Democrats Gain Governor, Voters Speak on State Policies


Voters in 11 states went to the polls to elect governors Tuesday and Democrats appeared to be victorious in seven of those contests, including the defeat of the Republican incumbent in West Virginia. But the GOP still holds 29 of the 50 governor's offices, the Democrats hold 19 and Independents hold the state's top office in Maine and Minnesota.

In the governors' races:

  • In West Virginia, Democrat Rep. Bob Wise defeated Republican incumbent Cecil Underwood.
  • Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen was re-elected in New Hampshire. Shaheen survived a challenge from former Republican U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey.
  • Democratic Lt. Gov. Ruth Minner won the governor's office in Delaware, defeating Republican businessman John Burris.
  • Democratic incumbent Frank O'Bannon was re-elected in Indiana, defeating former Republican U.S. Rep. David McIntosh.
  • In North Dakota, where Gov. Ed Schafer is stepping down, Republican John Hoeven beat out state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. Hoeven was running his first political race and is a former president and CEO of the Bank of North Dakota. Heitkamp's campaign had been interrupted by her efforts to battle breast cancer.
  • In Missouri election to replace the late Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan, it appears State Treasurer Bob Holden has triumphed by a slim margin over U.S. Rep. Jim Talent. Holden had been endorsed by Carnahan before the popular politician died Oct. 16 in an airplane crash in Missouri while campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat, along with his son and an aide.
  • Montana elected its first female governor, Republican Judy Martz, who had been lieutenant governor for four years. A former Olympic skater, Martz defeated Democrat Mark O'Keefe, Montana's state auditor the last eight years. Martz will succeed outgoing Republican Gov. Marc Racicot.
  • In North Carolina, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt is stepping down, voters tabbed Democratic Attorney General Mike Easley to succeed Hunt. Easley beat out former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot, a Republican.
  • In Utah, Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt won a third four-year term as his state's chief executive.
  • Vermont Democratic Gov. Howard Dean coasted to an easy re-election victory over Republican Ruth Dwyer. There had been speculation that anti-civil union sentiment might make Vermont's bitter gubernatorial contest much closer.

Washington state voters easily boosted the country's first Asian-American governor, Gary Locke, into a second term as Washington's chief executive last night. Locke was victorious over Republican John Carlson, a conservative ballot initiative champion.

Voters in 42 states got a say on state policy issues. One of the more noteworthy items was in South Carolina, where voters embraced a plan to boost education by adopting a state lottery.Michigan saw the decisive defeat of Proposal 1, a plan to establish school vouchers. The school voucher movement also suffered a defeat in California, where voters shot down a referendum that would have provided parents with $4,000 per child to send their kids to the school of their choice.

In Colorado and Oregon, states that were victimized by school shootings, voters agreed to crack down on gun show patrons by approving background checks on all gun buyers.Also in Colorado, a proposal to put curbs on urban growth was defeated by that states electorate.

North Carolina voters approved the largest bond issue ever for that state, a $3.1 billion dollar issue aimed at improving higher education.

Massachusetts voters granted themselves the biggest tax cut in history, approving a ballot item that reduces the income tax rate from 5.8 percent to 5 percent by 2003.The annual savings for a family of four with a household income of $75,000 is $450.

Utah voters made their state the 26th to declare English its officials language. Lawmakers had tried and failed to pass the measure on three previous occasions.

Alaska residents defeated a ballot item that would have decriminalized marijuana, and made amnesty available to individuals with marijuana convictions.

In Nebraska, a constitutional amendment was approved that bans same-sex marriages.

Meanwhile, Nevada voters gave constitutional standing to a state statute that defines marriage as occurring between men and a women.

Alabama residents repealed a state ban on marriage between people of different races. The provision has been part of Alabama's constitution for over a century.

In a number of statehouses around the country, the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans was close enough that one party or another could fall from power, based on Tuesday's vote.

Before the election, Democrats held both houses of the legislature in 19 states, Republicans in 17 states.

In Pennsylvania's House, Republicans held a slim advantage leading up to election day. After examining returns in key districts the morning after, state GOP officials claimed they had narrowly maintained their majority.

Republicans were less fortunate in Arizona, where voters appear to have wrested control of the Senate from the GOP for the first time in seven years. Unofficial early returns show that voters also scuttled a $6,000 pay raise for lawmakers.

Texas Republicans managed to keep their razor-thin 16-15 majority in the state Senate, while Democrats remained untouchable in the house with a 150 to 78 advantage.

In South Carolina, it appears GOP lawmakers may have gained control of the Senate for the first time in the modern political era. Democrats had enjoyed a tiny two-seat advantage in the 46-member Senate coming into Tuesday; this morning, election returns seem to indicate that South Carolina Republicans achieved a 23-23 split.

Kentucky Republicans maintained their tenuous grasp on the state Senate, with voters allowing the GOP to keep a 20-18 majority. That makes the re-election of Republican Sen. David Williams as Senate president little more than a formality.


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