The 18 freshman governors-elect who won office Tuesday are a diverse collection of new and old politicians who include three women, two former Republicans turned independent and two businessmen who chose to move into elective politics.

Many of them will play key roles in the congressional redistricting in their states through expected vetoes or veto threats. Voters in Illinois, Minnesota and Massachusetts elected Republican governors empowered to veto redistricting plans drawn up by Democratic legislatures.

The new governors represent virtually every region of the country from California to Rhode Island. Their backgrounds vary widely: They include three former governors, two former U.S. senators and one current senator, a former U.S. attorney, a state treasurer, a state Senate majority leader and a secretary of state.

The overwhelming majority, 12 of the new governors, will replace an incumbent of the opposite party. Six defeated an incumbent, and six won open seats currently held by the opposition party. In addition, the two independents replace retiring Democrats.ALASKA

Walter J. Hickel (Ind.), 71, always was a bit of a renegade, difficult to push around. First elected Alaska governor in 1966 as a Republican, he failed in 1978 as a write-in candidate and this year gained the ballot as an independent just before the filing deadline.

Hickel never finished his first term, leaving office in 1969 to become President Richard M. Nixon's first interior secretary. He was fired by Nixon in 1970 after taking issue with the administration over environmental policy and the Vietnam War.

Alaska Republicans sought White House help this year to keep Hickel off the ballot, but a threatening phone call from Chief of Staff John H. Sununu only stiffened his determination. A Kansas native who moved to Alaska in 1940 with only 37 cents in his pocket, Hickel became a builder and developer after odd jobs as a logger and bartender.

CALIFORNIA

Pete Wilson (R), 57, often has been portrayed as a colorless politician unknown to voters, but his political views come from the heart of the postwar, upwardly mobile suburban generation that holds sway in California. A U.S. senator, he is conservative on financial matters and insistent on a strong national defense but supports abortion rights and is sympathetic to the need for more attention to transportation, education and health care.

Beginning a law career in California, he impressed enough Republican activists and voters to win a state Assembly seat in 1966 and become San Diego mayor in 1971. An early run for governor went nowhere, but he won his Senate seat in 1982 against unpopular then-governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr.

Wilson has inspired loyalty from a talented core of aides who have been with him for years. He is prone to sarcastic humor and insists on acting as his own, albeit unofficial, campaign manager.

CONNECTICUT

Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (Ind.), 60, a former Republican senator who has made a political career out of being a maverick, capitalized on voters' anger at party establishments by running as an independent.

A blunt and contentious man who enjoyed portraying himself as an outsider, Weicker joins Alaska Gov.-elect Walter J. Hickel as the first independents to win a gubernatorial contest since an insurance executive was elected governor of Maine in 1974.

In three terms as senator, Weicker was best known for calling on President Richard M. Nixon to resign and often fought with his party's conservative leadership, a legacy that prompted charges in the election that he would have difficulty leading the state.

FLORIDA

Lawton Chiles (D), 60, swept to office with the help of thousands of bedrock Republicans who did not vote. Revered as the state's most popular politician, his victory margin was greater than pollsters had predicted.

Chiles retired from the Senate in 1988 because he was frustrated with federal paralysis on the budget deficit. He sought to make his campaign a referendum on campaign reform.

He spurned a modern big campaign budget, pollsters and a Madison Avenue advertising portfolio. But offbeat, grass-roots style campaigning has been a Chiles trademark for 20 years, starting with election to the Senate in 1970.

GEORGIA

Zell Miller (D), 58, a Georgia native who grew up in the Depression in a house with no indoor plumbing or running water, has been lieutenant governor for nearly 16 years, longer than anyone in the state's history.

A silver-haired politician with a country twang, Miller used a single issue -- a legalized state lottery -- to win the Democratic nomination over Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young for the governorship.

He grew up in Young Harris, Ga., where his father, who died 17 days after Miller's birth, was an educator and state senator and his mother served two terms as mayor. A former state senator, Miller ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1980.

