Republicans make gains in governorships

Americans cast their ballots Tuesday in House, Senate and statewide races.
By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post staff writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 10:11 AM

The Republican Party's new control of a majority of the nation's governorships boosts its ability to marshal resources for the 2012 presidential election and influence the hyper-partisan task of drawing congressional district boundaries starting next year.

The party's candidates were in line to win in 10 or more states where the gubernatorial seats had been held by Democrats, depending on the outcome in several contests that didn't have clear winners early Wednesday. Republicans went into the election controlling 24 governorships.

Democrats, experiencing heavy losses throughout the country, headed to their most stinging defeats in the bellwether states of Ohio and Florida, where they had hoped they could wrest victories.

In Ohio, former representative John R. Kasich, a Republican, beat Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, one of the few gubernatorial candidates to embrace President Obama.

And in Florida, Republican Rick Scott, a health-care executive, was ahead of Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer, in late returns.

Democrats had a bright spot in California, however, where former governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown won despite his GOP rival, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, spending more than $140 million of her own money on her campaign.

Other races where Democrats could make up some ground, including Vermont and Minnesota, were too close to call last night.

In Rhode Island, former GOP senator Lincoln D. Chafee, running as an independent, won a multi-candidate race that recently received national attention after Obama refused to endorse the Democrat, state treasurer Frank Caprio. Caprio told the president to "shove it."

Locally, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) won a second term in a hard-fought contest against former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) in the heavily Democratic state. [See story, A1.]

The same adverse political climate that confronted Democrats in House and Senate races made it difficult for them to compete in state contests. Republicans did well in important Midwestern states, winning in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. And they easily picked up conservative states with Democratic governors such as Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kansas, where Sen. Sam Brownback won the governor's seat.

Next year, governors - many of whom will be new, thanks to the abundance of races - will confront daunting fiscal challenges. The recession and modest nature of the economy recovery have left gaping holes in many state budgets.

The outcome of the gubernatorial elections could have effects stretching out a decade as states begin redistricting following the 2010 Census. It could also have an impact on the 2012 presidential race: Whoever sits in the governor's mansion can provide considerable clout on behalf of presidential candidates.

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