Governors of National Interest

November 03, 1990

Three far-away gubernatorial elections -- in California, Texas and Florida -- could portend big changes in national politics.

The key in these three state is who controls redistricting plans in these states, Republican or Democratic governors. In 1992, California will go from 45 House members to 52. Depending on how the state is re-districted, the number of Republicans and Democrats could vary by as many as a dozen. Texas, as the second or third largest state after the final Census count, with a probable 30 seats in the House, could also have a significant partisan swing. Ditto Florida, with four new seats.

Since governors can veto redistricting plans that favor the opposite party, the outcome of the gubernatorial races could prove pivotal.

In California, a Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, has a good chance to end eight years of Republican rule. She is running dead even with Republican Sen. Pete Wilson in the latest Los Angeles Times Poll. In Texas, Ann Richards, the Democratic state treasurer, has a fair chance to end four years of Republican rule there. She is now neck and neck in the polls with GOP rancher-businessman Clayton Williams. And in Florida, where Republicans have held the governorship for four years, former Democratic Sen. Lawton Chiles is considered even with the Repubican incumbent, Gov. Bob Martinez.

Big states dominate presidential as well as congressional politics. That's because of their large delegations to nominating conventions, big electoral college votes and many fat cats with mega-bucks for campaigners. Moreover, six of the last seven presidential elections have been won by politicians from California or Texas. In 1992, those two states plus Florida will contain over 40 percent of the presidential electoral votes.

A fourth large state's gubernatorial election, which is not suspenseful at all, may also impact national affairs. Gov. Mario Cuomo is breezing to re-election in New York. New York has been declining in relative population and shut out of the presidential sweepstakes for a long time, but it is still No. 2 in votes and campaign money, and Governor Cuomo appears ready to use his expected huge victory as a springboard into the 1992 presidential pool.

The Texas and California races are important for another reason. A woman could be elected governor of a major state for the first time. She would have to be taken seriously in presidential calculations. This would create the pool of presidential hopefuls and role models women need.

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