ILLINOIS

Jim Edgar (R), 44, the secretary of state and a former legislative liaison for outgoing Republican Gov. James R. Thompson, narrowly bested Democrat Neil F. Hartigan by distancing himself from Thompson and selling himself to voters as a matter-of-fact alternative to Chicago machine politics.

Edgar began his political career as a legislative aide and subsequently was elected to the statehouse from his central Illinois community of Charleston. Thompson appointed him secretary of state in 1981, and he was reelected twice.

In Springfield, Edgar made a reputation as an advocate for stronger drunk-driving laws that pleased many voters but earned him the ire of the liquor industry, which mounted a fund-raising campaign to defeat him. He also helped to win support for a mandatory automobile insurance law for Illinois motorists.

KANSAS

Joan Finney (D), 65, is a fifth-generation Kansan who has been state treasurer since 1975. She had been a Republican, starting as a staff member for Sen. Frank Carlson (R) in 1953, but switched parties in 1972.

A Roman Catholic who opposes legalized abortion, she has advocated a "public initiative amendment" that would allow voters to bypass elected officials and decide issues by direct-ballot measures. She has been criticized by opponents as a lightweight but won the Democratic nomination over former governor John Carlin with tireless campaigning and while spending only $34,000.

The state's first female treasurer, she will be its first female governor.

MASSACHUSETTS

William F. Weld (R), 46, is a lawyer taking his first elective office after an uphill fight to win the nomination, then overhauling the Democratic favorite. A conservative on fiscal issues, he campaigned on a platform of "no new taxes" and a pledge to "downsize state government."

The former prosecutor also talked tough on crime and opposed gun controls. But he drew liberal voters by taking moderate stands on social issues, embracing abortion rights, gay rights and environmental controls.

In 1974, Weld served as associate minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee on the Watergate inquiry. After losing a landslide race for Massachusetts attorney general in 1978, he was named U.S. attorney in Boston in 1981, taking on organized crime and public corruption. He became the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division in 1986 and resigned two years later after a public showdown with then-Attorney General Edwin Meese III over ethics.

MICHIGAN

John Engler (R), 42, is a longtime political insider who ran a textbook Republican campaign: Cut taxes, cut government spending and crack down on crime.

Currently Senate majority leader, Engler has spent two decades in the state legislature, and several top legislators said he will have a better relationship with the legislature than his defeated opponent, Gov. James J. Blanchard (D).

Engler has proposed downsizing state government and said he would institute a hiring freeze, except for prison guards and public-safety positions, and go back to court in an effort to reverse a ruling against double-bunking of state-prison inmates.

MINNESOTA

Arne Carlson (R), 56, toppled 10-year incumbent Gov. Rudy Perpich despite the fact that he had been the GOP candidate for less than a week in a topsy-turvy election whose participants changed so late that it was conducted with paper ballots.

Carlson, second in the primary, was tapped after the primary winner, Jon Grunseth, quit the race because of allegations that he had an extramarital affair and went skinny-dipping with three teenage girls several years ago.

The party's 14-member executive committee voted to support Carlson despite a strong distaste for his moderate views, including his support for abortion rights, which Perpich opposed. Carlson called his selection "a dream come true."

NEBRASKA

Ben Nelson (D), 49, an Omaha lawyer, won the primary by just 41 votes and had to endure two recounts and a 48-day wait before being declared the victor. But he defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Orr, campaigning on her reversal of a 1986 no-tax pledge and telling voters, "Don't be fooled again."

Orr attacked Nelson's connection to a company involved in junk-bond dealing, a charge dismissed by Nelson as a desperate act.

Nelson, who adopted two children as newborns, cites that experience as a basis for opposing abortion but said that, if elected, he would not veto an abortion measure, either restrictive or supportive of abortion rights.

NEW MEXICO

Bruce King (D), 66, a folksy rancher-politician, has been the state's governor twice and often said that he would not need "on-the-job training."

