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Meet the new governors from across the nation

By Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:06 a.m. HST, Nov 03, 2010



 

A look at the newest faces in the nation's governorships:

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ALABAMA

Republican state Rep. Robert Bentley, a retired Tuscaloosa dermatologist, wasn't supposed to be on the general election ballot for governor of Alabama.

The 67-year-old Bentley entered the Republican primary regarded as an also-ran making his first statewide race. But he mortgaged his home and drew from his retirement to put $1.9 million of his own money into the race, and he caught voters' attention with a promise not to take a salary as governor until Alabama's near-record unemployment returned to normal levels.

He finished second but narrowly made the GOP runoff, then won it with the help of the state teachers' organization. On the campaign trail, Bentley opposed federal health care legislation, praised Arizona's immigration law and promised to fight the expansion of gambling in Alabama.

Bentley says he believes everyone is protected by the Constitution including "unborn children." He has promised to "give Montgomery a bath" to clean up corruption in state government.

 

  CALIFORNIA

After spending a lifetime in and out of politics, Democrat Jerry Brown returns to claim the California governor's office, a post he held nearly three decades ago.

The former two-term governor began his political comeback as mayor of the crime-ridden city of Oakland in the late 1990s and four years ago became the state's attorney general.

Brown, the son of the beloved former California Gov. Pat Brown, didn't always want to be a politician, initially studying to become a priest at a Jesuit seminary. Aside from serving as governor, from 1975 to 1983, Brown unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 1982 and the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, 1980 and 1992.

He gained notoriety early in his political career, not only for ideas that earned him the nickname "Governor Moonbeam" but for dating singer Linda Ronstadt. He studied Buddhism in Japan and ministered to the ill with Mother Teresa in India.

Brown, 72, says he is a wiser politician than when he was first governor. He is also now married — to Anne Gust, a former GAP Inc. executive whom he counts as his closet confident.

 

  COLORADO

Democrat John Hickenlooper, Denver's mayor since being elected in 2003, parlayed a successful career as a brew pub owner and restaurateur into a political career. He's known for reaching out to business interests as well as the Democratic base.

He was born in Narberth, Pa., in 1952. He earned a bachelor's degree in English at Wesleyan University in 1974 and a master's degree in geology in 1980. After graduating, he went to work as a geologist for Buckhorn Petroleum in Colorado but was laid off when the oil industry collapsed in the 1980s, an experience he calls a "a kick in the gut."

Hickenlooper started a brew pub in a run-down section of downtown Denver in 1988, expanding to eight restaurants before he sold his interests. He leased the run-down property for $1 a square foot and grew wealthy when baseball's Colorado Rockies located their ballpark just down the street.

He and his wife, Helen Thorpe, a writer, have one son, Teddy.

 

  GEORGIA

Republican Nathan Deal served 18 years in the House representing a conservative North Georgia district before stepping down in March to run for governor. Before that the 68-year-old former prosecutor and juvenile court judge had spent 11 years in the state Senate. Originally a Democrat, Deal swapped parties in 1995.

Deal's efforts to preserve a lucrative arrangement between his auto salvage business and the state became the target of an Office of Congressional Ethics probe. Congressional investigators found Deal may have violated House rules, but he had already left Congress before they issued their findings and was never charged with any wrongdoing.

Deal's finances have also come under scrutiny after it was revealed that he's so deeply in debt he and his wife, Sandra, had placed their home on the market. The Deal's owed $2.3 million to pay off a loan from their daughter and son-in-law's failed sporting goods store. He has pledged to make good on the debt.

In Congress, Deal backed bills to crack down on illegal immigration and was an early supporter of a measure to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

 

  HAWAII

Democrat Neil Abercrombie, a former 10-term congressman who represented urban Honolulu, resigned in February to seek the governor's office. He waged a tough primary campaign against the former mayor of Honolulu but ended up winning easily.

Abercrombie, 72, was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and moved to Hawaii in his 20s to complete his graduate studies at the University of Hawaii. While there he befriended Barack Obama's parents.

Abercrombie's political career began in 1970 with a quixotic run for the U.S. Senate, followed by more successful races for state legislative seats, Honolulu City Council and, in 1990, Congress.

Though he was a fervent opponent of the Vietnam War, Abercrombie rose through the ranks to lead a House subcommittee that oversaw the Army and Air Force.

