Political candidates across the country are casting an anxious eye toward primary elections today (9/10), as voters in 11 states go to the polls to begin choosing their next slate of state officeholders.
Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin all hold primaries in what is expected to be the largest voter turnout so far in the 2002 elections.
On November 5, voters will choose 36 governors, 6,214 legislators, 34 U.S. senators, 435 U.S. representatives and hundreds of other state officials. After Tuesday's primaries, 36 states will have selected candidates for those contests.
This year's elections could be historic for women, who are vying for the governorships of 12 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Women already hold the governorships of five states: Arizona, Delaware,Massachusetts, Montana, and New Hampshire.
The 2002 elections are also important for another reason. Because of term limits, 330 state legislators are being turned out of office in 11 states. Michigan and Missouri will take the hardest hits, losing 138 lawmakers between them. However, some legislators who first ran for office promising not to become career politicians are seeking other elected positions. A few state senators, for example, are running for House seats and some House members have become Senate candidates.
The elections could have an impact on party control of state legislatures. Right now, the Democrats and the Republicans are even, with each side controlling 18 legislatures. Fourteen are split. But redistricting may put the Democrats in control again of the Illinois legislature. They now hold the House and need only four more seats to win the Senate.
Another shift may come in Texas where Republicans now control the Senate and appear on the verge of taking the House from the Democrats. If GOP Gov. Rick Perry holds on in his campaign against Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez it may give the Republicans total control of the government.
The Democrats have reason for optimism nationwide, especially in the gubernatorial races. The Republicans now control 27 governorships to the Democrats 21 (two are held by Independents). Of the 23 Republican seats up for election this year, 13 of them are open and (like Illinois) will be tougher to defend. Many political analysts believe the Democrats are likely pick up the three-to-four seats they need to win a majority of governorships.