Election 2014  
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6 Rabidly Right-Wing Republican Governors Who Might Get the Boot

They put right-wing ideology first—and voters don’t like it.
 
 
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott visits Verizon in April.
Photo Credit: FlGov.com

 

Six of the nation’s most heavy-handed Republican governors are facing tough 2014 re-election contests that leading Beltway analysts say are “toss-ups,” which means current polling suggests that they face good odds of being ousted by voters this fall.

The endangered Republicans include party leaders on a litany of issues that have come to define the modern GOP as being more driven by anti-government ideology and corporate giveaways than helping the middle- and working classes. The governors are known for cutting corporate taxes, public-sector union-busting, defunding education, gutting social safety nets, not expanding Medicaid for the poor under Obamacare, loosening gun laws and stripping voting rights. Many have used their office to reward their allies and bully opponents. In response, pollsters are saying they are in 2014’s closest races.

That’s the conclusion at RealPolitics.com, The Cook Political Report, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and by other political handicappers. In contrast, the three “toss-up” races involving Democratic governors have very different dynamics. Two are rematches with past candidates who lost to incumbents (Connecticut, Hawaii). A third involves a GOP millionaire running against an uncharismatic governor in a large blue state (Illinois).

Let’s look at the six endangered Republicans who may be ousted this fall.

1. Florida’s Tea Party Republican Rick Scott. Florida under Scott has not been a state of warm sunshine and welcoming beaches. Joblessness, foreclosures, crimes preying on the elderly, economic inequality have all risen under his tenure. Scott also has overseen cuts in needed programs, from education to social welfare. Scott made his fortune as the head of a hospital chain that was fined $1.7 billion in the late 1990s for Medicare fraud— as Politifact Florida put it, stealing from the elderly. His re-election strategy is based on spreading fears about Obamacare and trashing the health reform. Like most ideological Republicans, he did not expand his state’s public healthcare for the poor—Medicaid—under the Affordable Care Act, despite federal funding covering the startup costs.

Scott’s Democratic opponent is likely to be former moderate Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched parties and has attacked Scott for putting profits ahead of people—in the private sector and as governor. Scott favored tax cuts, but raised taxes when economic growth faltered, Crist said. He tried to purge voter rolls of hundreds of thousands of non-white voters, but backed down under Department of Justice pressure. “It’s kind of a pattern. It’s fraud,” Crist said in May. “That’s what he does.”

2. Wisconsin’s Union-Buster Scott Walker. Two years ago, Walker became the darling of the GOP’s union-busting wing by ripping up collective bargaining rights won by most of the state’s public employee unions—teachers and civil servants but not police and fire fighters. That prompted tens of thousands of people to protest for weeks at the Capitol in Madison and sparked a special recall election. However, Walker won after Democrats put forth the same lackluster candidate who lost to him in 2010. His tough-on-crime policies also have been singled out as racially discriminatory, leading to the country’s highest rate of African-American men behind bars, the New Republic reported. Walker also refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. This year, he faces Democrat Mary Burke, an ex-Trek Bicycle executive and ex-state secretary of commerce. She has a record of creating jobs, while under Walker the state has seen poor job growth compared to its nieghbors.

Walker also is emeshed in a corruption scandal for being at the center of an “criminal scheme,” as prosecutors—including Republicans—recently put it, for funnelling $20 million from a who’s who of right wingers to front groups who backed him during the recall. Walker, who sees himself as a 2016 presidential contender, told Fox News that case was “resolved.” However, it’s not, and the political money-laundering affair will keep reminding voters of his arrogance and imperial management style into the fall.