DGA Leaders Talk Up Manchin and Heitkamp for Governor in 2016

At the National Governors Association, Democratic leaders compared their jobs favorably with legislating in the Capitol.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) talks to members of the media at the Capitol Building on October 14, 2013 in Washington, DC. As Democratic and Republican leaders negotiate an end to the shutdown and a way to raise the debt limit, the White House postponed a planned Monday afternoon meeting with Boehner and other Congressional leaders. The government shutdown is currently in its 14th day.
National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
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Karyn Bruggeman
Feb. 21, 2015, 10:52 a.m.

Ahead of a tough slate of 2016 gubernat­ori­al races, the lead­ers of the Demo­crat­ic Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation tweaked Wash­ing­ton’s slow gov­ern­ing pace and said that they are closely watch­ing two in­cum­bent, red-state U.S. sen­at­ors who could run for their states’ top slots.

The 2015 DGA chair, Montana Gov. Steve Bul­lock, and his vice-chair and des­ig­nated suc­cessor for 2016, Con­necti­c­ut Gov. Dan Mal­loy, spent part of their Sat­urday at the Na­tion­al Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation meet­ings in Wash­ing­ton shower­ing praise on Demo­crat­ic Sens. Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp. Manchin served as gov­ernor of West Vir­gin­ia be­fore run­ning for Sen­ate in 2010 and has ex­pressed in­terest in run­ning again, while Heitkamp once ran for gov­ernor of North Dakota and has been the sub­ject of gubernat­ori­al ru­mors at home for months — ru­mors she de­clined to ad­dress dir­ectly when asked in Janu­ary.

“We don’t really have a read” on Manchin po­ten­tially run­ning for gov­ernor of West Vir­gin­ia again, Mal­loy said. “I mean, the fact that he is con­sid­er­ing it ob­vi­ously is sig­ni­fic­ant. He con­tin­ues to be im­mensely pop­u­lar in his state so I think that cer­tainly would make that a much easi­er state to de­fend if he was to be­come a can­did­ate. I think if he wants to be gov­ernor and he runs, then he’s go­ing to be gov­ernor.”

Mean­while, Bul­lock was ex­cited about the idea of Heitkamp run­ning in North Dakota. “I haven’t spoken to her,” Bul­lock said. “But Heidi is a rock star and we’d love to see her run.”

Bul­lock con­tin­ued, “I think in a lot of areas too, that there’s some dis­cus­sions of sort of the frus­tra­tion that noth­ing gets done in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. So they can come home, where you can ac­tu­ally get real res­ults.”

Bul­lock also thinks New Or­leans May­or Mitch Landrieu is still “care­fully con­sid­er­ing” the 2015 Louisi­ana gov­ernor’s race and that Landrieu would make a “strong can­did­ate” if he ran. And Mal­loy said he’s genu­inely not sure wheth­er an­oth­er leg­acy politi­cian, Delaware’s Beau Biden, might run for gov­ernor of his state in 2016. Biden has not spoken with the press since late 2013.

Bul­lock said even though Louisi­ana is a “struc­tur­ally tough state” for Demo­crats, if Landrieu ran “that would give us a good fight­ing chance.” Landrieu’s sis­ter, former Sen. Mary Landrieu, lost her Sen­ate reelec­tion cam­paign by double di­gits in the state last year. But a hand­ful of polls have sug­ges­ted the New Or­leans may­or could be com­pet­it­ive against the race’s cur­rent front-run­ner, Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Dav­id Vit­ter.

Landrieu was first elec­ted may­or of New Or­leans in 2010 after serving just shy of two terms as lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor, and he is the last of the Landrieu clan to re­main in elec­ted of­fice in a state that has be­come in­creas­ingly tough ter­rain for Demo­crats. Landrieu’s fath­er, Moon Landrieu, is a former New Or­leans may­or.

Des­pite the in­trigue sur­round­ing the party’s un­de­cided can­did­ates, the 2015-2016 gubernat­ori­al map is gen­er­ally ex­pec­ted to be a tough one for Demo­crats, and the fo­cus at this early stage is primar­ily on three states that are likely to be highly com­pet­it­ive: Ken­tucky, Mis­souri, and North Car­o­lina.

The party is bank­ing on can­did­ate qual­ity to help over­come the con­ser­vat­ive lean of all three states. Demo­crats have already co­alesced early around Jack Con­way in Ken­tucky, Chris Koster in Mis­souri, and Roy Cooper in North Car­o­lina. All three cur­rently serve as state at­tor­neys gen­er­al, and Bul­lock em­phas­ized that he has close re­la­tion­ships with the three men thanks to his time spent as at­tor­ney gen­er­al of Montana be­fore he be­came gov­ernor.

Bul­lock faces reelec­tion in a Re­pub­lic­an-lean­ing state him­self in 2016. “I’d like to think Montana’s a pri­or­ity race as well,” he joked.

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