After 12 Years, Democrats Again Lead a Majority of States

By David S. Broder
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; 8:12 AM

Democrats last night claimed a majority of the nation's governorships for the first time in 12 years, as the rout of Republicans spread from Washington down to the state capitols.

Democrats ousted Republicans from governorships in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and Ohio, as they solidified their grip on the Northeast. They also annexed Arkansas, Colorado and threatened strongly in Minnesota, putting themselves in position to reverse the 28 to 22 lead Republicans enjoyed before Election Day.

The result was a power shift in the states, mirroring that in the Capitol, a change that will have strong effects on the dynamics of the 2008 presidential race and the redistricting that will follow the 2010 Census.

In an election cycle that created possible new stars for the Democrats in Deval Patrick, the first African American governor of Massachusetts, and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who broke 12 years of GOP control of New York, the Republicans saw Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) defend his seat in California, while others also protected other Sun Belt anchors. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) won over three opponents, and Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist (R) defeated Rep. Jim Davis (D) for the post to be relinquished by retiring Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

The Democratic run began within minutes after the polls closed in Ohio. Rep. Ted Strickland (D), a Protestant minister and veteran legislator, was declared the winner over J. Kenneth Blackwell (R), the charismatic but controversial secretary of state who was instrumental in leading President Bush's winning campaign in Ohio two years ago.

Equally important, Democrats defended their most vulnerable-looking incumbents. In Michigan, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D) held off wealthy, self-financed businessman Dick DeVos (R), who tried to exploit the economic troubles of that auto industry state. Next door in Wisconsin, embattled Gov. Jim Doyle (D) prevailed against Rep. Mark Green (R), his challenger from Green Bay.

In the mid-Atlantic region, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) won his expected second term, easily defeating former Pittsburgh Steelers football star Lynn Swann, while Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) lost a hard-fought battle against Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D).

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), beset by federal investigations into alleged corruption in his administration, survived against the eccentric challenge of State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka (R).

In New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson (D) was reelected. "This should bode well for 2008, for redistricting and for new initiatives," said Richardson, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and a presidential hopeful. "Congress has been in gridlock," Richardson said, and more states may take the lead on domestic policy.

Patrick, the winner in Massachusetts, prevailed over Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R), the political heir of retiring Gov. Mitt Romney, a GOP presidential hopeful whose popularity has slumped at home.

Spitzer, the New York victor over last-minute candidate John Faso, the former state House minority leader, comes to office with a national reputation as a consumer advocate and scourge of Wall Street big shots.

In Ohio, Blackwell, a former mayor of Cincinnati, was bidding to become the state's first African American governor, but his conservative positions on social issues split the Republican Party and opened the door for a Democratic victory. Scandals in the administration of outgoing Gov. Bob Taft (R) also added to the GOP rout in a state where Republicans hold all the statewide offices.

In Arkansas, where retiring Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) is another presidential hopeful, the Democratic attorney general, Mike Beebe, turned back Asa Hutchinson (R), a former member of the House who served as the No. 2 man in the Department of Homeland Security.

Huckabee, lamenting the GOP loss of his state and others, called it "a wakeup call for the party. A government that is polarized and paralyzed is no longer authorized."

In Colorado, Democrats reclaimed the governorship when Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter defeated Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) in the contest to choose a successor to retiring Gov. Bill Owens (R).

Democrats also won in Minnesota, where Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) edged out state Attorney General Mike Hatch (D). But two House Republicans claimed victory in Nevada and Idaho. In Nevada, Rep. Jim Gibbons defeated state senator Dina Titus. In Idaho, Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter easily defeated former newspaper publisher Jerry M. Brady.

In Alaska, Republican Sarah Palin, former mayor of Wasilla, will become the state's first female governor.

In Iowa, Rep. Jim Nussle (R), former chairman of the House Budget Committee, lost to Secretary of State Chet Culver (D), the son of former senator John Culver (D-Iowa.). That protected the seat of retiring Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), a presidential hopeful.Other incumbent winners were Republicans Bob Riley of Alabama, M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Sonny Perdue of Georgia, Dave Heineman of Nebraska, Linda Lingle of Hawaii, Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Jim Douglas of Vermont, as well as Democrats Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, John E. Baldacci of Maine, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Brad Henry of Oklahoma, Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, Phil Bredesen of Tennessee and Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming.

Staff writer Bill Brubaker contributed to this report.

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