While most called with congratulations, more than a few people offered their condolences last November when I was elected Governor of Delaware.
With the nation in the middle of its largest and longest recession in decades, unemployment steadily climbing and state budget shortfalls surging, this was going to be, they said, a terrible time to be a Governor.
Many of those pessimists thought they had been proven right during this last year, when the consequences of that national recession and the effects of the housing bubble’s burst were felt in state capitals around the country.
They watched as Governors made difficult choices about painful cuts to balance their state budgets.
But they were wrong to suggest this is a bad time to be Governor. At no point in my lifetime have the decisions made by the people in public office seemed more critical. Only a few times in our nation’s history have we had the opportunity to make a more lasting difference. The need for new ideas to help deliver real change has rarely been greater. If you want your work to matter, this is a great time to be a Governor.
That is why I am so excited to lead the Democratic Governor’s Association this year. We have Governors and candidates across the country that are seizing the opportunity to get our fiscal houses in order, to rebuild our nation’s economy, to stand and fight for hardworking taxpayers, to strengthen our nation’s schools and give our children every opportunity to reach their potential.
Admittedly, history’s headwind is working against us. Since 1978, the President’s party has traditionally lost an average of five Governor’s offices during the first mid-term election. And though Republicans may outspend us, the DGA is better prepared than at any point in our history to help our candidates. We helped recruit strong candidates around the country and are making early investments in key states.
In fact, we are starting some of those investments today, with a new effort to put our opponents on notice. The DGA will hold them accountable for any attempt they make to block our nation’s return to greater prosperity. This new initiative, The GOP Accountability Project, will remind people in critical states that the same Republicans who are pledging progress now helped create the national recession which we have had to work so hard to reverse.
Efforts like this to help educate voters need to start now because the stakes have never been higher. In the 2010 election cycle, four out of five Americans will see an election for Governor in their state. In the next two years, 42 out of 50 governors will play a major role in deciding what their state’s political lines will look like for the next decade.
Our country is at an inflection point that could shape our economy and political landscape for a generation to come. There could not be a clearer contrast between our party and the other side. While so many Republicans happily attack, deride and derail some of the progress we are making, our candidates and our Governors know that we are stronger when we pull together and work together.
The members of the DGA understand that helping working families recover from the national recession requires a shared commitment.
Ensuring our children can compete and win against any students anywhere in the world demands people come together with new ideas to strengthen our public schools.
To better protect our senior citizens or help those who worked hard and played by the rules but still lost their jobs in this recession, we need to work together to make government more efficient, effective, responsive and responsible.
By putting ourselves in the shoes of those who create the jobs and prosperity in the first place, we will improve the economic climate in each of our states.
We cannot afford to say that anything government does must be wrong simply because it is the government doing it.
Most importantly, the members and candidates who will gather at the DGA conference today share an abiding optimism about the challenges we face. The chance we have been given to serve is a blessing in these defining times.
Jack Markell is the Governor of Delaware.