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Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted
Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted made it as hard as possible for Democrats to vote in 2012. Now Democrats can beat him.
You often don't know how important a secretary of state election is until long after you've lost one.

While their powers vary considerably from state to state, secretaries of state have a good deal of influence over how voter ID laws are carried out, who gets to vote early, what areas may or may not have enough voting machines on election day, and who gets to stay on the voter rolls. In a perfect world, all secretaries of state would carry out their jobs competently and without regard to partisan interest. However, all too often that's not what happens. There have been a number of controversies involving secretaries of state in the last few election cycles.

Secretary of state races were largely ignored for years, and they still tend to attract low voter interest. However, both parties have begun to understand how important these elections are. This cycle, the Republicans have a PAC called "SOS for SoS" that will spend millions to try and win these offices in critical states. Democrats have two main committees, "SoS for Democracy" and "iVote." Both sides understand that it is essential to get involved now in secretary of state races now, before it is far too late. As then-Florida Secretary of State Kathrine Harris proved in 2000, these races can often resonate far beyond state lines.

For progressives looking to fight back in the War on Voting, this is the central battleground. This post is designed to help activists target the most important races where we can make the biggest difference. Daily Kos has already made one endorsement on this front, for Ohio's Nina Turner, and we expect to make more. But you don't have to wait for Daily Kos to act. Whether you want to get involved in a race in your state or adopt a candidate in another, this is the place to start.

Head below the fold for a look at the major battles for secretary of state, as well as some others worth watching and getting involved in.

Map of 2014 secretary of state contests
The above map by Stephen Wolf gives a lay of the land for this year's races. Note that in Illinois and Wisconsin the secretary of state does not oversee elections, but they are included here for the sake of completeness. In many states, the secretary of state is appointed rather than elected. For a look at who oversees elections in all 50 states, see this chart.

This year 25 states will hold secretary of state elections. In many of these races one party is the overwhelming favorite and there isn't much to see. Some of these contests may develop later, bur right now Democrats look set to hold their seats in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin without too much trouble. The Republicans should be fine in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

For the most part all these states heavily lean to the party that holds them. The exception is Michigan, where Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson looks safe: Godfrey Dillard, the likely Democratic nominee, has yet to report raising any money and does not even have an active website.

However, many other races will be tough and expensive battles that neither party is willing to lose.  

Key swing state races:

Colorado: With an open seat in a critical swing state, this should be a hotly contested contest. Democrats are fielding University of Colorado Regent Joe Neguse, while the Republicans have El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams. Neguse is exactly the type of person Democrats would want leading the elections' division: He has worked to make it easier for students to register to vote. Democrats also see Neguse as a rising star in the party.

Neguse has been the better fundraiser, holding a $209,000 to $84,000 cash-on-hand edge as of the beginning of August. A July PPP poll found Democrats in general lagging in the state, with Williams ahead 35-27. However, neither candidate is well known, and Neguse should have the resources to introduce himself to voters sooner. Big money groups on both sides are also expected to get involved.

Iowa: Both parties have veteran political figures for this open-seat swing state race. The Democrats have Brad Anderson, who was the director of the Obama campaign's successful 2012 effort in the state. The Republicans are running Paul Pate, who served as secretary of state in the '90s and then as mayor of Cedar Rapids. Anderson has been the better fundraiser so far, holding a $193,000 to $56,000 edge as of early May. Anderson has been adamant about his opposition to voter ID laws, while Pate has been far more supportive of the idea. This is another state race groups are expected to heavily fight for.

Nevada: Democrats will be defending this swing state post. Team Blue is fielding Treasurer Kate Marshall, who lost a special election for the 2nd Congressional District in 2011. The GOP has state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, who lost a primary for the 4th District in 2012. This is another race where voter ID has emerged as a wedge issue, with Marshall opposing it and Cegavske in support. Marshall has been a much better fundraiser than Cegavske and Nevada Democrats are far better organized than their Republican counterparts. However, with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval poised to win a landslide re-election victory, Team Blue can take nothing for granted.

