For the first time in more than a decade, voters in both parties will head to the polls on Tuesday to nominate new candidates for Governor. Democrats Ned Lamont and Dan Malloy as well as Republicans Tom Foley, Lt. Gov. Mike Fedele, and Oz Griebel are each engaged in an increasingly fractious scramble to Election Day, with hard-hitting advertisements arriving to voters in the mail, on television, and via annoying telephone calls.
In a lousy economy, the buzzword with every candidate is “jobs”. Each one has a jobs plan and most of them feature a slogan about creating jobs or otherwise getting Connecticut back to work. To a man, each one pledges that their political party will be better on creating jobs and fixing the state’s budget deficit than the other. Republicans blame the Democratic legislature and Democrats blame the Republican Governor. The cycle completes itself.
But in looking at data from current Governors across the nation, 24 Republicans and 26 Democrats, there really is very little evidence to suggest that one political party is better at either task.
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Governors in 18 states have presided over an increase in the number of jobs since they took office, from the 876,600 new jobs since Texas Republican Rick Perry took over that state in December 2000 to the 2,000 job increase in West Virginia Democrat’s Joe Manchin in West Virginia. Eight have been Democrats and ten have been Republicans.
Conversely, of the ten Governors with the worst job growth statistics, five are Republicans and five are Democrats. Florida Governor (an erstwhile Republican) Charlie Crist has seen 842,700 jobs disappear from Florida during the three years he has been in charge while Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm has presided over the loss of 590,300 jobs.
Collectively, the nation’s Republican Governors have overseen the decline of 1,017,100 jobs while Democratic Governors are down 1,901,000 jobs.
Looking at the statistics on a percentage basis is no better. Wyoming Democrat Dave Freudenthal has seen a 14 percent jump in the number of jobs in the Equality State. In contrast, Nevada Republican Jim Gibbons tenure has been marred by a 14 percent decrease in Silver State jobs. Of total jobs when they took office, Democratic Governors are down three percent and the Republicans are down two percent.
The size of state budget deficits yields a convoluted bit of distinction between the two major political parties. Three of the five states that haven’t had budget deficits have Republican Governors, but nine of the ten states with the largest budget deficits do, too. But the data in this context reveals a huge caveat to the entire review – ten of the nation’s Governors have been in office one year or less, making it hard to credit (or blame) them for the state’s current situation.
Despite all the pontificating, the economy seems to be bigger than any one Governor. So when the television advertisements or the glossy mailers promise you jobs and economic recovery, it’s probably wise to remember that whatever his title, no one man controls the business cycle nor seems to have much more influence on it than others.
Heath W. Fahle is a policy analyst and consultant based in Manchester. His background in political campaigns includes work for former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and the Connecticut Republican Party. He also is the principal of Revolutionary Strategies LLC, a website design and consulting firm. Learn more at www.heathwfahle.com.