The 5 best races of 2013

November 30, 2012

The 2012 election ended three weeks ago. It's time to move on. Luckily, we have a full slate of 2013 races to pore over! (This reminds us that the best thing about elections is that there's always another election.)

Our list of the five best 2013 races is below, and they run the gamut from big city mayoral contests to governor's races to an expected special election to replace likely second term Obama cabinet pick Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).


While the governing dynamics of each of these races is unique, it's worth watching -- particularly in the two gubernatorial contests and the expected Kerry special -- what the national political environment looks like in the year following President Obama's reelection.

Think back to 2009/early 2010 when, in the wake of a sweeping electoral victory by Obama, Republicans elected governors in Virginia and New Jersey and then two months later elected Scott Brown in another Massachusetts Senate special election.

All three races were regarded as evidence not only that the GOP was far from beaten as a national party, but also as early indicators of the sweeping gains the party made in 2010.


It remains to be seen whether any -- or all -- of the Fix's top five races of 2013 will have that sort of impact, but several of them are already being cast as important tests of the future direction for both parties.

Without further ado, we give you our five best 2013 races! Did we miss one? Rank one too high or too low? The comments section awaits!

5. Los Angeles Mayor: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) is term-limited, so the race to replace him will be an open contest. The frontrunners appear to be three political insiders with strong ties to labor: City Councilwoman Jan Perry, Councilman Eric Garcetti and city Controller Wendy Greuel. Perry and Gruel are vying to become the city’s first female mayor. The primary will take place in March, with the general election to follow in May. Getting support from Latino voters will be huge in a city where Hispanics make up 40 percent of the vote.

4. New Jersey governor: New polling out this week shows Gov. Chris Christie (R) has reaped huge political benefit from his response to Hurricane Sandy, with two polls actually pegging his approval rating above 70 percent. Democrats’ top potential recruit is Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), but running against Christie will be tough, and Booker’s best option appears to be running for Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-N.J.) Senate seat in 2014. If Booker doesn’t run for governor, Christie will likely face state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D).

3. Massachusetts Senate special election: Odds are that Sen. John Kerry (D) will be a member of President Obama’s cabinet next year. He’s a buzzy choice for defense secretary, or even secretary of state if United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice can’t be confirmed. If Kerry departs, a host of Democrats would give replacing him a strong look, including Reps. Ed Markey, Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch, and former congressman Marty Meehan. Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lost a lost a 2010 special election after running a lousy campaign remains popular, and is also a possibility, though she is said to be more interested in a 2014 gubernatorial bid. On the GOP side, the outgoing Brown is the clearest option. If Brown were to win, though, he’d face reelection again in 2014 -- his fourth (!) campaign in four years.

2. New York City mayor: Michael Bloomberg is term-limited, leaving control of the biggest city in the country up for grabs. On the Democratic side, 2009 nominee and former city comptroller Bill Thompson is joined by a cast that includes City Council Speaker
Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and current Comptroller John Liu. On the Republican side, former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrion Jr. is eyeing that party’s nomination after leaving his post as director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs and switching his party affiliation from Democrat to independent. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Quinn with a big early lead in both the primary and the general election. She would be the city’s first female mayor.

1. Virginia governor: Imagine the two most polarizing politicians in a state. Then imagine them running against one another. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2013 Virginia governor's race! State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe (D) are figures who generate considerable excitement within their own party bases and utter disdain from the other side's base. Neither man has an obvious appeal to the ideological middle of the Commonwealth, but both have to find one if they want to win. This is going to be a very nasty race.

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Sean Sullivan · November 30, 2012