Ohio: This will almost certainly be the most competitive secretary of state's contest in the nation. Republican incumbent Jon Husted attracted a good deal of attention in the lead-up to the 2012 election. While Husted couldn't get Mitt Romney a victory in the state, it wasn't for lack for trying: On of Husted's most infamous decisions was to cut back early voting in overwhelmingly African-American areas.  

The Democrats are fielding state Sen. Nina Turner to oppose Husted. Turner, who has been endorsed by Daily Kos, has polled competitively with Husted in PPP surveys for the Ohio Democratic Party. However, Turner faces a huge cash deficit, trailing the incumbent $3,135,000 to $741,000 in cash-on-hand as of early August. Republicans are going to fight very hard to keep this coveted office and protect their rising stars.

Many other competitive contests will be held in states that aren't currently viewed as swing states. These races can still very much matter: Secretaries of states can often play a vital role in gubernatorial, Senate, and House races along with a host of others.

Other notable secretary of state contests:

Arizona: Terry Goddard, a former attorney general and the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, is hoping to return to office here. Three Republicans are fighting it out in Tuesday's primary for the right to defend this open seat. Arizona is not yet a swing state but may be moving in that direction, and both parties will want to hold this seat in any case.  

Arkansas: Republican incumbent Mark Martin is running again, and faces a challenge from state Election Commission Chair Susan Inman. This has been a low-key race with neither candidate raising much. However, Martin has been hit by allegations that he illegally claimed too many homestead tax credits.

Indiana: Republican Connie Lawson was appointed to this post after her predecessor left in disgrace, and she is defending it from Democratic Marion County Clerk Beth White. A win here would give Democrats a statewide officeholder in a state where their bench has languished in recent years. However, as of the end of June, Lawson holds a large $525,000 to $195,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Kansas: With Republican Gov. Sam Brownback horrifically unpopular, incumbent Kris Kobach can take nothing for granted here. Democrats would love to beat Kobach, who has championed some of the toughest voter ID laws anywhere, and is a likely contender for higher office down the line. Kobach, who has also written many of the major pieces of anti-immigration legislation passed by Republican legislatures in recent years, faces a challenge from former state Sen. Jean Schodorf. Schodorf, a former moderate Republican turned Democrat, has polled very competitively with Kobach in recent weeks: SurveyUSA gave Kobach a 47-41 lead, while PPP had him up 43-38. However, Schodorf does not have much cash available.

Minnesota: Former state Rep. Dan Severson came close to unseating Democrat Mark Ritchie in 2010, losing only 49-46. Ritchie is retiring this time around, and Severson is again the Republican nominee. The Democrats are fielding state Rep. Steve Simon, who holds a $96,000 to $38,000 cash-on-hand edge as of mid-July.

New Mexico: Republican incumbent Dianna Duran is running again, and she faces a tough challenge from Democrat Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Toulouse Oliver has a $124,000 to $111,000 cash-on-hand edge here: She has called for online voter registration, while Duran supports voter ID.

All of these are important races. Some may become more or less competitive as we get closer to November, and some additional races could always come into play. No matter what though, Democrats cannot afford to be caught napping and allow Team Red to run the table in secretaries of state contests.  

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 08:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Arizona Secretary of State election (18+ / 0-)

    is of special importance in that as we have no Lt. Gov. the SoS succeeds the Governor in the event s/he is unable to complete the term.

    That's how we got Jan Brewer, when Janet Napolitano went to the Obama Administration.

    We can't think our way into a better way of living. We have to live our way into a better way of thinking. Claude AnShin Thomas

    by DaNang65 on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 09:05:27 AM PDT

    •  Circumstances for Arizona dems (6+ / 0-)

      couldn't be better this year. It seems like in every statewide contest, the GOP has a primary and the Dems are solidly behind a single candidate. (Even Trent Franks is being primaried, although he unfortunately he will run unopposed in the fall in R+7 CD8 ). Although the governor race is a good example, the SoS race also has a GOP field trying to  outcrazy each other with a solid well-known respected candidate in Goddard for the Dems. The current favorite, Michele Reagan, voted for SB1070, SB1062, rated 83% by the NRA, 0% by Sierra Club, voted for the federal government to hand over all public lands to the state, voted to authorize employers to refuse contraceptive coverage, voted for nullification of parts of the NDAA, voted for birth certificates for presidential candidates to run in Arizona...

