Incumbent Governors in Indiana, New Hampshire Lose Races
By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer
Republicans won governorships previously held by the Democrats in Missouri and Indiana, and the Democrats ousted a GOP incumbent in New Hampshire and won in Montana in Tuesday's election.
In other governors' races, Democrats kept control of the state's top office in Delaware, North Carolina and West Virginia. Republicans held on to North Dakota, Vermont and Utah.
Results were incomplete for Washington, where the contest between Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D) and Dino Rossi (R) was still too close to call.
Missouri's race was one of the most-watched governor's contests in the nation. Republican Matt Blunt, the secretary of state and son of four-term GOP Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, eked out a victory over Democrat Claire McCaskill, the state auditor. McCaskill had defeated Gov. Bob Holden in the state Democratic primary.
In Indiana, Mitch Daniels, a former top Bush administration official, toppled Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan from the job he inherited last year. Presidential coattails may have helped Daniels, who took a turn as Bush's White House budget director. Indiana went quickly for Bush in the presidential contest, and Bush stumped for Daniels during the campaign. The race was Kernan's first election since taking over when former Gov. Frank O'Bannon died mid-term last year
New Hampshire's Republican Gov. Craig Benson lost his bid for reelection to Democratic businessman John Lynch in a race that was not decided until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
Republicans went into the 2004 elections with 28 governorships while Democrats held 22.
Even before a ballot was cast, the nation knew at least five freshmen governors would be elected in the 11 gubernatorial races. That's because the governors' seats in Montana, Washington and West Virginia were wide open because incumbents opted not to run again while the posts in Missouri and Utah were up for grabs because the sitting governors failed to win their parties' nomination to seek a new term. Jobs, health care and education were key issues in all the races.
Besides governors' elections, voters in 44 states were recasting their legislatures. In statehouse races, early indications showed shakeups in at least eight states where the chambers switched parties, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The GOP continued to make gains in the South, taking the Tennessee Senate and the Georgia House, the first time the Georgia Legislature is under Republican control since Reconstruction. The Oklahoma House switched party control from Democratic to Republican for the first time in 83 years. The Indiana House also went Republican, NCSL said.
For their part, Democrats took control of the previously tied North Carolina House with at least a four-seat margin of victory, and Democrats wrested control of the Vermont House. Colorado cast its electoral vote for Bush, but voters there decided to let Democrats regain control of both the Colorado House and Senate.
Voters in 34 states also weighed in on controversial ballot measures. Proposals to rewrite their state constitutions to ban gay marriage were approved in all 11 states with measures on the ballot: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.
California voters endorsed the country's largest government-funded research program on embryonic stem cells and also appeared to endorse a proposal to scale back the state's "three-strikes" sentencing law to violent or serious felonies, according to NCSL.
Voters in Florida and Nevada voted to boost the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour -- $1 higher than the federal rate -- although Nevada employers would pay $5.15 if they provide health insurance.
Maine voters rejected a ballot measure to cap property taxes, a proposal that tax-cut proponents had banked on to kick-start a new national property tax revolt.
In Arizona, early indications showed voters OK'ing a proposal to keep undocumented immigrants from voting or getting public services. Proponents say the measure, which would require proof of citizenship before voting or accessing state welfare benefits, is needed because people in Arizona currently can declare themselves citizens without showing any documentation. Only U.S. citizens are eligible to vote in national and state elections. Opponents call the proposal mean-spirited and anti-immigrant and say it would turn government employees into immigration agents. California voters approved a similar ballot measure in 1994, but a court struck it down.
Election reform measures appeared to fail in Colorado and Arkansas. In Colorado, voters defeated Amendment 36, which would have split the state's electoral votes -- retroactive to Tuesday's election -- based on the popular vote count. And Arkansas voters rejected a term-limit proposal that would have extended the allowable number of terms for House and Senate members to 12 years in each chamber.
Here's how the governors' races were shaping up:
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) defeated William Lee (R) in a surprisingy tight race.
Delaware's first female governor came under fire for her response to a state prison hostage ordeal in which a counselor was raped. The victim criticized Minner in TV ads paid for by the Republican Governors Association. Lee, 69, a retired Delaware Superior Court judge, also lambasted Minner's handling of the situation.
During her first term, Minner, 69, pushed through a controversial smoking ban. Her political career includes eight years in the Delaware House of Representatives and 10 years in the state Senate. Twice-widowed, Minner is the mother of three sons.
Mitch Daniels (R) defeated Gov. Joe Kernan (D).
Daniels, a tireless campaigner who canvassed Indiana several times in an RV, ousted incumbent Kernan, 58, who inherited the office when Gov. Frank O'Bannon died in September 2003. Prescription drug costs and Indiana's struggling economy were heavily debated over the course of the campaign.
Daniels was dubbed "my man Mitch" by President George W. Bush during his 2001-2003 tenure as director of the Office of Management and Budget. The nickname stuck and was seen on bright green T-shirts all over Indiana during the campaign. Daniels, 55, is the father of four daughters.
