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The Western Governors

February 02, 1988

Because of the presidential and congressional elections, 1988 is considered the big year in politics. But this is decidedly an off-year when it comes to gubernatorial elections. Only 12 state executive offices are up in 1988 and of those, just three are in the West--in Washington, Utah and Montana.

Democrats cling to a 26-24 lead in governorships nationally, and Republicans hope to grab a majority in 1988 for the first time since 1970. However, eight of the 12 seats up in 1988 currently are held by Republicans, so that goal may be an elusive one.

In the West, first-term Democrat Booth Gardner of Washington is seeking reelection, but may have a difficult time because of his unsuccessful proposals for a sales tax on services to finance education. Republican Norman H. Bangerter of Utah, also a first-termer, is believed to have severe problems, also over tax proposals. Democrats are expected to have a strong candidate in Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson.

Gov. Ted Schwinden of Montana, a popular Democrat, is retiring at the conclusion of his second term and the race now looks wide open with Republicans seeming confident of picking up the Big Sky seat. And in Arizona, there will be a recall election against Republican Evan Mecham.

Governorships filled during 1988 and 1990 will carry special importance since those chief executives will be in office when their state legislatures reapportion legislative and congressional seats. Using the veto power, a governor of one party may be able to stymie any particularly offensive reapportionment plans adopted by a legislature controlled by the opposition.

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