Democrat Is Narrowly Elected North Carolina's First Female Governor

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In one of the nation's closest gubernatorial races, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue prevailed over Charlotte's Republican mayor late yesterday, handing Democrats a key victory and becoming the state's first female governor.

The race between Perdue and GOP challenger Pat McCrory tightened in recent weeks as Democrats successfully attracted new voters to the polls and emphasized the nation's economic woes.

The same strategy worked in Missouri, where Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon won the seat of departing Gov. Matt Blunt (R). Nixon defeated Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof.

Bucking that tide, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) cruised to reelection after shrugging off ties to an unpopular president and unprecedented spending by the Democratic Party. Daniels, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bush, held on to his job by emphasizing his efforts to boost the state's economy.

Eleven gubernatorial seats were up for grabs in yesterday's voting, with Democrats already in control of 28 across the nation, compared with 22 held by Republicans. At stake was substantial influence over redistricting after the 2010 census, which experts say could alter the composition of the U.S. House.

Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, noted that governor's races are less heavily influenced by national politics than Senate contests. But fellow Democrats counted on Barack Obama to help in "turning out Democratic voters," he said.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) handily won a second term yesterday, and four other races were won by their two Democratic and two Republican incumbents. Voters in Puerto Rico rejected indicted Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila (D) in favor of his GOP opponent, Luis G. Fortuño, who is a nonvoting member of Congress.

The gubernatorial races in North Carolina and Washington both featured blisteringly negative campaign ads and record-setting expenditures from outside groups. The Republican Governors Association invested $6 million in each state to try to wrest it from Democratic control, more than 5 1/2 times the amount the group spent four years ago, according to Executive Director Nick Ayers.

"We're not operating under any false illusions about the challenging environment," Ayers said before the votes were counted. Democrats, meanwhile, spent $4 million in each of those states in a bid to maintain power, Daschle said.

The Washington contest pitted current Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) against former GOP state senator Dino Rossi, who was vying to become the state's first Republican governor in nearly three decades. The same candidates met four years ago in a contest that Gregoire won after three recounts. This time, the pair traded insults over tax policy, crime and social issues.

Following the pro-Democratic trend around the country, voters in New York gave the party control of the New York Senate, marking the first time since 1935 that Democrats have controlled the statehouse and the governor's office.

Across three dozen states, voters also expressed their preferences on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and gay rights. Perhaps the most contested ballot initiative was Proposition 8, which would amend California's constitution to recognize marriage as an institution only between men and women. While results were not immediately available last night, similar plans in Florida and Arizona appeared on the verge of passing.

South Dakota voters rejected a plan to restrict abortions except in cases of rape, incest or threats to a mother's life. In Colorado, voters discarded a measure that would define a "person" as a life beginning at the moment of fertilization. Arkansas voters, meanwhile, approved a plan that bars unmarried couples from adopting or serving as foster parents. In Washington, voters approved a ballot measure that would make it the second state to allow terminally ill people the option of medically assisted suicide.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company