Disclaimer: NumbersUSA is a non-partisan organization that does not advocate for or against any candidate or party. We ask, however, that you consider the immigration-related positions of candidates when making your choices.
Most folks are focusing on the 2012 elections now but it’s important to remember that a few states hold 2011 gubernatorial and state legislative elections. The results of some state legislative races, in particular, will influence whether certain states can enact in 2012 the immigration-enforcement legislation that failed this year.
Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia elect governors in 2011. Also, 578 state legislative seats are up for grabs. Most of these are in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia where all state legislators face the voters.
Republican David Williams, the President of the Kentucky State Senate, faces an uphill climb in his race for governor against the popular Democratic incumbent, Steve Beshear. Williams staked out a pro-enforcement position early this year when he moved an illegal-presence bill (SB 6) though the Senate. Senate Republicans hold a 22-15 advantage over Democrats (with one Independent).
House Democrats, who control their chamber by a 59-41 margin, instead passed a mandatory E-Verify bill for state and local governments and their contractors (HB 3). Gov. Beshear was said to be partial to the House Democrats’ bill and opposed to SB 6. That’s not surprising since supporting SB 6 would have given his opponent a victory.
The 2011 session ended in a stalemate when House Democrats refused to take up SB 6 and Senate Republicans ignored HB 3. That stalemate will likely continue into 2012 even if Williams wins because neither chamber is facing the voters on November 8th. A special election will be held later this year, however, in House District 82 because the incumbent is resigning.
Two immigration-enforcement bills passed this year in Louisiana, and enforcement did not become a major campaign issue thereafter. Legislators passed and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed legislation that requires E-Verify for state/local contractors (HB 342), and that requires employers to either use E-Verify or ask for certain identifying documents (HB 646).
Louisiana elections are unique in that politicians run in an open primary and the winner faces a run-off only when garnering less than 50 percent of the vote. In first-round elections on October 21st Gov. Jindal was re-elected with 66 percent of the vote in a ten-candidate field. Republicans also added to their Senate and House majorities. They gained two House seats and could gain up to four Senate seats if the November 19th runoffs go their way. Louisiana should be prime territory for passage of a mandatory, all-employer E-Verify bill next year and possibly illegal- presence legislation.
The chances for strengthening Mississippi’s pro-enforcement stance very much depend on the outcome of the 2011 elections. Mississippi currently requires all employers to use E-Verify, but Senate Republicans this year introduced legislation (SB 2179) to strengthen existing E- Verify law and allow police to run immigration status checks on persons suspected to be in the U.S. illegally. That legislation passed the Senate but was sabotaged in the House when majority Democrats substituted “poison-pill” language. House Democrats cynically claimed their language strengthened the bill when it, in fact, made the legislation impractical and politically infeasible.
Going into the election, House Democrats hold a 67-54 advantage over Republicans. A switch of eight seats would wrest control from Speaker-in-waiting Bobby Moak - the legislator who led the “poison-pill” substitution. An illegal-presence bill stands little chance under his leadership.
In the race for governor, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is facing Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). Bryant has campaigned on advancing an illegal-presence law and oversaw passage of Mississippi’s current E-Verify law a few years ago. DuPree, on the other hand, is quoted as wanting “a more humane approach” to immigration (read amnesty) and saying that illegal- presence legislation “made no sense” for Mississippi.
Once again this year, Republicans introduced legislation (A189/S2733) to encourage employers to use E-Verify but Democratic leaders and committee chairmen refused to take up the bills. The Senate’s hold on enforcement legislation is particularly disturbing since Senate President Stephan Sweeney had previously shown some interest in the issue. Given the endorsement by International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the state’s high unemployment rate, it would have been difficult for many Democrats to vote against the legislation if it had come up.
Right now, Democrats control the New Jersey House by a 47-33 margin and have a 24-16 advantage in the Senate. Even if Republicans gained control of the Senate, the House is unlikely to change enough to facilitate passage of enforcement legislation.
