The 10 Governors You Absolutely Have To Watch In 2013

Chris Christie Time

Photo: Time Magazine

2013 is a banner year for a number of different governors.Some are trying to position themselves for a run at higher office.

Others are winding down their terms and trying to cram as much of their agenda in as possible. 

Still others are looking at tough re-election fights coming through the pipeline and are trying to get ready for a referendum.

10 governors specifically have exciting years ahead. 

Here are the ones you’ve got to watch. 

Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

Believed to be a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 -- at least according to Karl Rove -- Jindal's got conservative credibility and brings an element of diversity to the GOP as it struggles to shed its all-white reputation.

This year, Jindal is pushing a highly controversial tax reform package, setting Louisiana up as one of the first states to experiment with removing income taxes in favour of consumption taxes.

Martin O'Malley (D-Md.)

O'Malley, who is term limited, is working to position himself as a leading progressive in the Democratic Party in the lead-up before he leaves office in 2014.

O'Malley oversaw the passage of Maryland's version of the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition. His state was the first to uphold same-sex marriage on a ballot measure. Now, he's preparing a tough set of gun control laws.

With the clock ticking on his time in office, 2013 is a very important year for O'Malley.

Rick Snyder (R-Mich.)

Emboldened by his successful push to pass Michigan's new Right to Work legislation late last year, Snyder is looking to pursue an ambitious agenda in 2013.

So far, he has called for higher gas taxes and registration fees, online voter registration, and changes to Michigan's no-fault insurance system, setting himself up for some major political battles over the next 12 months. Snyder also has to contend with ongoing crises with the state's municipal government, including in Detroit, Michigan's largest city.

If he can successfully complete a turnaround of Michigan's economy, Snyder could be a major dark horse contender for 2016.

Source: Detroit Free Press, MSN, Politics Today

Susana Martinez (R-N.M.)

As one of the only prominent Republican Latinas, Martinez has been a vocal critic of her party's lack of outreach to Latino voters and is poised to take a lead role in reshaping the GOP's minority voter strategy.

As governor, Martinez's biggest 2013 priority is education overhaul. She's also bracing for a fight over her push to repeal a state law allowing illegal immigrants to acquire drivers licenses. Martinez recently agreed to carry out a Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Source: LA Times, Current Argus, Huffington Post

Jerry Brown (D-Calif.)

The veteran California Democrat is coming off of a highly successful year, which saw the successful passage of Proposition 30, the Brown-supported ballot initiative that raised the state's sales and income taxes and prevented massive education spending cuts. California has had a remarkable recovery and the state budget is currently running a surplus.

Now Brown is poised for an even bigger year in 2013. Democrats have a supermajority in the state legislature, so Brown will have a much easier time passing his agenda than he has had in the past.

Look for Brown to take the lead on immigration. And if California, the nation's largest economy, continues its robust growth, Brown could also become a national voice on how states can regain their fiscal stability.

Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

A rising star in the Republican Party, Christie has the highest national profile of any of the country's governors.

In the last month alone, Christie has made national headlines, first as the leading face of Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, and then as an attack dog against his own party, slamming Republicans for failing to pass a Sandy aid package and bucking the NRA.

Christie has an election in November, which he will almost assuredly win. But this year will also show how -- and even if -- Christie tries to make amends with his fellow Republicans as he positions himself for a possible presidential run in 2016.

John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.)

Hickenlooper is a very popular governor in a swing state, making him an automatic contender for the Democratic presidential primary in 2016.

Over the past year, Hickenlooper has quietly started a coalition, TBD Colorado, with the goal of developing long-term plans for the state. The bipartisan team -- comprised of CEOs, university officials, education experts, politicians and private sector representatives -- will start rolling out its budget, transportation, public health, and education proposals this year.

Hickenlooper is also one of two governors who will have to contend with full marijuana legalization, and his actions this year will set precedents as other states consider the issue. He also might try again to pass a law legalizing civil unions, an attempt that failed in 2012.

Source: KDVR, Denver Post

Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin)

Walker emerged from 2012 as a rising star in the national Republican Party, having beaten back a recall effort and won his fight to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights.

This year, Walker is poised for another set of political battles, particularly over his proposals to cut the state's income tax and reform mining industry regulations. The state economy will also be a priority -- Walker is 212,000 jobs short of his first-term goal of creating 250,000 jobs for the state.

If he can keep up his momentum from 2012, however, he will move to the top of the field of possible Republican candidates for 2016.

Source: Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.)

Cuomo has already made some big moves in 2013, signing the first state gun control bill to pass in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. The move has boosted the New York Governor's standing as a leading progressive, a position Cuomo solidified with the bipartisan passage of New York's same-sex marriage law in 2011.

This year he's looking to push Albany to curb greenhouse gas emissions, enact women's rights programs, and get an increase in the minimum wage.

All of which sets Cuomo up nicely for a run in the Democratic primary in 2016.

Source: Capital New York, CNY

Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)

Hassan is at the forefront of New Hampshire's girl-power politics, which includes a congressional delegation comprised entirely of women.

As she begins her first term as governor, observers are eager to see what tone she sets in the independent-minded Granite State. So far, Hassan has tried to strike a bipartisan tone as she tries to close a $25 million shortfall in the state's $10 billion two-year budget.

Source: NHPR

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