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Michigan's Governor's Race Tests the Democrats

When Michigan's lieutenant governor, John Cherry, announced earlier this month that he wouldn't seek the state's top elected post, Democrats here and across the country sighed in relief. Though the ostensible frontrunner to succeed Jennifer Granholm, a fellow Democrat, he couldn't muster enough interest, or money, to wage a credible campaign. But Cherry's departure effectively opens what's expected to be a fierce primary battle between two ambitious, business-minded Democrats for the task of keeping Michigan's governor's seat in the party's hands.

The emerging battle in Michigan in many ways reflects what's at stake for Democrats nationwide this year: 37 states are scheduled to hold gubernatorial elections in 2010. Democrats hold 19 of those seats, and Michigan is viewed as a toss-up by both major parties. The governor's races, as well as the Congressional elections, will therefore be key tests of whether the Democrats can extend their gains of recent years, or succumb to the same backlash that propelled Republican Scott Brown to his upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race this week. The stakes are particularly high in Michigan, because whoever is elected governor will play a crucial role in redrawing legislative districts in the wake of the 2010 U.S. Census, which is expected to show significant population declines during the previous decade.

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