Abercrombie and his wife, Nancie Caraway, reside in Honolulu. They have no children.

 

  IOWA

Republican Terry Branstad was Iowa's longest serving governor. Now, after a 12-year break, he's ready to extend that record.

Branstad, 63, got involved in politics while a student at the University of Iowa, where he challenged students who opposed the Vietnam War.

He was elected to the Iowa House in 1972 while still attending Drake University law school. He later opened a law practice in Lake Mills and in 1978 was elected lieutenant governor.

When Gov. Robert Ray decided to end his 14-year term in office in 1982, Branstad was elected governor at age 36, making him the youngest governor in Iowa history. He served for 16 years, stepping down in 1998 after the longest tenure as governor. He later became president of Des Moines University, a medical school.

Branstad, who remained active in GOP politics, said he reluctantly agreed to seek the governorship after activists argued he was the only Republican who could defeat first-term Democratic Gov. Chet Culver. He won a three-way race for the Republican nomination.

During the campaign, Branstad called for reducing state spending and making Iowa more competitive by cutting business taxes. He opposes abortion rights and supports allowing to voters to consider a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in the state.

 

  KANSAS

Republican Sam Brownback's election as Kansas governor represents a break with the state's recent past in which voters have preferred GOP moderates or Democrats.

Brownback strongly opposes abortion and gay marriage, but he emphasized economic issues in his bid for governor. He'll give up the U.S. Senate seat he's held since 1997.

Brownback has promised to freeze overall spending of state tax dollars, set up an office to target laws and regulations for repeal and start a discussion about rewriting the state's formula for distributing aid to public schools. Brownback's goals include generating new private sector jobs.

Brownback, 54, remains a favorite of social conservatives who anticipate that he'll sign anti-abortion legislation vetoed by past governors. His past associations with Lou Engle, an anti-gay evangelist, briefly became an issue late in the campaign.

He's following Democratic Govs. Mark Parkinson and Kathleen Sebelius into office. The last Republican governor, Bill Graves, was a GOP moderate.

Brownback is a former Kansas agriculture secretary who served two years in the U.S. House before winning his Senate seat in 1996.

 

  MICHIGAN

Republican Rick Snyder marketed himself during his campaign for Michigan governor as "one tough nerd."

That nerdiness was evident in college, when he earned his undergraduate, business administration graduate and law degrees at the University of Michigan by age 23. After graduation, he taught at his alma mater and then went to work as an accountant at Cooper & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he became a partner.

In 1991, he joined fledgling computer maker Gateway Inc. He moved up to president and chief operating officer before leaving in 1997 to return to Michigan and set up two venture capital companies in Ann Arbor.

Snyder grew up in Battle Creek, home to cereal-maker Kellogg Co., and spent many summer days at a lake 40 minutes north where he still likes to water ski in his spare time.

A political newcomer, the 52-year-old largely avoided debates during the primary and general elections. He won a five-way GOP primary by letting his rivals split the conservative vote while he won the nomination by appealing to Democrats and independents.

He also used his personal wealth to put up more ads and run a more expensive campaign than any other candidate.

His pitch as a political outsider who knows how to create jobs struck a nerve in economically hard-hit Michigan, which has lost nearly 850,000 jobs in the past decade.

Snyder and his wife, Sue, a breast cancer survivor, have three children.

 

  NEVADA

Republican Brian Sandoval becomes Nevada's first Hispanic governor when he takes office in January. A former federal judge, he left a lifetime appointment in September 2009 to run for governor. He takes control of a state that leads the nation in unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Sandoval, 47, was born in Redding, Calif. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1986 from the University of Nevada-Reno and a law degree in 1989 from Ohio State University.

He was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 1994 and served two terms. He was appointed in 1998 to the Nevada Gaming Commission and then elected state attorney general in 2002. He left that post in October 2005 after he was confirmed for a federal judgeship.

Sandoval and his wife, Kathleen, have three children.

 

  NEW MEXICO

Republican Susana Martinez, a career prosecutor, is the nation's first Hispanic female governor and the first woman elected as New Mexico's chief executive.

Martinez, 51, has served as district attorney in Dona Ana County in southern New Mexico since 1997. The race for governor was her first bid for statewide elective office.

She was born in El Paso, Texas, and worked as a security guard for her family's business when she was in high school. She received her law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1986 and went to work in New Mexico as an assistant district attorney.