      It is not the private interests of the individual that create lasting fellowship among men, but rather the goals of humanity. ~ The I Ching, 13th Hexagram

      by Blue Intrigue on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 09:46:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Terry Goddard's (7+ / 0-)

      father was the governor before the state went all out for the RWNJ's.  My parents were born and raised in AZ and when I asked them when and how the RW's had taken over the state my Dad said two words:  Sun City.  So conservative retirees from the Midwest are what turned it into the state it is today.

      I left and hope to never go back.

    •  Just what I was going to say. n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

      by ramara on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 11:48:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ohio's (R) Husted Also Wants to End Its Electoral (15+ / 0-)

    vote winner take all, as do some other bluish swing states, to make the White House Democrat-proof.

    I would think about showing up this November with an eye toward 2016 having the WH and House potentially made almost out of reach even for majority Democratic votes.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 09:23:08 AM PDT

    •  I expect Republicans to try to pass this in any (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      blue/swing state they control before the 2016 election, with little time to fight it in court and little confidence that the Supreme Court would not go along with it.  

      Since the legislatures in most of these states are severely gerrymandered, the only way to protect against it is to elect Democrats into the governorship or maybe SoS.

      “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

      by ahumbleopinion on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 10:48:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Secretary Of State Elections Can Have National: (9+ / 0-)

    and international ramifications - sometimes catastrophic, just ask Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris; George W. Bush and Al Gore:

    After several recounts were inconclusive and the laws governing recounts were unclear Harris halted the recounting process and certified that the Republican candidate, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, had defeated the Democratic candidate, then-Vice President Al Gore, in the popular vote of Florida and thus certified the Republican slate of electors. Thus allowing Bush to win the election. Her ruling was upheld in the state circuit court, but was subsequently overturned on appeal by the Florida Supreme Court.

    But the Florida Supreme Court decision was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. In a per curiam decision, by a 7-2 vote, the Court in Bush v. Gore held that the Florida Supreme Court's method for recounting ballots was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. By a 5–4 vote, the US Supreme Court held that no alternative method for a recount could be established within the time limits set by the State of Florida.

    The decision allowed Harris's previous certification of Bush as the winner of Florida's electoral votes to stand. Florida's 25 electoral votes gave Bush, the Republican candidate, 271 electoral votes, defeating Gore, who ended up with 266 electoral votes (with one D.C. elector abstaining).

    source: katherine harris wiki
  •  Vote by using a absentee ballot! (5+ / 0-)

    You want your vote to count and avoid long lines on Election Day?
    Vote by using a absentee ballot!
    Check out your local SOS election site and request a absentee ballot! Each ballot has a number on it that is yours and yours alone.
    After the election is over, depending on what the wait period is in each state, you can see that your vote was counted by looking up your name! You never known whether or not your vote was counted when you show up in person, on election day!

    Vote by absentee ballot! Its fast! It's easy! It only cost's the price of one stamp and there's no standing in line for hours!

    •  Except for states that restricted this! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, LordMike

      Several states with Voter ID laws also restricted absentee ballot applications...

    •  I voted by absentee ballot once. (7+ / 0-)

      It was in Florida. Several weeks after the election had been certified for the GOP candidate, I got a letter in the mail from the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections office advising me my ballot had not been counted because my signature didn't match their records. I went to the office with my DL and voter's registration card and my signatures matched their records. However, the election had already been called, so too bad, so sad.

      Now I have made it a point to get to the polls in person even if I have to walk, crawl and take a lunch. No more absentee ballots for me. They can be "lost in the mail", thrown in the trash or otherwise invalidated and you'll either not know or have no recourse. Fortunately, I'm retired now, so I'm usually at the polling place the moment the doors open. Also, now living in a rural area, I seldom have more than a few minutes to wait.

