GOP Picks Up Governorships, Many In Swing States

The Republican success in the U.S. House was matched by a run on governor's mansions across the country. The GOP had picked up 10 seats formerly held by Democrats, with some results still out. That gives many of them the power to rewrite political maps as their states go through redistricting. But they will also have to take on the same budget deficits and high unemployment that has bedeviled their Democratic predecessors.

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The Republican success in the U.S. House of Representatives was matched by a run on governors' mansions across the country. Republicans picked up at least 10 governors' seats formerly held by Democrats. That will give many of them the power to rewrite political maps as their states go through redistricting. But as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, they will also have to take on the same budget deficits and high unemployment that bedeviled their Democratic predecessors.

LARRY ABRAMSON: All six Republican incumbent governors held onto their seats on Tuesday. Texas Governor Rick Perry won a third full term with a decisive win over former Houston Mayor Bill White. He waged a campaign that emphasized disgust with Washington and confidence in the Texas way of doing things. Perry said his victory was a referendum.

Governor RICK PERRY (Republican, Texas): All across the country, in precinct after precinct, the wave of dissatisfaction has been building for nearly two years, and it crested tonight.

ABRAMSON: But not every winner could afford to relish victory the way Perry did. Perry has the luxury of presiding over one of the healthiest state economies. Most Republican governors won by saying they'll try to rescue their state's dismal finances.�Michigan is facing a huge budget shortfall and massive unemployment.�Voters there elected businessman Rick Snyder on a platform that's prosaic at best, but got huge cheers - reducing an unpopular business tax.

Governor-Elect RICK SNYDER (Republican, Michigan): It is time to eliminate the Michigan business tax and replace it with a flat tax (unintelligible)...

(Soundbite of cheering)

ABRAMSON: Rick Snyder beat Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing, so he'll succeed Democrat Jennifer Granholm, who was sent home by term limits. Snyder derided Bernero for his support from labor unions. They were the target of many Republican attacks.

But beyond a basic promise of budget cuts and smaller government, many successful Republicans stayed away from specifics on how they would balance their states budgets, or how they would create jobs. Many said they would run their states like a business and left it at that.

That appeal did not work everywhere.�In California, Meg Whitman waged the most expensive race in the country, spending more than 140 million of her e-Bay dollars on an advertizing blitz. She said she'd run Sacramento with the same business savvy she brought to Silicon Valley, but voters didn't buy it.

Jerry Brown, who first won the governor's office 36 years ago, beat Whitman in a bitter race. In his victory speech, Brown appealed for unity.

Governor-Elect JERRY BROWN (Democrat, California): I take as my challenge forging a common purpose. But a common purpose based not just on compromise but on a vision of what California can be. And I see a California once again leading in renewable energy, in public education.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ABRAMSON: Brown will need that unity if he's to bring together a fractious legislature in Sacramento. His task could be made easier by passage of a referendum that would allow the California State House to pass a budget with a smaller majority than is currently required.

California was one of the few patches of blue on the gubernatorial results map Tuesday.�Another was�Colorado. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper beat Republican Dan Maes after Maes's campaign virtually imploded. He got only 11 percent of the vote, thanks in part to a vigorous challenge by conservative independent and former congressman Tom Tancredo.�Hickenlooper, a liberal who lost in the state's most conservative areas, echoed the Republican business rhetoric in his victory speech.

Governor-Elect JOHN HICKENLOOPER (Democrat, Colorado): Now, I know from running restaurants that sometimes the best thing government can do for business is just to get out of the way.

ABRAMSON: The fallout from the 2010 election could haunt Democrats for years to come.�Many of the states that changed hands Tuesday are swing states, like Pennsylvania and Ohio.�Now Republican chief executives will oversee the process of redrawing�districts for congressional and state legislative seats.

Republicans sent three women to the governor's office - Oklahoma's Mary Fallin and New Mexico's Susanna Martinez, the first Latina governor. And in South Carolina, Nikki Halley became the first Indian American to win the governor's office.

Governor-Elect NIKKI HALEY (Republican, South Carolina): Eighteen months ago, I saw a state and a federal government losing control, arrogant in its spending, arrogant in its responsibility, and a need to step up and say weve got to take our state and our country back.

(Soundbite of applause)

ABRAMSON: Democrats did hold onto a number of key seats - Devall Patrick held onto his office for another term in Massachusetts. Martin O'Malley beat back a challenge from Republican Bob Ehrlich. And in New York, Andrew Cuomo easily beat the Tea Party hero Carl Paladino.

Larry Abramson, NPR News.

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