Governor's Offices Up for Vote in New Jersey, Virginia
By Heather Perkins, CSG Membership Data Manager
Although 2009 isn’t a busy year for statewide elections, there is no shortage of important contests next month.
Voters in New Jersey and Virginia will head to the polls Nov. 3 to elect both executive and legislative officials. In addition, more than half a dozen others will be filling state legislative and supreme court vacancies that have arisen over the year. Also, the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands will hold its general election Nov. 7, and voters will elect both executive and legislative officers.
The outcome of the executive races this year could narrow the gap between the number of Democratic and Republican governors across the country. Democrats currently hold a 28 to 22 advantage in governor’s offices, and New Jersey and Virginia are among them. But the Republican candidates in both these gubernatorial races are leading in the polls. That means the Democratic advantage in governor’s offices could shrink to 26 to 24 following the Nov. 3 election.
This election cycle marks a first for the state of New Jersey, as residents there will elect a lieutenant governor for the first time in the state’s history. In 2005, voters approved an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution that created the position of lieutenant governor. Before, the senate president served as the next in the line of succession. Voters will elect a governor and lieutenant governor on a ticket, like in half the states.
Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine is running for re-election alongside running mate state Sen. Loretta Weinberg. Corzine will face Republican Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and his running mate, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno.
While there are 10 third party candidates on the ballot, Independent Chris Daggett and running mate Frank J. Esposito are the closest to the major candidates in the polls. Daggett, a former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, recently received the endorsement of The Star-Ledger of Newark.
An Oct. 15 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Christie leading Corzine 45 percent to 41 percent. Daggett is polling at 9 percent, while 5 percent of those polled are undecided.
In Virginia, Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds and former Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell are candidates for governor. An Oct. 13 Rasmussen Reports poll showed McDonnell with a seven point lead on Deeds, 50 percent to 43 percent, with 6 percent undecided.
Unlike New Jersey, Virginia’s lieutenant governor candidates run separately from the gubernatorial candidates. Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is seeking re-election; he’ll face a challenge from former state Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner.
Virginia voters will also choose a new attorney general in November. State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, will square off against Democratic state Del. Steve Shannon for the seat.
In the Northern Mariana Islands, Gov. Benigno Fitial of the Covenant Party is seeking re-election alongside his running mate, Lt. Gov. Eloy Inos. The incumbents are up against the Republican ticket of Heinz Hofschneider and Arnold Palacios, both currently members of the House. Hofschneider is a former speaker, while Palacios is the current speaker. Two independent tickets—Ramos DeLeon Guerrero and his running mate David Borja, and Juan Guerrero and his running mate Joseph Camacho—are also on the ballot.
State legislative seats up for election in 2009 include all members of the New Jersey General Assembly, Virginia House of Delegates and the Northern Mariana Islands Senate and House. Two New Jersey Senate seats are on the ballot to fill vacancies.
The makeup of the legislatures in the two states most likely will not change. In the New Jersey General Assembly, the Democrats currently hold a 48 to 31 seat majority, with one vacancy. Incumbents are seeking re-election in 71 of the 80 races on the ballot. In Virginia, where the Republicans hold a 53 to 43 seat lead—with two Independents and two vacancies—81 of the 100 seats on the ballot will have incumbents running for re-election.
In addition to these states with scheduled elections in 2009, a handful of other states will hold special general elections in certain districts to fill vacant legislative seats. Voters in Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Washington will cast ballots Nov. 3 to fill vacant senate and house seats. Pennsylvania will hold a special election to fill a supreme court vacancy.