- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas | Republican governors are in a buoyant mood at their annual gathering here, with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour arguing his party’s Nov. 3 gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey presage a repeat of the historic 1994 Republican congressional elections sweep.

“Everybody is focusing on 2012. It’s 2010 that’s going to be the key,” said Mr. Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, noting that next year there will be 37 gubernatorial races to contest.

RGA officials also say the organization is regaining its prowess as a money-raising electoral force. On Tuesday night, Fred Malek, a prominent and wealthy Republican whose roots in the party date back to the Nixon era, organized a fundraiser at an Austin museum that attracted some 60 donors from around the country. The minimum to attend the event, put on by the RGA’s newly formed Executive Roundtable, was $25,000 per person.

Mr. Malek heads the Roundtable.

Mr. Barbour noted that in 1993 Republican candidates for governor - George Allen in Virginia and Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey - prevailed over their Democratic rivals.

After those wins, an unusually large number of Republicans challengers were emboldened to declare campaigns for House and Senate seats, leading to a Republican takeover of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years and a record 32 Republicans presiding in statehouses around the country.

The Virginia and New Jersey wins this month will bring the total of Republican governors to 24 come January.

Led by Mr. Barbour, the RGA raised and contributed $7.3 million to the campaign of New Jersey candidate Chris Christie, allowing him to put up enough TV advertising to hold off both a late-surging Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democratic incumbent, and independent Chris Daggett. The result for the crime-busting former U.S. attorney, Mr. Christie, was a big victory in a state won easily by Barack Obama just a year earlier.

At least 17 of the 22 current GOP governors are attending this year’s three-day meeting at Lone Pines, a secluded resort 13 miles east of Austin, where nine years ago George W. Bush cut short his second term as governor when he was elected president in 2000.

Mr. Barbour, who was Republican Party chairman in the mid-1990s, long has predicted that it will be governors who lead the GOP’s comeback following the recent losses of majorities in the Congress, the White House, state legislatures and governorships.

In 2011, the 37 governors elected next year will, with their state legislatures, redraw legislative districts according to the 2010 census - with major longterm consequences for the balance of power in Washington.

Eager to encourage donors, RGA officials have been reminding them that governors will have considerable influence in determining district boundaries in many states.

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