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Democrats Net Two Secretary of State Seats

Democrats will gain control of three new chief elections officer positions — in Montana, West Virginia and Colorado — and lose one — in Tennessee — for a net gain of two.

In most states, the chief elections officer is the Secretary of State. Similarly, most are directly elected by the voters. Other chief elections officials are appointed by the governor or state legislature.

In 2008, there were seven direct elections of Secretaries of State who control oversight of statewide elections. Going into the elections, Democrats held four seats while Republicans held three. After Tuesday, Democrats hold six of the seven up for grabs. Democrats flipped seats in Montana and West Virginia via direct election. Incumbent Brad Johnson lost to Linda McCulloch in Montana, and Natalie Tennant won an open, Republican-held seat in West Virginia to replace outgoing Betty Ireland.

In Missouri, Vermont and North Carolina, incumbent Democrats won Secretary of State races. In Oregon, Democrats won an open, Democratic-held office when Kate Brown won. Only in Washington did the incumbent Republican hold his seat.

Colorado presents a Democratic pickup because Secretary of State Mike Coffman left to pursue Tom Tancredo’s 6th district House seat, which he won. Democratic governor Bill Ritter will name a replacement, almost certainly a Democrat (Republican Governor Bill Owens appointed a Republican to replace Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar after Salazar won a Senate seat in 2004).

Democrats will lose an office in Tennessee because the state legislature appoints the chief elections official there, and it has finally flipped Republican with this year’s elections. Indeed, in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee the chief elections officers have flipped Republican since 2004.

However, while Republicans held the offices during the 2004 elections, Democrats gained control with gubernatorial pickups in Maryland and New York (and ultimately Colorado, though that will be special appointment). Dems also gained offices by winning statewide elections in Missouri (2004), Minnesota (2006), Nevada (2006), Ohio (2006), Montana (2008) and West Virginia (2008).

In 2010, Secretary of State races with incumbent Republicans will be held in Alabama, Alaska (Lieutenant Governor appoints), Arizona, Florida (governor appoints), Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina (governor appoints), South Dakota, Texas (governor appoints), and Wyoming.

Secretary of State races with incumbent Democrats in 2010 will be held in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania (governor appoints), and Rhode Island (governor appoints).

The Virginia chief elections officer is appointed by the governor, and that race will be in 2009. Races in 2011 include Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, all held by Republicans.


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