      As they say, once burned, twice shy. I don't trust a ballot being counted I haven't cast in person. Even then (in Miami) machines have been tampered with and votes reversed. Maybe we need big paper ballots and purple ink to dip our voting finger in?!

      •  Screwed up a 'X' mark! (0+ / 0-)

        How could you screw-up drawing a 'X' on your ballot? Even a blind man can mark with a X!

      •  yeah, I never understand the blythe conviction (0+ / 0-)

        of absentee-ballot-proponents, that your SENDING IN your absentee ballot will mean IT GETS COUNTED! Seems like handing your vote to the "bad guys", free-gratis!

        Of course, I live in a fairly blue state, that has had Dem SoS' for the last forever or so... well, since 1985, and before that R's -- but they were REAL Republicans (including folks like Mark Hatfield & Tom McCall). And in Oregon, EVERYBODY VOTES BY MAIL!

        "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

        by chimene on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 08:04:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This important diary.... (7+ / 0-)

    speaks to the fact that every election is important...
    Federal, state, and local...
    Mid-terms as well as the General [election].
    Reclaiming our democracy is not going to happen in one election cycle, so we MUST get out the vote this November with one eye on 2016, (and beyond).

    "These 'Yet To Be' United States" --James Baldwin-- -6.75, -5.78

    by kevinbr38 on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 09:36:28 AM PDT

  •  These elections are important for a lot of reasons (6+ / 0-)

    but in states where the SoS does oversee elections, it's REALLY important.

    We don't elect our SoS (or Attorney General  or Treasurer) here in Maine, but they are not exactly appointed, either: they are elected by a majority of the Senate, so , essentially appointed by the majority party. I don't know if that's a unique situation in this country but it is a part of the original 1820 Constitution largely written by William King and former President Thomas Jefferson.

    Which means in our state, if you are concerned about who the Constitutional officers are (and we have no Lt. Governor, either) it's a MUST to vote in state lege elections. When the majority party flips, like it did back to a Dem majority in 2012, those three Constitutional officers change party, too, and they have important responsibilities.

    These offices matter no matter if they oversee elections or are appointed or elected. Thanks for bringing these races to our attention.

    "To take another person's life from the bench is no better than to take another person's life from the street"

    by commonmass on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 09:39:06 AM PDT

  •  Husted is evil RW racist like (almost) all the (5+ / 0-)

    elected Rs in OH.

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 09:42:45 AM PDT

    •  I agree with you about Husted. (4+ / 0-)

      Another nasty right wing turd is Josh Mandel, the GOP pimp that's our state's treasurer. Not even his family likes him. I'm hoping we'll at least get rid of Husted and Mandel. Kasich, however, will win another term with little effort. Fitzgerald has little money and trails by double digits while on the defensive over not having an Ohio DL for 10 years and other personal issues. I think Ohio will remain Red in terms of state government for the foreseeable future and that's sad.

  •  IA SoS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Today's Des Moines Register has an article on the Secretary of State race in Iowa.

  •  It might help if we all bear in mind that if we (4+ / 0-)

    don't vote in this election we may not be able to effectively vote ever again.  The RW message is that governing should be neither democratic nor representational, rather it should be the divine right of  the rightwing.  

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 10:02:18 AM PDT

  •  Prefer 'I Voted' rather then 'My vote counted'. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Secretary of State (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    At the federal level, the Secretary of State is the nation's chief diplomat.  But as a resident of a state with no such office, I'm baffled as to the role of such officers at the state-level.  Obviously they're not diplomats, so what do they do?

    •  Often they are in charge of running elections, (4+ / 0-)

      but not always. In some states, they are in charge of the registry/bureau/department of motor vehicles and such. In some states without a Lt. Governor, they would take over if a sitting governor died or resigned during the course of their term.

      "To take another person's life from the bench is no better than to take another person's life from the street"

      by commonmass on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 10:38:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Jan Brewer (5+ / 0-)

        She was Secretary of State in Arizona. Obama handed her the governorship when he appointed Janet Napolitano to Homeland Security, since Arizona's an example of a state with no Lt. Gov.

