Democrats win governor races in Ohio, Mass.
Patrick wins in Mass.; Strickland Ohio
By ROBERT TANNER, AP National Writer 11 minutes ago
Democrats took back the governorships Tuesday in Ohio
and Massachusetts as elections for the top office in
36 states promised the biggest shakeup of state
governments in years.
Massachusetts Democrat Deval Patrick was declared the
winner in his state he will be the first black
governor of the state and the second elected black
governor of any state. In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Ted
Strickland (news, bio, voting record) easily defeated
Republican Ken Blackwell. Neither state had elected a
Democrat since the 1980s.
The victories declared there and several other states
were based on a statistical analysis of the vote based
on voter interviews conducted for The Associated Press
by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
With 10 new governors guaranteed to come out of
Tuesday's elections, state governments were bound for
big changes. Those could be even more tumultuous if
Democrats manage to reverse years of Republican
In Illinois, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich won
re-election in a contest that Republicans had at one
time hoped would go their way. Elsewhere, Republican
Gov. Jodi Rell in Connecticut won re-election, as did
Democratic Govs. Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania, Phil
Bredesen in Tennessee and John Lynch in New Hampshire.
In the competitive race in Florida to replace
term-limited GOP Gov. Jeb Bush, Republican Charlie
Crist, the state attorney general, was leading
Democratic Rep. Jim Davis (news, bio, voting record)
60 percent to 38 percent, with 8 percent of precincts
Also, very early returns showed sitting Republican
governors in Georgia and South Carolina ahead. Neither
of those races was closely contested.
Ten states had open seats because of retirements, term
limits and primary defeat. Five other states were so
competitive that incumbent governors were fighting
hard to avoid being unseated.
The biggest names were in some of the least
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California
was safely ahead in pre-election surveys, while
Democrat Eliot Spitzer an attorney general famous
for pushing for Wall Street and corporate reform was
far ahead in New York. GOP Gov. Rick Perry of Texas
was a favorite to beat back a Democrat challenger and
two independents, including musician and comic Kinky
The Democrats were hoping to reverse the Republican
majority among governorships that the GOP has held
ever since the landslide of 1994.
"We're getting help with discontent with the
Iraq war and we're getting help from Washington
gridlock," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, head
of the Democratic Governors Association. "It's helping
elect Democratic governors."
Republicans went into Election Day holding 28
governorships to 22 for the Democrats. The GOP began
the year trying to hold eight open seats, while
Democrats had only one. Republicans also saw another
seat come open when Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski lost
The contests for those open seats were some of the
Nevada, where GOP Rep. Jim Gibbons was hobbled by
accusations he assaulted and propositioned a cocktail
waitress. He faced Democrat Dina Titus, a state
senator. They were seeking to replace term-limited GOP
Gov. Kenny Guinn.
Iowa, where Democrat Chet Culver, the secretary of
state, and GOP Rep. Jim Nussle (news, bio, voting
record) fought for the seat left by retiring
Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is exploring a
possible presidential run.
Governors most at risk included Republicans Tim
Pawlenty in Minnesota and Robert Ehrlich in Maryland.
Also in close contests, though the latest surveys
showed them slightly ahead, were Democrats Jim Doyle
in Wisconsin, Jennifer Granholm in Michigan and Ted
Kulongoski in Oregon.
And a few states that strategists expected to stay
safely Republican wound up competitive.
In Alaska, Republican Sarah Palin unseated unpopular
Gov. Murkowski in the GOP primary and faced Democratic
former Gov. Tony Knowles. In Idaho, GOP Rep. C.L.
"Butch" Otter was in a close contest with Democrat
Jerry Brady, a former newspaper publisher.
The contests could break the record for women
governors. Eight women governors now hold office, one
fewer than the record. Four women were in the running
as major-party candidates.
Though the parties pour in money to win a majority of
gubernatorial races, governors can't enact national
policy. Still, they can strengthen a party's grass
roots, turn out votes for presidential contests, and
cultivate future national leaders. Their decisions
shape policy on health care, taxes and other domestic
issues, and often touch citizens more directly than Washington.