Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007 – Two gubernatorial races were decided Tuesday, Nov. 6, as were elections in three statehouses. Other issues of relevance to transportation also were decided.
Voters in Kentucky ousted Gov. Ernie Fletcher. The Republican lost with 41 percent of the vote. Democrat Steve Beshear, a former lieutenant governor, claimed 59 percent of ballots.
The candidates shared many views on transportation. Both said they were opposed to tolls and increasing the state’s fuel tax rates for generate revenue for roads. They said establishing local authorities with the power to issue bonds for transportation needs warrant further consideration.
In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour defeated Democrat John Eaves, an attorney and evangelical Christian, by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. Barbour rode a wave of support following his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The same storm led Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to bow out of this year’s race in her state. The Democrat was criticized for her handling of devastation in New Orleans.
Instead, voters cast ballots Oct. 20 for Republican Bobby Jindal. The U.S. representative from Louisiana garnered 54 percent of the vote – more than the 51 percent needed to win outright under state law.
Jindal is the nation’s first politician of Indian descent to be elected governor. He also will become the youngest sitting governor at 36.
The Election Day results allow Democrats to hold a 28-22 margin in gubernatorial suites.
In state legislative races, Democrats appeared to gain at least four seats to wrestle control of the Virginia Senate. Republicans had held a 23-17 edge in the chamber coming into the day.
Despite losing three seats, Virginia House Republicans were able to hold onto their advantage in the chamber. When the 2008 session opens in January, Republicans will account for 54 seats while Democrats will have 44 seats and independents will fill two seats.
New Jersey Democrats kept control of both chambers. In the Senate, the party gained one seat to widen its majority to 23-17. Democrats in the Assembly appear to have lost two seats but will continue to hold a 48-32 margin.
In Mississippi, Republicans were unable to keep control of the Senate giving Democrats the majority in both chambers. The GOP held a majority of seats in the Senate for the first time since 1873 when a Democratic lawmaker switched sides this spring. But Democrats appear to have reclaimed majority status with at least 27 of the 52 Senate seats.
Louisiana voters will head to the ballot box Nov. 17. Thanks to term limits that threaten more Democrats than Republicans, the GOP could take control of the House for the first time since Reconstruction. Democrats now have a 63-42 advantage. In the Senate, Democrats hold a 24-15 margin.
Heading into the 2008 presidential campaign, in addition to holding the majority of the nation’s governors seats, Democrats continue to have the upper hand in most statehouses. The party holds 23 legislatures while the GOP controls 14. A dozen legislatures are split between the parties, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In addition to electing state officials, ballot issues of interest to the trucking industry also were decided in several states across the country.
In Washington, voters rejected the biggest transportation tax proposal in state history.
Proposition 1 was intended to improve traffic congestion in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. By an overall margin of 45 percent in favor and 55 percent opposed, voters opted not to increase sales and vehicle taxes for transportation improvements.
The proposition combined a $30.8 billion Sound Transit proposal to add 50 miles of light rail during the next 30 years and a $16.4 billion plan to add 186 miles of new lanes and ramps in the three counties, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
Statewide, Washington voters approved a measure that makes it more difficult to increase state taxes. Initiative 960 passed by a 52-48 percent margin. It requires a two-thirds vote from the Legislature, or a public vote, to raise taxes.
Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a bond issue for highways. Proposition 12 authorizes up to $5 billion in tax-backed bonds and allows the debt to be repaid with general revenue.
Also in Texas, Dallas voters opted not to get in the way of a proposed toll road through a city park along the Trinity River.
Dating back to 1995, city planners launched a $1 billion environmental restoration project for the Trinity River Corridor that included a low-speed boulevard meandering through it.
With projected costs increasing every year, and downtown Dallas traffic continuing to grow, community planners and elected city officials proposed to upgrade the Trinity Parkway to become a toll road with a speed limit of 55 mph.
The Election Day results allow the city to continue with their plans to transform the corridor.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor