Dems win open gov seat in Mo., GOP holds Indiana
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK – Democrats picked up a governor's seat Tuesday as voters in Missouri elected Attorney General Jay Nixon in an open race. In Indiana, voters re-elected Gov. Mitch Daniels Tuesday as the Republican easily turned back a Democratic challenger hoping to benefit from an expected strong turnout for Barack Obama.
Among other incumbents, Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and John Lynch of New Hampshire both won re-election by a wide margin. In Delaware, Democrat Jack Markell easily won the open seat.
Voters in 11 states were choosing governors, deciding close contests in North Carolina and Washington as Republicans tried to chip away at the Democrats' slim majority of gubernatorial seats.
The win in Missouri gave Democrats a momentary 29-21 edge in state capitals nationwide.
Tuesday's races were a prelude to 2010, when four of every five states will elect governors who will help preside over the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts.
The campaigns in North Carolina and Washington offered hints of the battle to come, as the national Republican and Democratic governors' associations spent about $4 million on each of their candidates in each of the two states. Both groups have reported record fundraising this year as part of a four-year plan that will culminate in 2010.
In Washington state, Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and GOP challenger Dino Rossi, a former state senator, restaged their 2004 contest that Gregoire won by 133 votes after two recounts and a lawsuit.
Results may not be clear until later in the week because of mail-in votes that could postmarked as late as midnight on Election Day.
The outcome could be delayed even longer in Vermont. The Republican incumbent, Gov. Jim Douglas, was leading in the polls but had less than 50 percent of the vote in the most recent surveys of his three-way race with Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington and independent Anthony Pollina.
If no one gets 50 percent, the election goes to the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, which doesn't convene until January.
In North Carolina, a state that typically elects Democratic governors, Republican Pat McCrory, the mayor of Charlotte for 13 years, was in a dead heat with Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue. The winner replaces a Democrat, Gov. Mike Easley, who is stepping down because of term limits.
Perdue, seeking to become North Carolina's first woman governor, pitched her reputation as a problem solver after years in state government. In a twist on the national Democrats' change message, McCrory painted Perdue as a status quo candidate.
The results could hinge on how many newly registered Democrats and black voters casting ballots for Barack Obama also vote for Perdue.
Polls in Missouri had given Nixon a strong lead over U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who once worked for Nixon in the attorney general's office. Nixon will replace Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, who did not seek re-election.
In Indiana, Daniels defeated Democrat Jill Long Thompson, a former congresswoman who trailed in fundraising and was off the air for several weeks with campaign ads. She was banking on voter discontent with some of Daniels' decisions, including leasing the Indiana toll road to a foreign, private group.
Daniels, who was President Reagan's chief policy adviser and President George W. Bush's budget director, had a huge fundraising advantage throughout the campaign. He outspent his Democratic rival by at least $10 million.
In the race for an open seat in Delaware, Markell, the state treasurer, easily defeated Republican Bill Lee, a former judge. Term limits prohibited Gov. Ruth Ann Minner from running again.
In West Virginia, Manchin, a former state lawmaker and secretary of state, defeated former Republican legislator Russ Weeks and Jesse Johnson, the Mountain Party's nominee.
In New Hampshire, Lynch beat state senator Joe Kenney to win a third two-year term.
Among other incumbents, Democrat Brian Schweitzer of Montana was expected to win re-election, as were Republicans Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah and John Hoeven of North Dakota.