have unemployment rates that are higher than the national average, and six of these 11 governors are actually dealing with economies that are doing worse than the country at large.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And now, of course, there are some Democrats who are in trouble as well.


We have seen four of those Democrats. In fact, one of the Democrats — one of the governors is a Democrat who has already lost, and that’s Neil Abercrombie, as you can see on your screen, John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Dan Malloy in Connecticut, and Pat Quinn in Illinois, all also at risk of losing. And this is really an unprecedented thing to see this many governors in one place.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One oft points we were talking about earlier today, Domenico, is how many governors are running for reelection this year, an unusually large number. Surprising when the voters are so sour about what’s going on in government that so many of them want to keep their jobs.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, that’s another part of this.

You saw some of the — there were 24 of these governors who came into office in 2010; 28 overall are running for reelection. That’s more than we have seen since at least 1960. So when you have that many people running, of course there are going to be more targets.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Domenico Montanaro, we thank you. We’re watching it.


The post 12 sitting governors at risk of losing in November appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

From pot to guns, they’re on the ballot this fall

Here's a look at what's on the ballot and where this fall. Image by  Comstock Images and Getty Images

Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot and where this fall. Image by Comstock Images and Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Two states could legalize marijuana
  • Five states vote on whether to raise the minimum wage
  • Washington state decides whether to expand or restrict gun background checks
  • Three states decide on whether to effectively tighten access to abortion

What’s on the ballot and where: With less than two weeks to go until Election Day — and with 99 percent of the focus so far on control of the Senate — we thought we’d take a step back and look at the ballot initiatives and referenda of interest throughout the country. After all, these measures, if approved, will actually be law and affect people’s lives in a more tangible way than who controls the Senate, which won’t have a filibuster-proof majority. From marijuana and the minimum wage to guns, abortion and voting rights to genetically modified foods, here’s an overview of what’s on the ballot where:

– Marijuana: Three states, plus Washington, D.C., are taking up an expansion of marijuana laws. Alaska, Oregon, and D.C. would legalize; Florida would expand to allow medical marijuana.
– Minimum wage: Five states are considering raising it from anywhere from $8.50 to $10 an hour — Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. Illinois would raise it the highest, to $10 by the start of the year. Alaska would raise it to $9.75 by 2016 and tie it to inflation after that.
– Guns: Washington state has conflicting gun background-check measures on the ballot in the first gun initiatives on the ballot post-Newtown; Alabama would strengthen gun protections.
– Abortion rights/birth control: Three states could tighten abortion rights — Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee; Illinois weighs requiring insurers to pay for birth control.
– Voting rights: Voters in Connecticut will decide whether to change its constitution to allow early voting; voters in Missouri will decide on a contentious initiative that creates an early voting window, but isn’t as open as some would like. Montanans will decide if voters should stop being allowed to register to vote on Election Day.
– Genetically modified foods: Two states consider whether to label foods that have been genetically modified — Colorado and Oregon.
– Licenses for undocumented immigrants: Oregon weighs giving licenses to immigrants in the United States illegally.
– Drug testing doctors: California could begin drug testing doctors and might raise the medical malpractice limit.
– Investigational drugs for the terminally ill: Arizona’s “Right to Try” initiative weighs whether to make available investigational, non-FDA approved drugs for terminally-ill patients.
– Prison sentencing: California could lower non-violent felonies to misdemeanors.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1962, President Kennedy informed Americans about his order to send U.S. forces to blockade Cuba. Why did he send troops to blockade Cuba? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Tuesday’s trivia: Who succeeded Justices Rehnquist and Powell, and who were they nominated by? The answer was: Justice Kennedy by Reagan and Chief Justice Roberts by George W. Bush.


  • Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of The Washington Post who led the paper during its legendary Watergate coverage, died Tuesday at his home in Washington, D.C., the newspaper reported. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. He was 93.

  • The Center for Public Integrity reports that because of a “quirk in federal law,” any new fundraising done by super PACs between Oct. 15 and Election Day does not need to be revealed until early December.

  • Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC backed by the Koch brothers, is launching a $6.5 million buy against Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

  • There’s been a flood of ads this cycle — over 125,000 in Senate races — focused on climate change, energy and the environment. In fact, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in general election Senate ads, according to an analysis by Kantar/CMAG.

  • Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst is back with another pork-themed campaign ad. Standing in the middle of a pig sty, Ernst says, “It’s a mess — dirty, noisy, and it stinks. I’m talking about Washington. Too many typical politicians hogging, wasting, and full of…let’s just say, bad ideas.”

  • In Georgia, the race for an open Senate seat is dividing voters between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn. Both seek to distance themselves from President Obama’s policies while gathering support from white and African-American voters who often diverge on party lines. NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff reports from the Peach State.

  • A deciding factor in the Kentucky Senate race might not be that a majority of voters like Alison Grimes, but that a strong majority dislike Sen. Mitch McConnell, according to a Western Kentucky University poll.

  • “By the time the heated governor versus governor debate in Florida ended Tuesday night, it was clear no man had a fan,” the New York Times’ Lizette Alvarez writes about the hostility on display between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist in their final face-off.

  • Likely voters in Florida’s gubernatorial race are split 42-42 percent between Scott and Crist, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. The Independent garners 7 percent.

  • A North Carolina Senate debate turned into a one-man roundtable, when Sen. Kay Hagan did not show up Tuesday night. Hagan’s campaign says it was not one of the original three debates agreed upon by both camps, leaving her opponent Thom Tillis to answer questions on his own.

  • Republicans had viewed Michigan as a potential Senate pick up, just like Iowa, but Roll Call’s Alexis Levinson details all the reasons the Wolverine State isn’t as competitive. For starters, there’s been no defining message on either side, and Republican Terri Lynn Land has underperformed as a candidate compared to Iowa’s Joni Ernst.

  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee campaigned for Ernst in Iowa Tuesday. Michelle Obama was back in Iowa to campaign for Bruce Bailey — err Braley. And while the First Lady did get the candidate’s name right this time, the White House’s press office later distributed a transcript of her remarks by email with “Democratic candidate for governor” in the subject line.

  • Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy leads Republican Tom Foley 43 to 42 percent, with the Independent holding 9 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

  • The Democratic underdog in Michigan’s 11th District is attacking the Republican with a particularly brutal ad about eviction.

  • The Justice Department’s success shifting terrorism cases from secret prisons or offshore military tribunals to civilian courts may be one of outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s biggest legacies.

  • In some campaigns, playing up an incumbent’s “record” on the Islamic State might be an effective strategy, but in Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan’s race, that attack is falling flat.

  • Retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn ridicules the National Institutes of Health in his final “Wastebook,” which details extraneous government spending each year.

  • In maybe the oddest appearance by a member of Congress, the Alaska Daily News writes. “At a Wasilla High School assembly Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Don Young didn’t temper his notoriously abrasive personality for his young audience. Numerous witnesses say Young, 81, acted in a disrespectful and sometimes offensive manner to some students, used profanity and started talking about bull sex when confronted with a question about same-sex marriage.”

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter:

The post From pot to guns, they’re on the ballot this fall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Two newcomers vie for Georgia’s open Senate seat

Supporters of David Perdue celebrate his victory over Jack Kingston Tuesday
         night in Atlanta. Photo by Claire Simms, GPB News

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And exactly two weeks from Election Day, and Georgia is a surprise place Democrats are suddenly hopeful about.

The two major-party candidates running for the open Senate seat are first-time candidates, but both come from well-known political families.

This weekend, I traveled to the Peach State to find out how a race between two non-politicians has become a nail-biter.

Worshipers at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta were fired up on Sunday, determined to make their voices heard.

REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) Georgia: So, we have got to go out and vote like we have never voted before.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It was the sort of stars-of-the-civil-rights-movement turnout you would expect in a presidential election year, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister, Christine, arm in arm with Congressman John Lewis, leading the way at a large get-out-the-vote drive called Souls to the Polls.

But it’s not a presidential election year, and the first African-American president, Barack Obama, is not on the ballot, except in TV spots being aired by most Republican Senate candidates this year, including David Perdue here in Georgia.

