Deserving winners and losers

Dateline 20 September 2006

In less than two months time America will elect the last Congress of George W Bush’s Presidency, and more than half the states – including New York – will elect a governor. New York is one of the states with an open gubernatorial election, so even if the result was in doubt we could still be sure the state was getting a new governor.

In mid-term elections I like to list the gubernatorial candidates I believe most deserve to win and those who most deserve to lose. Four years ago the results – when compared with my lists – were patchy. The governor who most deserved re-election was Florida’s Jeb Bush, pioneer of school choice in the Sunshine state. He won easily, and is now retiring as the state’s most popular politician. Close behind him on my list was the tax-cutting Bill Owens (R CO). He also won, but morphed into a tax-hiker in his final term. He no longer features on lists of potential Presidents, though he was a favorite with Republican activists just a few years ago.

On the other hand, the two governors I most wanted to see lose also won. But I claim a degree of prescience there anyway. The appalling Bob Taft (R. OH) is leaving office this year with his reputation in tatters. He was convicted of misdemeanor offences relating to his office last year, and by margins of four to one, even his own party disapproves of him. In California the monumentally incompetent Democrat incumbent, Grey Davis, defeated an incredibly weak Republican challenger, only to be recalled less than a year later, and replaced by Arnold Schwarzeneggar.

Of the candidates who deserve to lose this time, principal among them is New York’s own Elliot Spitzer. He has made a bonfire of civil liberties by his pursuit of business executives for previously unknown ‘crimes’. By bullying businesses into plea bargains – which they accept rather than pay millions in legal fees – he creates new offences without involving either the legislature or the judiciary. New Yorkers should kill his career in November, but polls show they will do nothing of the sort.

Of those that deserve to win, Ohio features again. Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, is a direct and charismatic politician with a radical agenda that is a huge departure for Ohio’s Republicans: a group previously so in love with office that they lost all sight of principle. Sadly the millstone of Bob Taft – a man Blackwell has battled against throughout his career – could sink this good man’s campaign. Blackwell did more than any Democrat to frustrate Taft’s tax-raising corruption, but the Democrats may well reap the reward from Taft’s demise.

Until recently I would have added Arnold Schwarzeneggar to my list. In his first year he earned a rare and coveted A for fiscal sanity from the Cato Institute. He also used his popularity to confront the vested interests that have pillaged California’s taxpayers – public sector unions, especially teachers.

Unfortunately a quadruple-whammy of defeats in initiatives he called, including by the teachers’ union, forced him to change direction. While a far more robust protector of taxpayers and crime victims than his Democrat challenger, he is no longer leading the challenge to California’s looters-in-chief, and so he no longer qualifies for my A list.

Quentin Langley is editor of an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.

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