Democrats Dominate Governors' Races Republicans lost tight races in Missouri, North Carolina and Washington. In North Carolina, Beverly Perdue becomes the first female governor in the state's history.
NPR logo Democrats Dominate Governors' Races

Democrats Dominate Governors' Races


Delaware: Jack Markell (D)

Indiana: Mitch Daniels (R)

Missouri: Jay Nixon (D)

Montana: Brian Schweitzer (D)

New Hampshire: John Lynch (D)

North Carolina: Beverly Perdue (D)

North Dakota: John Hoeven (R)

Utah: Jon Huntsman (R)

West Virginia: Joe Manchin (D)

Washington: Christine Gregoire (D)

Vermont: Jim Douglas (R)

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Eleven governorships were in play this election, and Democrats captured one of them — Missouri — from the Republicans. They also were able to hang on to the statehouses in this year's closest contests, in North Carolina and Washington.

In North Carolina, where Democrats have held the governorship for 16 straight years — and for all but a dozen of the past hundred years — Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue won by about 3 percentage points. Gov. Mike Easley is stepping down because of term limits, and while the Republicans put up an attractive candidate in Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, Perdue managed to squeak through.

Despite her long tenure in the state Legislature and eight years in her current post, Perdue positioned herself as an outsider. McCrory, of course, disagreed with her on that. He ran on his 14-year record as mayor of North Carolina's largest city, focusing on transportation and what he called the "culture of corruption" in Raleigh.

North Carolina has seen a large increase in Democratic voter registration this year, which worked in Perdue's favor. She becomes the first female governor in North Carolina's history, and her victory comes on the same day the state's first female senator, Republican Elizabeth Dole, was defeated. Dole lost her Senate seat to another woman, Democrat Kay Hagan.

In Washington, as in North Carolina, the election consisted of a Democratic woman running against a Republican man touting himself as the agent of change.

Gov. Christine Gregoire defeated former state Sen. Dino Rossi in a victory that was close — but not as close as when they went head to head in 2004. Back then, Gregoire beat Rossi by a mere 133 votes out of more than 2.7 million ballots cast — and only after three recounts and multiple court challenges.

This year's campaign was hard-fought and costly. One estimate put total campaign expenditures at $40 million, with out-of-state money coming in for both candidates.

With the economy the main issue, Gregoire gained some traction when she accused Rossi of supporting a reduction in the minimum wage. Rossi, in turn, attacked Gregoire for what he called her desire for a state income tax. Washington currently does not have one.

Gregoire campaigned mostly on her record, and she is generally seen as competent, though not particularly inspiring. Rossi, who presented himself as the agent of change, is widely considered a better salesman.

Missouri's Democratic attorney general, Jay Nixon, defeated Republican Kenny Hulshof, a six-term congressman from Columbia. Nixon will replace Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, who won a close victory in 2004 but did not run for re-election. The election result in Missouri was not a surprise, as Nixon had been ahead by double digits in the polls.

The results of the eight other races also were expected. Seven of the seats were held by incumbents: Republican Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Democrat Brian Schweitzer in Montana, Democrat John Lynch in New Hampshire, Republican John Hoeven in North Dakota, Republican Jon Huntsman in Utah, Democrat Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Republican Jim Douglas in Vermont.

In Delaware, Jack Markell will succeed Ruth Ann Minner, also a Democrat, who could not run for re-election because of term limits. Markell, a Democrat, is the state's treasurer. His opponent was former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Lee.

Results from Vermont were up in the air until late into the night, even though Douglas was well ahead of his Democratic challenger, state House Speaker Gaye Symington. The complication came from a third candidate, independent Anthony Pollina, because under Vermont law the race would have gone to the Democratic-controlled Legislature if no candidate won a majority of the vote.

In the Indiana race, Daniels defeated Democrat Jill Long Thompson, a former congresswoman and undersecretary of agriculture. In Montana, Schweitzer defeated state Sen. Roy Brown, and in New Hampshire, Lynch defeated state Sen. Joe Kenney.

Hoeven beat state Sen. Tim Mathern in North Dakota, and Manchin's opponent in West Virginia was former state Sen. Russ Weeks.