Born on a 160-acre homestead that his parents bought along with their Model T automobile, King became a millionaire in real estate and ranching and served five years as state House speaker before his first election as governor in 1970.

Barred from serving consecutive terms until a recent constitutional amendment, he won a second term in 1978 and can run again in 1994. He has strong ties to labor and a reputation for getting along with various interest groups.

OHIO

George Voinovich (R), 54, said his late father, an architect and a Democrat, once asked him, "Kid, are you sure you want to be a Republican?"

Voinovich had no doubts. He decided on a government career while in high school and became president of the Young Republicans at Ohio State University where he received his law degree.

As Cleveland mayor from 1979 to 1989, he won praise for leading the city out of default bequeathed by a Democratic administration and for helping to revitalize a dilapidated downtown area. In 1988, he failed to unseat Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D).

OKLAHOMA

David Walters (D), 38, winning his first elective office in his second try for the governorship, was born and reared on a farm on southwestern Oklahoma, chopping cotton for 50 cents an hour before going to Harvard University Business School.

Associate provost at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and later a real estate developer, Walters described himself as a businessman who wants to bring a new approach to government. He supported a proposal to limit legislative terms and opposed repeal of a bill that raised taxes to finance education. He is a Roman Catholic who backs abortion rights.

Walters faced questions in the 1986 race about a $162,500 loan from five people who had already contributed the maximum $5,000 to his campaign.

OREGON

Barbara Roberts (D), 53, who will be the state's first female governor, is an energetic and outspoken campaigner. Roberts, who has an autistic son, started in politics by lobbying the state legislature for public education for emotionally disabled children.

Elected Oregon's secretary of state in 1984 and easily reelected in 1988, Roberts had been planning to run for governor in 1994. But she speeded up her timetable and jumped into the race after Gov. Neil Goldschmidt (D) unexpectedly announced in February that he would not seek a second term.

A liberal, she stressed ways to retrain loggers and millworkers in the controversy over federal efforts to save the northern spotted owl, backed abortion rights and endorsed ballot measures to shut down the state's only nuclear power plant and to impose strict recycling standards on packaging.

RHODE ISLAND

Bruce G. Sundlun (D), 70, a wealthy Providence businessman upset three-term incumbent Edward D. DiPrete (R) in their third faceoff, winning a race tipped in Sundlun's favor in a battle over ethics.

Sundlun capitalized on news stories about questionable DiPrete family land deals, the administration's handling of a major unfinished bridge project and state contracts awarded to DiPrete campaign supporters.

Sundlun is a former World War II bomber pilot and Harvard Law School graduate who headed a communications company that operated television and radio stations. He is chairman of Sundlun and Co., an investment banking firm.

TEXAS

Ann Richards (D), 57, is a moderate-to-liberal politician who has been state treasurer eight years. She first gained national recognition for her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1988 and her victory establishes her as one of the nation's most powerful female elected officials.

Richards was a teacher and homemaker until she reached her 40s, when she entered the political world as a campaign manager for local female candidates and then as a county commissioner from Austin.

Her top priority as governor, Richards said, will be to straighten out the public education system, which the state Supreme Court has deemed inequitable. She said she will appoint more women and minorities to state positions in an effort to "represent the population of the state in ethnicity and gender."

VERMONT

Richard A. Snelling (R), 63, has worked in business and served in public office more than 30 years, making Vermont history by serving four consecutive two-year terms, starting in 1977.

In 1959, he won his first public office, a seat in the Vermont House, and later served two more terms and as majority leader in 1975-76.

During his eight years as governor, Snelling presided over expansion of the economy and helped to secure long-term electrical-supply contracts.

Contributing to this report were staff writers Thomas B. Edsall, George Lardner Jr. and Ruth Marcus in Washington, David Maraniss in Austin and Jay Mathews in Los Angeles and special correspondent Christopher B. Daly in Boston.