An Eye On Governorships Up For Grabs

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A total of 36 governorships are up for grabs in the 2006 election. Of those, 22 are Republican-held and 14 are Democrat-held. Nine of these races won't include an incumbent as four governors aren't seeking reelection and five are term-limited. Massachusetts could place in office the second elected black governor in U.S. history. And Alaska, Illinois or Nevada could put a woman at the helm for the first time.

Which are the most competitive races?

According to, Democrats appear in reach of flipping control of the governor's office in Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, where Republican governors are not running again. In addition, Republican Govs. Robert Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are struggling to hang on to their seats.

But Republicans are competing hard against Democratic incumbents who are far from shoo-ins, including Govs. John Baldacci of Maine, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, and Ted Kulongoski of Oregon.

What are some of the notable races?

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry (R) faces four opponents, including singer and mystery writer Kinky Friedman. The Democratic contender, former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, has asked Friedman to drop out of the race, arguing that the independent candidate known for his colorful jokes and unlighted cigar will siphon off votes for Bell and give Perry the win with only a third of votes cast.

Massachusetts has the only race in the country between an African American and a woman. Democrat Deval Patrick, a former Clinton administration civil rights official, currently is polling ahead of Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in a traditionally Democratic state.

What are some of the key issues?

Surpluses, and how incumbent governors spent them in 2006, are issues in governors' races in Arkansas and Wyoming at a time when all but a handful of states finally emerged from years of belt-tightening and counting pennies. Jump-starting the economy and creating more jobs are prominent not just in the Rust Belt states of Michigan and Ohio, but also in Kansas, Maine, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Ethics stand out in several campaigns, including the race in Illinois where Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is dogged by federal and state probes of his administration; in Alaska, where the FBI is investigating state politicians for influence-peddling; and in Wisconsin, where a state procurement official was convicted in a case involving a campaign contributor to Doyle, the governor.

Nationally, the housing market may have cooled, but property taxes still are hot issues in governors' races in Florida, Idaho, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, while more funding for schools is prominent in Arkansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon.

To learn more about gubernatorial races:

• You can read complete coverage and analysis of Senate and key House races, plus gubernatorial elections, from here.

• Click here to see some of the nasty political ads this election season. has more about the governor's races.

• For all of's coverage of the 2006 state elections visit their 2006 elections special section.