Dems win Ky. gov seat, Va. Senate
By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer
Heading into the 2008 presidential campaign, Democrats held their 28-to-22 advantage in the nation's governor's suites and will continue to have the upper hand in most statehouses. Democrats will control both houses in 23 legislatures while Republicans control 14. Twelve legislatures are split between the parties, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Legislative races in Virginia , New Jersey and Mississippi took on added importance because the party that controls the statehouse will have extra influence when new legislative and congressional districts are redrawn after the 2010 census.
Kentucky voters replaced their first Republican governor in more than 30 years with Democrat Steve Beshear, a former lieutenant governor. With his win, Beshear returns to the Kentucky capitol 20 years after losing his first gubernatorial race.
Fletcher's defeat wasn't a surprise. He had been trailing in the polls, unable to overcome a merit-hiring scandal that overshadowed his first term. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear netted 59 percent of the vote while Fletcher had 41 percent, according to the state elections board .
In the only other gubernatorial contest on Nov. 6, Barbour of Mississippi defeated Democrat John Eaves, an attorney and evangelical Christian who ran a pro-life, pro-guns, pro-Bible campaign. Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, had won praise for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Wilting criticism of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's (D) handling of devastation in New Orleans led her to bow out of this year's race in her state. Lousiana voters elected U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) to succeed Blanco in balloting last month. Jindal is the country's first politician of Indian descent to be elected governor and, at 36, will become the youngest sitting governor in the nation.
Fletcher had been dogged by a hiring probe that led to his own indictment and to charges against several key officials in his administration of rewarding political allies with jobs. Fletcher pardoned the officials. Charges against Fletcher, a former U.S. congressman, were dropped as part of an agreement with Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.
Beshear capitalized on Fletcher's scandal and garnered bipartisan backing on a platform emphasizing "honesty and integrity," as well as promising to increase health-care coverage of those needing insurance.
Beshear is no newcomer to state politics. The Kentucky native won a seat in the Legislature in 1974, was elected state attorney general in 1979 and lieutenant governor in 1983. In 1987, however, Beshear finished last in a three-way Democratic primary for governor and has spent the past 20 years in private law practice.
Kentucky may have lost a family physician in the governor's mansion with Fletcher's departure, but the state gains a surgeon in the executive suite. Beshear's running mate is state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, an ear, nose and throat surgeon.
Voters in Kentucky and Mississippi Nov. 6 also elected lieutenant governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general.
Incumbent Kentucky Secretary of State C.M. Trey Grayson won a second term, besting Democrat S. Bruce Hendrickson, while Democrat Jack Conway was elected attorney general over Republican Stan Lee to succeed Stumbo.
Governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately in Mississippi . Republican Phil Bryant, the state auditor, defeated James "Jamie" R. Franks (D), a state representative, for the No. 2 job. Current Lt. Gov Amy Tuck (R) opted not to seek re-election.