The races for Governor are shaping up to be the most entertaining and, perhaps, the most important races over the next year, and for years to come. Democrats can take some joy in the Gubernatorial outlook. Of the 38 seats up for grabs in the next year, 24 of them are currently held by Republicans. “People recognize that 2006 is the Super Bowl of governors races,” said Iowa’s Tom Vilsack, a two-term Democratic governor who is not seeking re-election. “You’ve got governors races in all parts of the country, you’ve got them in very key, very critical states that will play a crucial role in 2008.”
Significantly, Democrats have at least a pretty good chance to capture some of the 6 mega-states currently held by Republicans (California, New York, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, and Ohio), representing nearly half of the American population. It is difficult to see any highly populated states where Republicans can gain in the next election cycle. “There’s no question the landscape is not favorable,” said GOP Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who is deciding between seeking a second term or making a bid for the presidency.
Overall, Democrats have a fair to good shot at taking over statehouses in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and maybe Ohio and Hawaii. Republicans, on the other hand, have a decent shot at taking over only Iowa, Virginia, and maybe Kansas.
Partisan redistricting will likely keep the House of Representatives from undergoing a seismic shift, even if this is typically an election season where the party in power undergoes losses. Senate contests are each unique and distorted by the effects of incumbency and spending. Currently Republicans have a slight advantage again going into next years Senate races. That leaves the Governorships, special offices where the winner gets to act as a "mini-President" over their state and exerts considerable influence over everything from the types of laws and policies in the state, to the appointment of high ranking government officials and judges, to the manner in which elections are administered.
Following the 2004 races for Governor, the partisan balance was unchanged. Republicans maintained control of 28 state houses, while Democrats held on to 22. This year, a pair of off-year contests in New Jersey and Virginia will be the first two in a total of 38 races that will take place by the end of 2006.