Stateline Story

Democratic Governors Lay Groundwork for 2005, 2006

  • December 03, 2004
  • By Pamela Prah
The nation's Democratic governors unveiled a new strategy for reversing Republican gains that includes putting Democratic organizers in the 36 states that will hold governors' elections in the next two years.

"We need to start today to prepare ... to win these races," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said at a press conference Dec. 2 with seven of 16 Democratic governors who traveled to the nation's capital.

The governors officially elected Richardson as the new chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, taking over for Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. It was the first meeting of the DGA since the November elections in which Democrats upset a sitting Republican governor in New Hampshire, won in the "red" state of Montana but saw a Democratic governor ousted in Indiana.

"The Democratic Governors Association will be a states-based political organization. The Democratic party can't continue to be a Washingtonbased party," Richardson said, laying out the DGA's plan to bolster its ranks and political clout by working with mayors, attorneys general and state party officials.

"We want the center of gravity of the Democratic Party to be the Democratic governors," Richardson said.

Democrats will control 21 state chief executive spots in 2005, one less than before the November elections. The count could change depending on the Washington state race, which is still unsettled. Republican Dino Rossi (R) holds a 42-vote lead over Democratic contender Attorney General Christine Gregoire, who likely will ask for a recount.

Only two states -- Virginia and New Jersey -- will hold gubernatorial elections next year. In 2006, Democrats have some built-in advantages going into the election. Of the 34 governors' races that year, 21 Republican-held seats are at stake and, in six of those, the incumbent can't run again because of term limits. All of the 13 Democratic governors up for re-election in 2006 are eligible to run for another term.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Democratic governors should play a leadership role in setting party policy, even at the national level. "We are very fiscally responsible, and we are very centered on the things that average citizens care about because we are all out there on the ground. We see it every day," she said.

The group noted that Democrats were elected governor in both red and blue states, and members touted how states have launched innovative programs on education, health care and jobs. "We know how to win," Richardson said.