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Election 2014: Assessing the Fate of State CIOs

With 36 governorships up for election, the fate of many state IT leaders hangs in the balance. Here’s what we know.

by , , / November 5, 2014

Voters in 36 states cast ballots for governor in this year's election. In many cases, CIOs didn’t need to worry about whether their job was on the line; in 17 states -- Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming -- IT leaders could sit back knowing their boss was likely to be re-elected.

In 19 states, however, the races were either contentious, or a new governor was inevitable due to incumbents who were term-limited, defeated in the primaries or chose not to seek re-election. In these states, technology leaders kept a close eye on election returns to see if they'd soon need to polish up their resumes. 


Jim Bates has been CIO of Alaska since May of 2013, but with Bill Walker beating out incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell by less than 2 points, he is likely to be replaced by someone of Walker's choosing in 2015.


Come January, Arizona will have a new governor: Doug Ducey, current state treasurer and former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery. While Ducey shares the same party as Republican predecessor Jan Brewer, it’s not a sure bet for sitting CIO Aaron Sandeen, since Brewer supported one of Ducey’s opponents, Scott Smith, in the governor’s race. Named the state’s top technology official in March 2011, Sandeen oversees the Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology office, which is replacing several major legacy systems, while focusing on training initiatives to equip staff to effectively manage new cloud-based infrastructure.


While popular outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe was a Democrat, pundits credit strong anti-Obama sentiment for the win achieved by incoming Republican Asa Hutchinson. Arkansas Chief Technology Officer Claire Bailey resigned in October, clearing the way for the appointment of a new top tech official by Hutchinson after the first of the year. CTO since 2006, Bailey was recognized as a Government Technology Top 25 Doer, Dreamer and Driver in 2011, in part for her work on the Arkansas Wireless Information Network, a radio system that advanced public safety interoperability in the state.


While the race for the Governor’s seat in Colorado was hotly contested, the re-election of moderate Democrat John Hickenlooper bodes well for his relatively new slate of technology leaders: CIO and Secretary of Technology Suma Nallapati assumed the role last May, with plans to leverage technology in service of efficient, customer-focused government. CTO David McCurdy, named in August, like Nallapati, comes to the state after years of service at Catholic Health Initiatives.


Incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy narrowly survived a strong Republican challenge to earn a second term in office. That bodes well for state CIO Mark Raymond and his push to replace creaky old IT systems with modern shared services. When Malloy took office in 2011, the state created a $50 million IT investment fund to pay for new systems that support multiple state agencies. Nearly 30 projects are receiving money from the fund now, with more than 20 others in the pipeline. Connecticut received a top grade in the Center for Digital Government's latest Digital States Survey and was named one of two "most improved" states in the survey.


The Florida IT department and CIO position have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride in years past, only to have been revived this summer. In late July, Jason Allison was named the state's interim CIO and executive director of the new Agency for State Technology, which officially launched on July 1 after being signed into law on June 20. Now that Gov. Rick Scott is here to stay for another term, it's likely Allison will also stick around.


After upsetting incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the primary election, Democrat David Ige easily defeated Republican Duke Aiona on Tuesday. Although Abercrombie created the state's first full-time CIO position and backed an ambitious technology agenda, Ige criticized those efforts in an interview with Government Technology in June. Ige said he's disappointed both with the CIO's office and with the implementation of IT projects during Abercrombie's term, so changes likely are on the horizon. State CIO Sonny Bhagowalia left earlier this year and Deputy CIO Keone Kali filled his position.


With opponent Bruce Rauner beating Gov. Pat Quinn with just over 50 percent of the vote, Sean Vinck, who has been Illinois' CIO for nearly four years, may be in jeopardy. During his time, Vinck played a significant role in forging a Medicaid Management Information System partnership with Michigan and worked with the state's chief procurement officer to develop a memorandum that would give state agency CIOs and purchasing officers the basic procedures for looking at cloud technology purchases.


Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been re-elected, but what's happening at the state CIO's office is unclear. In mid-October Jim Clark was named interim chief information technology officer following the resignation of CITO Anthony Schlinsog, but Clark still maintains his role as the state's secretary of administration.


Incumbent Gov. Paul LePage has been elected for a second term in Maine, which means CIO Jim Smith, who has held the position for nearly three years, is likely here to stay. With his private-sector background, Smith is working on incorporating agile development methodologies into state IT projects.


Republican Larry Hogan easily beat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown to claim the Maryland governor’s office, vacated by term-limited Gov. Martin O’Malley. This could spell trouble for CIO Isabel FitzGerald, who has led the Department of Information Technology since August 2013.


The Massachusetts statehouse changed hands from Democrat to Republican with Charlie Baker's razor-thin victory Tuesday. That could signal changes for the state's IT office. Outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Bill Oates, former CIO of Boston, as state CIO in January 2014. During his seven-year stint as Boston's top IT official, Oates built a reputation as one of the nation's most effective public-sector CIOs. He was named to Government Technology's Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers list in 2011.


There was some question as to whether Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder would win this year's election, given a series of missteps and the state's continuing economic difficulties. But he prevailed, garnering nearly 51 percent of the vote, which means his CIO David Behen, who also is director of the state's Department of Technology, Management and Budget, isn't going anywhere.


Pete Ricketts takes over for term-limited Gov. Dave Heineman, keeping the Nebraska statehouse in Republican hands. Nebraska CIO Brenda Decker was appointed by Heineman in 2005, making her one of the nation's longest-tenured state CIOs. Among her accomplishments: Network Nebraska, a statewide service that has lowered Internet costs and boosted bandwidth for schools and government offices.

New Hampshire

Currently the acting Commissioner and CIO for the New Hampshire Department of Information Technology, Steven Kelleher may be here to stay. In this year's election, more than twice as many Republicans crossed party lines to vote for Maggie Hassan than Democrats who chose her Republican challenger, giving her the win.


In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, potentially triggering changes for a state IT team that has boldly moved toward the cloud. In July, State CIO Tony Encinias announced a deal to unify seven state data centers into perhaps the largest hybrid cloud deployment in state government. The seven-year, $681 million project, awarded to Unisys, is intended to provide true computing-on-demand services for state agencies. Now the questions are how strongly the new administration will support the move, and whether Encinias, a 2014 Government Technology Top 25 Doer, Dreamer and Driver, will be around to see it through.

Rhode Island

Democrat Gina Raimondo will officially become governor in January, after edging out Republican candidate Allan Fung by a few percentage points. CIO Jack Landers could retain his position, which he has held since 2007, depending on how many changes are ushered in by the new administration.


Democrats hoped high-profile candidate Wendy Davis could challenge the GOP's dominance in the Texas statehouse, but Republican Greg Abbott cruised to an easy win Tuesday. Although the governorship stayed in Republican hands, there will be a change at the CIO position nonetheless. Current state CIO Karen Robinson will retire Dec. 31, after five years on the job. During that time, Robinson rescued a faltering data center transformation initiative, ultimately pulling the plug on an $800 million contract with IBM and rebidding the deal to a team of contractors anchored by ACS State and Local Solutions.


In November 2012, David Cagigal took the reins as Wisconsin's CIO, and planned to continue Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to enhance the state. And given that Gov. Walker has won the 2014 gubernatorial race -- which was questionable given that he narrowly survived a recall election two years ago and remains a polarizing figure in the state -- it looks like Cagigal is here to stay.

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Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

Steve Towns

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic. 

Jessica Mulholland Former Web Editor/Photographer

Jessica Mulholland served as the Web editor of Government Technology magazine from October 2012 through September 2017. She worked for the Government Technology editorial team for nearly 10 years.

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