Martinez was a Democrat but became a Republican to run in 1996 against her former boss, Bill Richardson, a Democrat.

During her campaign, Martinez vowed to roll back many of Richardson's policies, including laws allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses and the children of illegal immigrants to receive lottery-backed college scholarships if they graduate from a New Mexico high school. She advocates reinstating the death penalty, which was repealed in 2009.

She lives in Las Cruces, the second largest city in New Mexico. Her husband, Chuck Franco, is the Dona Ana County undersheriff. Martinez has a stepson serving in the Navy.

 

  NEW YORK

Democrat Andrew Cuomo has all the bearing, pedigree and experience — plus a famous last name — to be head of the Empire State. He first ran a major political campaign, his father Mario's, at the age of 22, and he hasn't stopped running since.

After helping his father get elected to three terms as governor of New York, the son parlayed the name into a political career that included housing secretary in the Clinton White House and a reforming attorney general in New York.

He ran for governor once before, in 2002, but withdrew before the primary, lagging in support and battered after saying that then-Republican Gov. George Pataki merely held New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's coat after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

This year, when incumbents were endangered, Cuomo cast himself as above it all, an investigator of Republican and Democratic wrongdoers alike and the protector of the middle class.

Cuomo frustrated Democrats and their left-leaning supporters in public worker unions by moving to his right early in the campaign. He called for an end to overspending on special interests, capping the growth in property taxes and harping on the need for an end to corruption and misconduct by legislators in both parties.

People close to him say this is a new Andrew Cuomo, one chastened by his 2002 loss and a messy public divorce from Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. He and TV food personality Sandra Lee have been a couple for five years. Lee, 43, is the host of two Food Network shows, "Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee" and "Sandra's Money Saving Meals." He has three daughters.

 

  OHIO

Republican John Kasich was born in McKee's Rocks, Pa., in 1952, the son of a mailman. A graduate of Ohio State University in Columbus, he was elected to the Ohio state Senate in 1978 at the age of 26 and to the U.S. House at 30. As a congressman, Kasich served as chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he oversaw the first balanced budget since man walked on the moon more than two decades earlier. He was elected to eight consecutive terms.

After a brief run for president in 2000, Kasich left public service to teach, write books and work in the private sector. He became a conservative commentator on Fox News and was named a managing director at Lehman Brothers ahead of the investment giant's 2008 collapse. An opponent of abortion and the death penalty, Kasich generally gets high marks from conservative groups and low ones from liberal ones.

He is a two-time New York Times best-selling author, for his books "Courage is Contagious" and "Stand for Something."

 

  OKLAHOMA

Mary Fallin, a stalwart of Republican politics in Oklahoma, will become Oklahoma's first female governor. She decided not to seek re-election to a third term in the U.S. House to pursue the governor's seat being vacated by term-limited Democrat Brad Henry.

Fallin, 55, served as the state's first female and first Republican lieutenant governor for 12 years before running for Congress. Before that, she served in the state House.

During the campaign, Fallin stressed her conservative credentials and focused on jobs, the economy and opposition to an "overreaching federal government."

In her "Working Across Oklahoma" campaign strategy, she visited 21 counties and performed various jobs, including ranch hand, convenience store clerk, oil field pumper, nursing home caregiver and teacher at Oklahoma State University.

Fallin remarried in 2009. She and her husband, attorney Wade Christensen, have six children between them.

 

  PENNSYLVANIA

Republican Tom Corbett wears the white hat of a government reformer. The state attorney general since 2005, he directed an ongoing probe into the illegal use of taxpayer resources for electioneering in the Legislature. Twenty-five current and former lawmakers and aides have been arrested. Of the 12 cases already decided, 10 brought convictions or guilty pleas. A former House leader and a former aide were sent to prison.

As a candidate, Corbett signed a pledge not to raise state taxes and later extended it to rule out fee increases as well.

Corbett 61, had run in only two previous statewide elections — for his two terms as attorney general. But temporary appointments to vacant posts — U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania and state attorney general — kept him in the public eye for most of a decade before that.

A Philadelphia native, Corbett grew up in the Pittsburgh area. He and his wife, Susan, who have two grown children, live in the same house in the Pittsburgh suburbs where he lived with his parents and older sister.

Corbett has a political science degree from Lebanon Valley College and a law degree from St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio.

