Several Democrats fend off challenges, but discontent wins in a key year for statehouses
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 2:04 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2010
WASHINGTON » Republicans captured Democratic governorships in at least 10 states yesterday, including some prime presidential battlegrounds, and hoped for even more statehouse gains.
The same tide sweeping Republicans into office in Congress was leaving its mark on governors' mansions as well, especially in the nation's industrial heartland.
Changing hands in the GOP onslaught: governorships now held by Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming.
In Ohio, a state viewed by both parties as crucial to the 2012 presidential election, former Rep. John Kasich defeated Gov. Ted Strickland. Republican Susana Martinez won the New Mexico governorship -- she will be the first Latina chief executive of a state -- and will succeed Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson.
But there were a few bright spots for Democrats. In California, Democrat Jerry Brown coasted past former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to reclaim the post he held three decades ago. He will replace moderate Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Democrats picked up another GOP seat in Hawaii as former U.S. Rep Neil Abercrombie defeated Republican Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona to succeed Republican Gov. Linda Lingle in the state where President Barack Obama was born.
Democrats also held onto governorships in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Colorado.
Further turnovers seemed likely. In seven states -- Democratic-held governorships in Illinois, Oregon and Maine and Republican-held ones in Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Vermont -- the tally early today was still too close to call.
The gubernatorial races were especially important this year. There are a record number of them on the ballot -- more than two-thirds of the states. Governors will play important roles in 2012 presidential politics, especially in swing states, and governors will participate next year in redistricting of congressional and legislative seat to reflect the 2010 census.
New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo surged past tea party Republican Carl Pala-dino to win the governor's seat, the same post his father, Mario, had held two decades ago. "The people have spoken tonight, and they have been loud and clear," Cuomo said standing alongside his father and mother. "They are angry."
In Massachusetts, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick won a second term, defeating Republican Charles Baker and two other candidates. Patrick and Obama share Chicago roots and Harvard law degrees, and national Republicans tried hard to topple him.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley withstood a hard-fought challenge from his predecessor, former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich. And New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, both Democrats, were also re-elected.
Denver's Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper, was elected Colorado governor despite a challenge from both Republican Dan Maes and immigration hard-liner Tom Tancredo, a former Republican House member. Hickenlooper succeeds Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who did not run for re-election.
As Democratic gubernatorial and congressional casualties were piling up, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and a possible 2012 presidential contender, compared the GOP victories to 1994, when Republicans seized control of both House and Senate.
"The stakes in this election were so much higher," Barbour told a gathering of Republicans.
A tea party-backed South Carolina Republican, state Rep. Nikki Haley, was elected to replace term-limited Gov. Mark Sanford. Haley won over state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
In a high-profile race in which both parties spent millions, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has already served 10 years, defeated Democrat Bill White, a former mayor of Houston. Perry, who survived a spirited GOP primary challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison earlier, had aligned himself with the Sarah Palin wing of the Republican Party.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who drew national attention when she signed a state law cracking down on illegal immigration, was re-elected, defeating Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Nevada Republican Brian Sandoval defeated Democrat Rory Reid, son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who won his re-election race.