Five More Governor's Races Set for Fall
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
Voters in five states chose their major-party candidates for governor on Tuesday (June 8), while the Republican contenders in a sixth — South Carolina — are headed for a runoff.
Nevada's Jim Gibbons became the first sitting governor in state history to lose in a primary, falling by a decisive margin to former federal judge Brian Sandoval in the Republican contest, the Las Vegas Sun reported . Sandoval will face Rory Reid, a Democrat and the son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Gibbons' 42-month tenure as governor of Nevada has been rocky almost from the beginning, as negative personal headlines — including a very public divorce from his wife, Dawn — have undermined his power amid one of the worst budget crises in state history. Gibbons becomes the first sitting U.S. governor since Alaska's Frank Murkowski in 2006 to fall in a primary, The Washington Post noted . Murkowski fell to eventual vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Another incumbent governor who has struggled in polls recently is Iowa's Chet Culver. While Culver ran unopposed in Tuesday's Democratic primary, he will face off in November against a Republican who has the advantage of experience: Terry Branstad. Branstad, who governed Iowa from 1983 to 1999, won a majority in the three-way GOP primary, The Des Moines Register reported .
Branstad becomes the third former governor this year to make it onto November's ballot, with two more hoping to do so. California Democrat Jerry Brown, a governor in the 1970s and 1980s, won an uncontested primary on Tuesday, while Oregon's John Kitzhaber, also a Democrat, won in a primary on May 18. Republican Robert Ehrlich in Maryland and Democrat Roy Barnes in Georgia also are hoping to reclaim their old positions and face contested primaries later this year.
In California, Brown will face former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, as Whitman became the first female Republican gubernatorial nominee in state history on Tuesday. She easily defeated state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner after spending a staggering $71 million in a heated GOP primary campaign, The Los Angeles Times reported .
In Maine, a colorful governor's race awaits after Tea Party favorite Paul LePage — who was homeless at the age of 11 — won the Republican gubernatorial primary and Elizabeth "Libby" Mitchell emerged from the Democratic field. Mitchell is the first woman in U.S. history to have served both as a state Senate president and a state House speaker, The Associated Press reported . The two major-party candidates will face off against a trio of independents in November.
In South Dakota, Democrat Scott Heidepriem and Republican Dennis Daugaard will seek to replace outgoing governor Mike Rounds after they won primaries on Tuesday, according to the (Sioux Falls) Argus-Leader . Daugaard enters the race as the favorite: he has been Rounds' lieutenant governor for the past eight years and the last eight gubernatorial elections in South Dakota have gone to the Republicans, the paper reported.
In the only other state choosing governor candidates on Tuesday — South Carolina — state Representative Nikki Haley narrowly missed winning the Republican race outright and will face U.S. Representative Gresham Barrett in a runoff. Like Whitman in California, Haley could become the first female gubernatorial nominee in state history, and either she or Barrett will take on Democrat Vincent Sheheen in November.