2011 was a banner year for immigration-enforcement legislation in the Virginia House. Ten bills cleared the House, including measures to require E-Verify for state/local contractors and businesses with 15+ employees (HB 1732), prohibit sanctuary policies (HB 1421) and require post-arrest immigration status checks (HB 1430). However, a Senate committee killed all but two of the bills. One surviving measure (SB 1049) requires state contractors with 50+ employees to use E-Verify. The other (HB 1651) allows the DMV to cancel driver’s licenses of persons found to be illegal aliens. Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is not up for election this year, signed both into law.
The House, which passed the outstanding slate of bills, is under Republicans control (58R-39D- 2I) and will likely remain that way. Democrats control the Senate, the graveyard for those bills, by a 22-18 margin. Since the Republican Lt. Governor is the presiding officer of the Senate, a switch of just two seats would improve the chances of passing more strong enforcement legislation in 2012.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, narrowly won a special election for governor on October 4th against Republican challenger Bill Maloney, a mining executive. Neither made illegal immigration an issue. State legislators, who do not face the voters this year, have consistently introduced enforcement legislation but have not made headway since enactment of an enforcement law in 2007.
Other State Legislative Races
Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, an immigration-enforcement champion, faces a recall election this year. Open-border groups targeted Pearce, and collected enough signatures to force the election, because of his success in pioneering state enforcement measures. Pearce’s opponent is Republican Jerry Lewis, who believes immigration enforcement is a federal, not a state, issue. Lewis also thinks the current federal deportation approach is wrong way to deal with illegal aliens (read amnesty). Groups opposing Pearce are expected to spending huge sums of money – some of it from outside Arizona – on attack ads and to get out the vote so the race may be close.
In Iowa, State Senate district 18 became vacant when the Gov. Terry Branstad appointed the Democratic incumbent to the state utility board. The upcoming special election is shaping up to be the most expensive race in Iowa history and one that has even caught the attention of presidential candidates. Democrats control the Senate by a 26-24 margin, so a Republican win would split control between the two Parties. The candidates include Republican Cindy Golding, a farmer and businesswoman, Democrat Liz Mathis, a former TV anchor, and Constitution party Candidate Jon Tack, who was a NumbersUSA True Reformer when he ran for Congress in 2010. Immigration issues have not been major factors in the campaign, but it’s certain that no enforcement legislation will pass as long as Mike Gronstal, the iron-fisted Senate leader, controls the chamber.
Texas House District 14 was vacated recently so a special election will be held for this Houston-
area seat. The five candidates are Democrat Judy LeUnes, Republicans Rebecca Boenigk, John
Raney and Bob Yancy, and Libertarian Joshua Baker. The Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas sent all candidates the following survey:
Where does the candidate stand on eliminating the magnets which serve to draw illegal aliens into Texas?
1. Mandating the use of an E-Verify system for the following (not just an I-9 form which is currently being used)
a. All state agencies and recipients of all state contracts/grants.
b. Private employers.
2. Eliminating dangerous "sanctuary city" policies adopted in our cities which limit law enforcement officers.
3. Currently the State of Texas is breaking Federal law by granting in-state tuition and grants as well as scholarships using public funds to non-citizens. The cost of this practice is upwards of $40 million per year. Will you support legislation ending such a practice?
4. Additionally will the candidate support legislation that would require state agencies to report on the cost of services and benefits provided to undocumented immigrants?
Bob Yancy, who is considered the Republican establishment candidate, answered “yes” to all questions. John Raney, another Republican contender, also answered “yes” to all questions except that he would limit E-Verify’s requirement to companies with 50+ employees under question 1b. Joshua Baker, a Libertarian, answered “yes” on question 4, and “no” on questions 2 and 3 (because the decision should be left to local governments). He did not directly answer question 1, but said that illegal aliens should not be allowed to work and burden the system without paying into it. Cutting the jobs will stop the flow. The other candidates did not respond to IRCOT.
If your state or locality is holding elections this year, please do your homework on the candidates and vote. Some initiatives are on the ballot in 2011 as well, but none directly affect immigration.
2012 is shaping up to be another active year for state immigration legislation – both pro- enforcement and pro-illegal alien – so the actions some of you take now may affect our prospects next year.
VAN ESSER is the Chief of Membership Services for NumbersUSA
Updated: Mon, Nov 7th 2011 @ 9:21pm EST