Perdue campaign ad: Job losses come from bad policies in Washington, the policies of President Obama and Michelle Nunn. The president himself said, make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Perdue, a 64-year-old former corporate executive and first-time candidate, is trying to take advantage of President Obama’s unpopularity with most Georgia voters by saying his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, would be a rubber stamp for Obama policies.

ERIN KRENZ:  Would that be Michelle Nunn or David Perdue that would get your support there?

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s an argument that Perdue supporters, like 31-year-old massage therapist and mother of three Erin Krenz, who regularly volunteers to make calls and knock on doors for him, enthusiastically embraces.

ERIN KRENZ: Because there are so many bad policies coming out of Washington that are going to kill all of the jobs, that are killing jobs right now. There are small business owners that are trying to put their heads together, figuring out, how am I going to surmount this Obamacare thing?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the 47-year-old Nunn, daughter of former four-term Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, has spent her adult life running large nonprofit volunteer service organizations.

She has focused her campaign on how she wants to be a voice for moderation in Washington, someone who will work with both political parties to get things done.

I spoke to her after she greeted people at the Morehouse College homecoming tailgate parties.

MICHELLE NUNN, Democratic Senate Candidate: I am going to work across party lines. But there are places where I differ from the president. I believe that we should have already moved forward with the Keystone pipeline. I believe that the president and the Congress should have done more to address our long-term debt.

But I also do agree with the president that we should raise minimum wage, that we should pass pay equity legislation, that we should pass bipartisan immigration reform.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Michelle Nunn has had to walk a careful line in this campaign. She’s had to appeal to white voters, who have lately been voting mostly for Republicans in Georgia, but not in a way that turns off black voters, whom she needs to show up in record-breaking numbers for a midterm election.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Those we spoke to say they understand the balance she must strike. Valerie Dorsey rode the Souls to the Polls bus on Sunday to cast her vote.

VALERIE DORSEY: I don’t think in our politics that it’s necessary to absolutely support the president in 100 percent of all his policies. But if you’re able to reason, if you’re able to be willing to be educated about the issues, and try to find common ground, I believe that Michelle Nunn will try to do that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Emory University political scientist Merle Black:

MERLE BLACK, Emory University: She’s got to get — do two things, according to her own strategy. She’s got to get a composition of the electorate in which African-Americans make up 30 percent of the voters. Barack Obama got 98 percent of that vote in ’08 and still lost by four or five points. But what’s the other target?  The other target is white voters. The Democrats need at least 30 percent of the white vote.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Black says this is a tall order for Nunn, but he believes she can pull it off. He argues that’s because she’s run a strong campaign, while Perdue has run a weak one, since he won the Republican primary.

MERLE BLACK: But he’s not doing the number one thing that we think an unknown politician needs to do, and that is to advertise himself, show his stuff, get out there debate and engage. He doesn’t do that right now, so this has given a tremendous opportunity for the Michelle Nunn campaign to paint their portrait of David Perdue. And that’s a very, very unattractive portrait.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Merle Black says Nunn is trying to appeal to white voters, particularly women, by saying Perdue has made a career out of outsourcing jobs to other countries.

NARRATOR: The attorney asks, “Can you describe your experience with outsourcing?”  Perdue responds: “Yes, I spent most of my career doing that.”

MAN: And when asked by reporters how he defends the outsourcing, Perdue doubled down.

DAVID PERDUE: Defend it?  I’m proud of it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Perdue was unavailable for an interview while we were in Georgia, but his cousin, former Governor Sonny Perdue, speaking on his behalf, insists Nunn has taken those remarks out of context.

FORMER GOV. SONNY PERDUE, (R) Georgia: When David said that, it was in a legal document. And what has David talked about is, that is what corporate America was about. It may be outsourcing to a small business next door that can do that particular task more efficiently than a big corporation can do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He says Georgia voters want someone to go to Washington to undo Obama policies.

SONNY PERDUE: This is essentially a national election about the policies of this current administration and who will support those and then who will repudiate those in the Senate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Both the Nunn and Perdue families come from Houston County in rural Central Georgia. We found that voters here and nearby are as divided as across the rest of the state.

Don Wood will likely vote for Nunn because he worries Perdue is too partisan.

DON WOOD: He’s not going to be able to do anything to help fix the problems that are there, because you at least have to be able to talk and get along with the people for something to happen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Terri Marcum says she likes a candidate who stands firm.

