Don’t Forget! Even in Odd-Numbered Years, Tomorrow Is Election Day!

Have you been paying attention to off-year elections?  Even in 2009, there are a number of important races with possible national repercussions.  Make sure to take a break tomorrow and check out the results!

Significant elections range from off-year races for Governor, special elections for Congress, and in Maine, a referendum on that state’s recently signed legislation to allow gay marriage.  At least some Stanford students have paid attention to that last one: according to an October 26 article in The Stanford Daily, “Stanford students have made over 1,200 calls as part of a larger phone banking effort against Maine’s Question 1.” One student told me at Kairos last Wednesday that opponents of the referendum to ban gay marriage were willing to pay for his flight to bring students out to Maine for the weekend for grassroots organizing.

The most interesting (and frustrating) observation in these races for the future of Republicans is the presence of formidable third party candidates in races for Governor of New Jersey and New York’s 23rd congressional district.  In New York, county party chairs nominated their local assemblywoman, liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava.  Deemed unacceptable by conservative activists joined by the likes of Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, and Mike Huckabee, rejected nominee Doug Hoffman then took the Conservative Party line.  The development threatened to divide Republican votes and deliver a district that’s had a congressman from the *Whig Party *more recently than a Democrat to the Democrats.  Eventually, Scozzafava’s support collapsed and she withdrew, leaving a one-on-one between Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens likely to stay away from the Democrats. (There’s much more to the story but I tried to distill it as much as possible here.)

Still, it’s kind of a frightening precedent.  In New Jersey, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has left New Jersey in the gutter, but could still defeat former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie (R) because the independent, Chris Daggett, could take 10-20% of the vote, leaving Corzine re-elected with less than 45% of the vote (again, totally simplified).

Perhaps even more worrisome is a development in a competitive race for Congress in Ohio in 2010.  Ohio’s 15th District, a longtime Republican stronghold centered around Columbus, was one of the closest races in the country in 2008.  An open Republican seat, Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) barely prevailed after being behind State Sen. Steve Stivers (R) on election night.  Stivers has opted for a rematch in 2010, in what would surely be a nail-biter.  But as Politico recently reported, a Ron Paul acolyte, David Ryon, has decided to run as an independent in the general election rather than as a Republican against Stivers in the primary.  In such a close race, that could be the difference that keeps the seat in Kilroy’s hands.

So what do you think about this?  With third party candidates like Hoffman, Daggett, and Ryon, are Republicans eating their own in elections and preventing them from winning?  Or do conservative activists have a point, and are national leaders just not listening?  What’s in store for the future of the GOP?  Will they start winning, or will they become more pure?  Does that have to be mutually exclusive?

Before the Republicans took back the majority in Congress in 1994, a series of off-year wins in 1993 foreshadowed what was to come.  For those of you watching from college campuses, I recommend taking a shot for every race that Republicans win – out of joy for Republicans or out of anger for Democrats.

Polls close at 4:00 PST in Virginia; 5:00 PST in Maine, New Jersey, and New York City; 6:00 PST for New York’s 23rd congressional district; and 11:00 PST for California’s 10th congressional district.

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