        Looking back, Katherine Harris was Secretary of State in Florida, running the ugly 2000 election in that state which put in Bush over Gore. Kenneth Blackwell did bad stuff in Ohio that helped assure Bush beat Kerry there in 2004.

        It's all the many states where the SoS's run the elections which matter a lot.

        Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

        by Land of Enchantment on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 10:53:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  yep, here in Oregon (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the Secretary of State runs elections and voter registration (and draws the state legislative redistricting map if the legislature fails to pass one), runs the business licensing agency, manages the state archives, and is the state auditor. And also succeeds the governor if the governor leaves office. It's kind of a catch-all position.

        We no longer ask if a man has integrity, but if he has talent. - Rousseau, Discourse on the arts and sciences

        by James Allen on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 10:04:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  In Massachusetts... (0+ / 0-)

      He is the chief elections officer, but also is responsible for corporate registration and historical preservation.  He is the the record keeper and archivist of the state.  It is the statewide office I would personally be most interested in holding.  He is elected every four years at the same time, but on a different ballot line than the Governor, chosen through the same partisan nomination process (which would not be the case if I had my way).  He becomes Acting Governor in the event of death, disability, resignation, removal, or absence of both the Governor and Lt. Governor.  BTW, as we think very highly of ourselves here in the Bay State that would be Secretary of the COMMONWEALTH to you!:)

      The incumbent is Bill Galvin, first elected in 1994, and his predecessor also served multiple terms making him only the 2nd SoC elected in my lifetime.  He has had only token opposition from inside and outside the party since.  He is not thought of as progressive or innovative, but is competent enough.

    •  I would put this simply... (0+ / 0-)

      If you want legitimate elections, in the near term, it's absolutely necessary to have Democrats serving in every state's "Secretary of State" office.  There's nothing magic about Brand-D, and someday we may again see Democratic political machines trying to rig elections, but in recent decades the Republicans have been making the dirtiest moves they can possibly get away with-- and with the big media effectively in their pocket, they can get away with a lot.

      Games we have seen played include providing inadequate voting equipment in Democratic districts, voter ID laws that are titled against Democrats, suspicious vote counting proceedures, and electronic voting machines that look like they're designed for rigging elections.

      If your state doesn't demand paper ballots that allow a meaningful recount, that typically means that the Secretary of State hasn't been doing their job.

  •  Maggie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I went to a meet-and-greet with Maggie Toulouse Oliver a few weeks back. A friend, perennial political operative, chose her campaign to put his efforts into when his candidate for governor did not prevail in the primary.

    She is an impressive candidate. Great experience, stands for the right stuff. Quite young, so she's got a bright future, too.

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 10:49:13 AM PDT

  •  if you belong (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to a party that suppresses the voting rights of any citizen in this supposed democracy you have given up the right to be called neighbor, friend, or patriot, at least to me.

  •  In regards to Kansas.. (0+ / 0-)

    A defeat of Kobach would be a huge rebuff of the Koch handling of this state.  Huge.  And while Schodorf is having to operate a campaign on a budget, what she has done is pack on the miles and driven the state like a woman possessed to meet with every person imaginable in hopes of changing this outcome.

    Likable, personable, and focused, Schodorf provides a lot of people with something they haven't heard from a SoS.. an actual plan for what she is going to do if elected.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle
    >Follow @tmservo433

    by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 11:48:14 AM PDT

  •  CO-Gov is a clear tag. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Metric Only

    It's short and complete. Why not CO-SoS?

    You have created a blizzard of new tags here.

  •  Thank goodness Washington State (0+ / 0-)

    has a good one, who followed a great one.  They are Republicans, but are committed to fair elections. Now retired Sam Reed (R) did a great job. Current SoS Kim Wyman is doing a good job.  She is the only Republican holding a statewide office and when she runs again will be re-elected.

    I'm in a very Republican county, Stevens, and the elections office ensures all elections are fair and to the best of their ability all votes are counted.

  •  Used to be a major effort of mine! (0+ / 0-)

    Good to see someone else has picked up on how important this is!

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Progressive Blogging New York: Write Now NY Find me on Linkedin.

    by mole333 on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 10:43:30 AM PDT

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