Monday, November 1, 2010

Western Statewide Roundup


Counties to Watch:

  • Maricopa, home to Phoenix, has well over half of Arizona voters.
  • Pima, home to Tucson, and much of CD7 (represented by Raul Grijalva) will be crucial for Democrats.
  • Pinal between Tucson and Phoenix is a potential swing area.

AZ Governor

  • Arizona is an outlier this election cycle, where the issue of immigration has been front and center up and down the ballot due to a controversial immigration law, SB1070 and anger at Washington for inaction on this issue.
  • Arizona, once the second fastest growing state in the nation, suffered even more than most states economically during this recession.
  • Jan Brewer was considered vulnerable in the spring and faced two credible Republican challengers.
  • She was largely unpopular early in her tenure and was has been referred to as the "accidental Governor."
  • In May of 2010, she promoted a statewide sales tax increase that was ultimately passed by 64%. She was largely criticized for this tax increase within her own party and faced two serious primary challengers.
  • Shortly following the tax vote, Brewer signed SB1070. The controversy propelled Governor Brewer's approval ratings significantly and her primary challengers left the race.
  • Although this law has been popular with Arizona voters, polling conducted by PNW, showed that even more favored comprehensive immigration reform. 73% of Arizona voters surveyed supported a federal solution while only 60% supported SB1070.


Counties to Watch:

  • Larimer, Jefferson, & Arapahoe are suburban counties that swung from Bush to Obama.
  • El Paso & Douglas are the GOP's strongest major counties. Will they support Dan Maes or Tom Tancredo, who used to represent Douglas in Congress?
  • Denver turnout will be crucial for Bennet and other statewide Democrats. In 2006, Democrats lost down ballot races when Denver city voters had to wait in line for hours.

CO Governor

  • John Hickenlooper chose not to run any negative campaign advertisements despite frequent attacks from the other side. Some have criticized that choice saying that it made him more vulnerable in a general election. Will this decision get him support from Independent voters and Republicans?
  • Tom Tancredo's Next Move: In three months, he's gone from being a marginal failed Republican presidential candidate in 2008 to coming within single digits of winning the Governorship in recent public polling. PNW can't be the only people out there considering the impact of a Palin / Tancredo GOP Presidential ticket. In fact, on Election Eve, Palin endorsed Tancredo in the race.
  • Will Republican Dan Maes get 10% of the vote? If not, the Republican Party could be relegated to "minor-party" status affecting their ballot access and fundraising in future elections.

Colorado Senate

  • Gender Gap: Ken Buck's gaffes started in the primary against Jane Norton. Democrats have hammered him on social issues, especially his position in support of the controversial 'personhood' anti-abortion ballot measure that was overwhelmingly defeated in 2008 and is back in 2010. If Bennet gets the support of independent women, and even a small number of moderate Republicans, it may put him over the finish line. No one expected social issues to play the role that they did in Colorado.
  • Over $40 million was spent on the Colorado Senate race and the race is a dead heat.
  • We know roughly where Bennet will position himself in a full term on the issues. However if Buck wins, does he join the "Tea Party" caucus or will he be an independent western voice for Colorado?


Counties to Watch:

  • Ada & Canyon are the home of Boise and the Treasure Valley. Both have experienced tremendous population and economic growth over the past decade, increasing demand for roads and schools.

ID Governor

  • As a state where Republicans dominate every level of government, Idaho will be a good barometer of the strength of the anti-incumbent mood this year.
  • Long-time Idaho politician Butch Otter is running for re-election as Governor. Democratic candidate Keith Allred has run an aggressive campaign, highlighting Otter's decision to cut school funding to balance the state budget.
  • Election Day turnout may be a deciding factor. Idaho allows same-day voter registration, which previous PNW research shows heavily favors Republicans.

New Mexico

Counties to Watch:

  • Bernallio, home to Albuquerque, is the population center with 30% of New Mexico voters.
  • Sandoval & Valencia are two exurban counties that swung from Bush to Obama
  • Lea is southwest the home of Harry Teague and Diane Denish but typically votes Republican.

NM Governor

  • New Mexico Democrats control not only the Statehouse and Governor's mansion, but all five federal representatives and six of seven statewide offices. Despite successes in 2008, New Mexico is still a swing state.
  • Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish appeared to be in good shape early in 2010 to win the Governor's race. However, the anti-incumbent mood was leveraged by Republicans to paint the election of her race as a third term for Bill Richardson.
  • The Republican Governor's Association backed a Hispanic woman candidate in the GOP primary. Susana Martinez used her experience as a county prosecutor to position herself as a tough on crime, corruption and border security.
  • Hispanics make up 41% of the voters and support Obama overwhelmingly. It will be interesting to see Hispanic turnout and performance in an off-year where Martinez has been actively courting them.


Counties to Watch:

  • Clark, home of Las Vegas and surroundings, contains 70% of Nevada votes, including CD1 & CD3. Winning Democratic candidates usually get 52% of the vote in Clark. Most of the state legislative battleground are here (SD5, 8, & 9).
  • Washoe on the northwest border with California flipped from Bush to Obama.

NV Governor

  • The anger of Nevada's voters over the worst unemployment and housing numbers in the country was evidence early on when the GOP voted out their sitting incumbent Jim Gibbons.
  • Rory Reid suffered from the anti-incumbent sentiment due to his position on the Clark County board and his last name.
  • Brian Sandoval has run as a moderate and stayed away from Sharron Angle and the right wing of his party.

NV Senate

  • It will be interesting to see what the gender gap is in this race between a Democratic man and a Republican woman.
  • How will Hispanic voters turnout and perform after controversy over immigration and anti-Latino television ads?
  • Partisan turnout will be crucial since only 20% of Nevada voters are unaffiliated or third party.
  • Voters in Nevada have the unique choice of casting a ballot for "none of these candidates" in addition to several third party candidates like Scott Ashjian of the Tea Party.
  • Early voting returns suggest that more Democrats have voted than Republicans although Independent voters could swing either way.


Counties to Watch:

  • Salt Lake will need to go heavily Democratic for Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon to win. Salt Lake County has grown rapidly over the past decade, and its population has become increasingly culturally and racially diverse.
  • Weber and Utah are key suburban counties outside Salt Lake

UT Governor

  • When popular Governor John Huntsman joined the Obama administration as Ambassador to China, he was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert, who is considered significantly to the right of Huntsman.
  • In this strongly Republican-leaning state, Democrat Corroon chose Republican State House Representative Sheryl Allen to be his running mate against Herbert.
  • Herbert suffered some serious ethical issues during the campaign which tarnished his image in this devoutly LDS state
  • Corroon has run a strong campaign but the state leans heavily Republican.