Matt Blunt (R) defeated Claire McCaskill (D) to take over from Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, who lost in the primary election.
Blunt, 33, ran a tight race with McCaskill, 51, registering a lead of only a few percentage points in the waning days of the campaign and overcoming criticism of failures in the Missouri election system.
Blunt, a Navy reservist, has served as Missouri's Secretary of State since 2000 and is the son of U.S. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, spent five years on active duty with the Navy, and was the first elected official from Missouri to be called up after September 11. (He served in Afghanistan for six months.) His wife, Melanie, is expecting the couple's first child.
Brian Schweitzer (D) defeated Bob Brown (R) to take the place of Republican Gov. Judy Martz, who suffered from flagging popularity and didn't seek re-election.
The first Democratic Montana governor in 16 years, Schweitzer, 49, beat Secretary of State Brown, 57, with a Republican running mate (John Bohlinger) for lieutenant governor. Tribal economic development, worker retraining and higher education, and coal bed methane extraction were major issues in his grassroots campaign.
Schweitzer, a farmer and rancher, came up short in a 2000 Montana Senate race and has never before held public office. He worked as an irrigation developer with his wife Nancy in Africa, Asia, and Europe. He graduated from Montana State University and has three children.
- NEW HAMPSHIRE
John Lynch (D) defeated first- term Gov. Craig Benson (R.
Bucking their habit of giving governors a second two-year term, New Hampshire voters ousted Benson, who, like Lynch, was a former corporate chief executive. Lynch advocates repealing New Hampshire's education property tax but said he would veto attempts to reduce state aid below $450 million and would gradually increase it.
- NORTH CAROLINA
Gov. Michael Easley (D) defeated Patrick Ballantine (R).
Easley, 54, in office since 2000, easily defeated Republican challenger Ballantine, 39, convincing voters that the state's recent job losses and economic downturn could be reversed in another term.
Shortly before the election, Easley called the General Assembly back to work to consider a package of tax incentives to lure a computer manufacturing plant to the state. From 1992-2000, Easley served as state attorney general. Raised on a tobacco farm, he has one son with Mary, his wife of 24 years.
- NORTH DAKOTA
Gov. John Hoeven (R) defeated Joe Satrom (D).
Hoeven easily won re-election in this solid Republican state, defeating Satrom, a 59-year-old former state legislator. Hoeven, 47, boasts an economy that grew by $1 billion during the past three years and a low unemployment rate.
The governor's seat is Hoeven's only experience in state politics. Before winning election in 2000, he was president and CEO of the Bank of North Dakota for seven years. Between 1986 and 1993, he was executive vice president of First Western Bank. He is married and has two children.
Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) defeated Scott Matheson Jr. (D).
Huntsman, 44, beat Matheson, the 51-year-old son of a former governor, to fill the shoes of Gov. Olene Walker (R), who failed to win her party's nomination for re-election. Huntsman enters his first elected position in opposition to the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. He has said he wants to dump the requirements it imposes on education, even if it means losing federal money.
Huntsman is chairman and CEO for Huntsman Family Holdings Co., LLC, the holding company for the multi-billion-dollar Huntsman Corp. He was a deputy U.S. trade representative for President George W. Bush, and earlier served the elder President Bush as ambassador to Singapore and an assistant commerce secretary. He is married with six children.
Gov. Jim Douglas (R) defeated Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle (D).
Pledging to cut property taxes -- a key issue for Vermont voters -- Douglas won re-election against Clavelle, the seven-term mayor of the state's largest city. Douglas, Vermont's first Republican governor to win re-election since 1982, opposed adopting a statewide smoking ban.
Douglas has been involved in Vermont politics since he graduated from Middlebury College in 1973, serving in the Legislature until 1979. In 1980, he was elected secretary of state and won re-election five times. Douglas ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992 but lost in the general election. After he was elected state treasurer in 1994, he won re-election three times before being elected governor in 2002. Douglas is married and has two children.
Results were incomplete in the race between Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D) and Dino Rossi (R) to fill the office of Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, who decided against seeking re-election.
- WEST VIRGINIA
Secretary of State Joe Manchin III (D) defeated Monty Warner (R).
Manchin's victory over Warner, a former Army colonel and real-estate developer, keeps the governor's seat in Democratic control in the wake of Gov. Bob Wise's (D) decision not to seek re-election after admitting to an extramarital affair with a female state employee. Manchin, 57, promised that increasing jobs in West Virginia would be his top priority by focusing on economic development and education. Fixing the state's workers' compensation system also was a major issue in Manchin's platform.
The one-term secretary of state served in the Legislature for 12 years. Manchin attempted a run for governor in 1996 but lost in the Democratic primary. He has been married for 37 years, is the father of three and grandfather of six.
Alison L. McConnell and Alex Sundby contributed to this report.