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Governor candidates on firing line in midterms

By Tom Raum

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 24 2010 9:55 a.m. MDT

—In the race to succeed retiring Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Republican front-runner Tom Corbett and Democratic rival Don Onorato have clashed over who will better rein in state spending and a proposed tax on the state's burgeoning natural gas industry. Onorato supports the tax, Corbett opposes it. Both have said they are willing to consider legislation to replace local school property taxes with an expanded state sales tax.

—In Texas, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White has accused appointees of Republican Gov. Rick Perry of pressuring Texas teacher retirement system managers to make potentially risky investments that gave state business to politically connected companies, an allegation Perry disputes.

President Barack Obama is crossing the nation to stump for one Democratic governor or contender after another. It's "absolutely critical" to elect Democratic governors as well as House and Senate members, he tells partisan audiences.

In the past few weeks, he's stumped for Brown, Strickland and Democratic Govs. Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and Martin O'Malley in Maryland. He's also made campaign appearances with Democratic gubernatorial candidates Tom Barrett in Wisconsin, John Kitzhaber in Oregon, Mark Dayton in Minnesota and Brown in California.

Most governors will play critical roles next year in the once-a-decade redrawing of boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts to reflect the 2010 census. Because governors also control the levers of political machinery in their states, they will also be crucial for lining up support in the 2012 presidential contest.

While the party in the White House historically loses governorships as well as House and Senate seats in midterm elections, the dynamic is somewhat different, said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

"People employ a different set of criteria when they make a determination about a governor. A senator is one of 100. People don't care so much if you're a good manager," said Mellman, whose clients include some of this year's Democratic gubernatorial candidates. "But a governor is an executive, like the president. It makes a big difference."

Online:

National Governors Association: http://www.nga.org

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