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Dems win big as governors

Democrats appeared poised to win a majority of governorships for the first time since 1994.

Published November 8, 2006


Democrats captured governorships in Massachusetts, Ohio and New York on Tuesday and retained a vulnerable seat in Michigan as elections for the top office in 36 states promised the biggest shake-up 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 easily defeated Republican Ken Blackwell. New York, as expected, chose Democrat Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general who crusaded for Wall Street and corporate reform.

Massachusetts and Ohio hadn't elected a Democrat since 1986. New York last elected a Democrat in 1990.

In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, considered vulnerable, defeated millionaire Dick DeVos, even though he put more than $35-million of his own money toward his campaign.

Late Tuesday night, Democrats were on the verge of winning a majority of governorships for the first time since the GOP sweep of 1994, if they could pick up one more GOP seat and hold their own in Wisconsin and Oregon. Though governors don't enact national policy, they can organize state parties to rally around a White House race.

In Illinois, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich won re-election in a contest that Republicans had at one time hoped would go their way.

Elsewhere, Republicans held onto Florida, Connecticut, South Carolina, Nebraska, Georgia and South Dakota, as did Democrats in New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Pennsylvania, where Ed Rendell defeated former NFL star Lynn Swann.

Also, early returns showed sitting GOP Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Jim Douglas of Vermont leading.

Ten states had open seats because of retirements, term limits and primary defeat.

In Massachusetts, Patrick easily defeated GOP Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey despite her support from outgoing GOP Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential 2008 presidential candidate. The last elected black governor was Virginia's L. Douglas Wilder, who left office in 1994.

In Ohio, Strickland swept past Blackwell, the secretary of state who was criticized by Democrats for his role in overseeing the 2004 election in Ohio that was critical in securing President Bush's victory.

The biggest names were in some of the least competitive races. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California was safely ahead in pre-election surveys, while Spitzer had long been ahead in New York.

The Democrats were hoping to reverse the Republican majority among governorships that the GOP has held ever since the landslide of 1994.

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 his primary.

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 and Ted Kulongoski in Oregon.

The contests could break the record for women governors. Eight female governors now hold office, one fewer than the record. Four women were in the running as major-party candidates.

[Last modified November 8, 2006, 05:50:56]

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