TERRI MARCUM: Sticks to principles and sticks to the conservative. I’m a very conservative person, and so I really kind of like the conservative way of thinking.

JUDY WOODRUFF: To keep her distance from Washington, Nunn rarely uses the word Democrat, refers to herself as a moderate.

But there’s no question that you would, the majority of the time, be voting with the Democrats in the Senate?

MICHELLE NUNN: I spent 26 years mobilizing volunteers and solving problems. My lens for this race and for service is to get things done that matter to people. It’s not from a partisan lens.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In these final weeks, both the Nunn and Perdue camps are spending millions of dollars airing TV spots and getting out their vote. She’s helped by a new infusion from national Democrats, who praise her for keeping the race competitive, and Perdue with help from national Republicans, worried at the closeness of a contest they thought they could count on.

But political scientist Merle Black notes neither party has a majority in Georgia. He argues even if Perdue captures the Republican base, he has another hurdle to jump.

MERLE BLACK: When the Republicans have been doing well, it’s because they have been carrying very large majorities among the independents. Currently, in these polls, Perdue is not achieving that degree of success with these independents.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Perdue’s cousin, the former governor, acknowledges the steadily rising percentage of African-Americans and other minorities in Georgia does make Republicans’ job harder.

SONNY PERDUE: I think that’s part of maybe why the race appears to be tightening. I don’t think that we believe the race is as tight as current media is portraying it to be.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Complicating matters for both is the libertarian candidate, who polls show is drawing around 3 percent of the vote, enough to deny either Nunn or Perdue the 50 percent Georgia law mandates.

A runoff would be in January, requiring both to turn out their supporters all over again.

The post Two newcomers vie for Georgia’s open Senate seat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

WATCH LIVE: Kansas gubernatorial debate

Kansas incumbent Governor Sam Brownback debates Democratic challenger Paul Davis live from Wichita at 1:40 p.m. EDT/12:40 p.m. CDT today. Join PBS NewsHour and KPTS for a special screening of this event, and chat with fellow viewers and the NewsHour politics team, here.

The last debate of Kansas’ hotly-contested gubernatorial race broadcasts live from Wichita this afternoon.

Incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback faces off against Democratic challenger Paul Davis on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 1:40 p.m. EDT. The Kansas Association of Broadcasters hosts the lunchtime event as part of their annual meeting.

Through a partnership between PBS NewsHour and KPTS, the Kansas Public Telecommunications Service, citizens across the country will be able to watch together and share their thoughts in real time in a live, online screening of the event.

Citizens are invited to share their views in a live chat online with PBS NewsHour’s senior producer Domenico Montanaro and reporter/editor Lisa Desjardins.

They will be joined by two other journalists who will provide expert analysis throughout the screening, Jim Grawe of KPTS and Stephen Koranda, KPR’s Statehouse Bureau Chief.

Join the viewing and participate in the conversation live here:

Left: Kansas incumbent Governor Sam Brownback. Photo from Wikimedia Commons. Right: Democratic challenger Paul Davis.
         Photo from Davis campaign.

Left: Kansas incumbent Governor Sam Brownback. Photo from Wikimedia Commons. Right: Democratic challenger Paul Davis. Photo from Davis campaign.

Incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback’s is running a surprisingly challenging re-election bid in deep-red Kansas. Critics on both the left and the right have attacked his tax cut programs, saying they led to budget shortages that impacted schools and roads.

NewsHour Weekend reported in September that 100 Republican lawmakers endorsed Gov. Brownback’s opponent, Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, in light of this policy. Watch that report below:

At today’s debate, Gov. Brownback will have to assure voters that his tax “experiment,” as he has called it, will yield fruit in due time. Davis will have to convince moderate Republicans that he is the man to balance the budget.

At a debate yesterday, same-sex marriage took center stage, with the social conservative Governor vowing to defend Kansas’ ban against court challenges. Education funding has also been a sticking point during this campaign, and will likely come into play today as the two candidates hammer home their messages in the final two weeks till Election Day.

Join the NewsHour team in watching this debate play out live, at

The post WATCH LIVE: Kansas gubernatorial debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.