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In Winning Race to Top States, Hot Races for Governor

By Alyson Klein — August 31, 2010 1 min read
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Race to the Top Round 2 may be over, but another high-stakes competition is underway in just about all of the winning states: the 2010 gubernatorial elections.

And in some cases, the results of those contests could flip control of the state house from one party to the other. The question that’s tough to answer right now: Just how much ownership will a governor’s successor have over a plan his or her predecessor helped to create (or at least endorsed)?

Of the nine states that won Race to the Top grants last week, a whopping eight have elections underway for governor (everywhere but North Carolina). And the District of Columbia has its own very hot mayoral election coming up. Of those elections, five are rated as toss-ups by election-guru Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball. (The District’s mayoral election is also close enough to be a toss-up.)

To be sure, states have already taken steps to ensure that they stay on track with their plans regardless of political turnover. For instance, some of the winning bids (such as Maryland’s) involved legislation. And some gubernatorial-wannabes have made it clear that they stand behind their state’s plan. For instance, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic contender in New York, released this cheerleading statement.

And in Hawaii, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a member of Congress and the Democratic candidate who is considered likely to win the contest, said he’ll work with the Obama administration to make sure the plan is faithfully implemented.

But it’s not clear all candidates feel the same way. For instance, Nathan Deal, the GOP candidate for governor of Georgia, said less than a month ago that he would turn down Race to the Top money if his state won the contest. Now that up to $400 million is actually forthcoming, he’s changed his tune somewhat. But it’s tough to say whether he’ll shift back to his original thinking.

Just how much ownership will new governors have over their state’s Race to the Top plan, particularly when the elation of victory wears off? Stay tuned!