 

  SOUTH CAROLINA

Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley will become the nation's second Indian-American governor. She rode to victory on a wave of support from the tea party, an endorsement from Sarah Palin and a platform that positioned her against an old-boy political network in Columbia.

Haley, 38, ran as a fiscal conservative and cited her experience as an accountant on the campaign trail. But she and her husband have filed their taxes late since at least 2004, according to records released by her campaign.

Before Haley won the the primary, a lobbyist and a blogger both claimed to have had affairs with her. Haley, a married mother of two, categorically denied the unsubstantiated claims.

She defeated Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen after repeatedly attempted to link the fairly moderate lawmaker to Barack Obama and score points by characterizing him as a liberal trial lawyer for his work on worker's compensation cases.

Haley was an ally of Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who was term-limited.

 

  SOUTH DAKOTA

Republican Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard describes himself as an experienced and compassionate leader who used hard work to rise from humble beginnings.

Daugaard, 57, grew up on a dairy farm near Garretson in eastern South Dakota, the son of deaf parents. He attended a one-room country school through seventh grade and graduated from high school in Dell Rapids.

He got a bachelor's degree in government at the University of South Dakota in 1975 after working his way through college by washing dishes, waiting tables, welding on an assembly line and painting water towers. He graduated from law school at Northwestern University in 1978 and worked in the Chicago area for three years before returning to South Dakota, where he worked as a banker for about a decade.

Daugaard began working for the Children's Home Society of South Dakota, which provides services for children with emotional and behavioral problems, and eventually became the organization's executive director. He spent six years in the South Dakota Senate before becoming lieutenant governor in 2003.

 

  TENNESSEE

Republican Bill Haslam abandoned early hopes of studying to become a pastor after college to join the truck stop business founded by his father. After two decades with Pilot Corp., he surprised family members by deciding to run for mayor of Knoxville in 2003. He was overwhelmingly re-elected mayor in 2007.

Haslam, whose mother died of a stroke when he was 16, graduated from Emory in 1980 with plans to teach high school history and coach basketball and then attend a Presbyterian seminary.

His father persuaded him to work at Pilot, where he and brother Jimmy took leading roles in expanding the chain from mostly gas stations and convenience stores to a "travel center" concept of truck stops featuring branded fast-food service.

Haslam remains a large shareholder in the company, which has projected revenues of $20 billion this year. He has refused to release his annual earnings from Pilot over concerns it would reveal personal information about the income of other family members and proprietary information about the privately held company.

 

  WISCONSIN

Republican Scott Walker, 43, has spent most of his adult life in public office.

After dropping out of college in 1990 to work for the American Red Cross, he won election to the state Assembly representing the Milwaukee area in 1993. He was re-elected four times.

Walker was active in criminal justice issues while in the Legislature, taking a lead on legislation passed in 1999 called truth-in-sentencing that required prisoners to serve their entire sentence and not have time taken off for good behavior.

In 2002, Walker won a special election to serve as Milwaukee County executive. He won re-election to that position in 2004 and 2008.

Walker ran for governor in 2006 for the first time but dropped out after fundraising lagged behind eventual nominee Mark Green.

This campaign, Walker emphasized his conservative credentials, promising to repeal $1.8 billion in tax increases passed by the Legislature in 2009 at the same time he balances a state budget expected to be $2.7 billion short.

Walker has also promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term through a series of tax cuts and other reforms.

 

  WYOMING

Republican Matt Mead follows a political family tradition. He is the grandson of Clifford Hansen, the former Wyoming governor and U.S. senator who died last year. His mother, Mary Mead, ran unsuccessfully for governor before her death in 1996 in a riding accident.

Mead, 48, was born in Teton County. He received his bachelor's degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and his law degree from the University of Wyoming.

He stepped down as U.S. attorney for Wyoming in 2007 to seek the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Craig Thomas. He came in fourth in the GOP's selection process, and the seat went to John Barrasso.

This year, Mead spent $1.4 million, most of it his own money, to win a crowded Republican primary. He spelled out a conservative approach to social issues, saying he's staunchly pro-gun and opposes same-sex marriage. He also emphasized the importance of Wyoming energy production, while hammering on his family's ranching heritage.

For the past few years, Mead has worked on his family farming and ranching operation in southeastern Wyoming.

He and his wife, Carol, have two children.





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