Republicans capture state houses in at least seven races
WASHINGTON — Republicans captured governorships from Democrats in at least seven states yesterday, including some prime presidential battlegrounds, and hoped for even more state house 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.
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 next year will participate in the redistricting of congressional and legislative seats to reflect the 2010 Census.
Lost in the GOP onslaught: governorships now held by Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
Even so, there were a few bright spots for Democrats in the face of an anti-incumbent groundswell sweeping the nation, including key gubernatorial victories in California, New York, and Maryland.
In New York, Democrat Andrew Cuomo surged past Tea Party Republican Carl Paladino to win the governor’s seat, the same post his father, Mario Cuomo, had held two decades ago.
California voters have returned Democrat Jerry Brown to the governor’s office 28 years after he left it. Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland withstood a tough challenge from his predecessor, Robert Ehrlich, a Republican. And Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire and Governor Mike Beebe of Arkansas, both Democrats, were also reelected.
Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver, a Democrat, was elected Colorado governor despite a challenge from both Republican Dan Maes and immigration hard-liner Tom Tancredo, a former Republican House member. Hickenlooper replaces Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat who did not run for reelection.
But most of the news for Democrats was gloomy, as the same wave that engulfed congressional Democrats took its toll on governor’s mansions.
In Democrat-leaning Pennsylvania, Republican Tom Corbett defeated Democrat Dan Onorato to replace Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat facing term limits.
In Michigan, Republican businessman Rick Snyder, who vowed to turn around the state’s devastated economy, defeated Mayor Virg Bernero of Lansing, a Democrat.
And in Wisconsin, a Democratic-leaning state, conservative Republican Scott Walker rode tax-cut promises to victory over Democrat Tom Barrett. Two-term Democratic incumbent Governor Jim Doyle decided not to seek a third term.
In Oklahoma, US Representative Mary Fallin, a Republican, became the state’s first female governor. She defeated Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins, a Democrat, to replace Governor Brad Henry, a Democrat who was facing term limits.
In Tennessee, Mayor Bill Haslam of Knoxville, a Republican, defeated Democratic businessman Mike McWherter to win the state’s open governorship. Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, was facing term limits and could not run.
In Kansas, Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican, defeated state Senator Tom Holland, a Democrat, to win the governorship. Democrat Kathleen Sebelius was elected in 2002 and again in 2006 before joining Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of health and human services. Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson took her place but did not run for a full term.
In Wyoming, former US attorney Matt Mead, the Republican nominee, defeated former state Democratic chairwoman Leslie Petersen. In Utah, Republican Governor Gary Herbert won another two years in office.
In South Carolina, state Representative Nikki Haley, a Republican backed by the Tea Party movement, was elected to replace Governor Mark Sanford. Haley defeated state Senator Vincent Sheheen.
Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who has already served 10 years, defeated Democrat Bill White, a former mayor of Houston.
In Iowa, former governor Terry Branstad is returning for a fifth term after a 12-year break. Voters elected the Republican over first-term Democrat Chet Culver, whose loss made him the first incumbent governor in Iowa to lose election since 1962.
South Dakota’s Republican lieutenant governor, Dennis Daugaard, defeated Democratic challenger Scott Heidepriem to succeed Governor Mike Rounds, keeping the seat in GOP hands. Alabama also remained in the Republican column as state Representative Robert Bentley defeated Democratic nominee Ron Sparks.
Generally, incumbents of both parties were holding up well.
In Nebraska, Republican Governor Dave Heineman was easily reelected over the Democrat, Mike Meister. In Idaho, Republican Governor C.L. “Butch’’ Otter defeated Democrat Keith Allred to win another term.
In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist decided to run for the Senate, a contest he lost yesterday.