Results of Governors' Races
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Results will be posted here when they are available.
Governor Bob Riley (R) won his second term over Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley (D), who had a respectable reputation but failed to make a case that Riley should go. The incumbent had his trouble early in 2003, immediately after he was sworn in for his first term, when he urged tax increases to avoid budget cuts. Voters said no, Riley was thought to be in terrible shape for 2006, but in the three years leading up to this reelection bid, his image improved as other issues (hurricane, for example) allowed him to broaden his message. In the June primary, he won two-thirds of the vote against social conservative/Ten Commandments judge Ray Moore.
Getting a reputation for blowing a lead and failing to close is lethal in sports, and also in politics. Republicans kept the governorship when former Governor Tony Knowles (D) fell into the familiar pattern: begin the contest with great fanfare, capture the frontrunner status, get handed a gift, then blow it. Sarah Palin (R), the winner of the August Republican primary, established herself as the reform candidate. The former mayor the small town of Wasilla, she was a new face with an energetic take-no-prisoners style that felt right for this contest. She pulverized Governor Frank Murkowski (R) in the primary. Murkowski skated on dangerous ice since he won this seat in 2002, and his defeat was no surprise. That Palin was the one who took him out, then overcame the well-known Knowles. If she weren't so far away from the usual political buzz-makers, she would be one of the 'in the news' hot faces coming out of this election. Watch as she grapples with the issues, such as an energy pipeline, that entangeled the Murkowski administration.
Governor Janet Napolitano (D) was an easy winner over Len Munsil (D), a Christian activist. Napolitano enjoyed bipartisan support during her first term, and was never considered vulnerable which explained the weak field of four Republicans who entered the September primary.
With so many other gubernatorial campaigns in the news, this contest hardly made the national radar screen. The two candidates also found themselves less interesting than outgoing Governor Mike Huckabee (R). A former fatty who took up a ruthless nutrition and exercise regime, Huckabee stayed in the news with his health message while guesting on tv talk shows or running marathons. The great mention list for 2008 includes his name. Thus, former Representative/ former Homeland Security official Asa Hutchinson (R) and attorney general Mike Beebe (D) stayed in close contention throughout the campaign without making a lot of waves. Beebe won.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was the political equivalent of the biblical character Lazarus. He rose from the dead, quickly in political timeframes. In November 2005, Arnold was dead, humiliated when voters turned down the reform initiatives he forced on the ballot, and he picked a fight with all the wrong constituency groups. The state legislature, long dominated by the most wily elements of the Democratic party, thought they were back in control of the agenda. Democrats expected to push him aside in the 2006 general election, ending this little experiment in offbeat governance. By early January 2006, beginning with his conciliatory state of the state address, Arnold let everyone know he was back, first by extending an apology to the voters and then reaching out to Democrats. Republican traditonalists groused that he was awarding his enemies, but he showed a side the voters wanted to hear from other politicians: I heard you, you were right, I was wrong, now let's fix it. Democratic nominee Phil Angelides would have beaten Arnold version 2005, but he was obliterated by Arnold version 2006.
This state isn't red; can we agree on that after a second election where Democrats showed their strengths? Former Denver district attorney Bill Ritter (D) beat Representative Bob Beauprez (R) to take the seat of retiring Governor Bill Owens (R). Ritter is an example of his party's growth potential if national leaders recognize candidate recruitment should be based on who can win, not so much who meets arbitrary litmus tests. Ritter is pro-life, and in another era, might have been forced to change his mind, quit the race, or incur a long primary to win the nomination. Instead, that issue stayed pretty much in the background, and Ritter had no convention/primary challenge. For a time, Owens was eyed as if national politics was a possibility, but he was sidetracked by personal life drama and then his inability to keep a Republican legislature. The handoff to Beauprez was weak, and Beauprez couldn't get out from under the reputation of Congress as an institution, or the deteriorating image of his national party. In reflecting on this race, there will be those who blame Beauprez for running a bad race, but in reality he would likely have lost to Ritter no matter what he did. Similar voices tried the same morning-after critique of the 2004 Senate race: it was Pete Coors fault. Well, something more than flawed technique seems to be going on here. Voter attitudes change and new people alter a state's election behavior. Colorado is in play, accept it.
When chaos swirled around her, no matter what was taking place with her personal health, the fate of her party, or the tribulations of other political figures on the ballot, Governor Jodi Rell (R) was a stable comforting figure. In control and well regarded for how she handled herself when she took office following the resignation of the ethics-indicted former governor, Rell was never in political trouble for 2006. She beat John DeStefano (D).
This was about the only race for Florida Republicans to feel good about leading up to and then on election night. Governor Jeb Bush (R) did not run for reelection, and as he faded from the scene, one could only wonder what masterful skills he possessed to keep such a dysfunctional party from blowing apart earlier on his watch. Attorney general Charlie Crist (R) won this race over Representative Jim Davis (D) in a race that included lots of conversation about the past. Despite the win, on a night without much good news for his party, Crist will take office in January in a very unsettled environment.
Governor Sonny Perdue (R) can check off one thing on his Sonny Do list: he was re-elected to his second term over secretary of state Cathy Cox (D).
Governor Linda Lingle (R) won her second term over Randy Iwase (D).
Republicans had the fright of their lives when October polls showed the governorship so close. In some places, the base does come back, and when it is big enough, an upset is less likely than in places without Idaho's conservative Republican numbers. Representative Butch Otter (R) beat Jerry Brady (D), which is a tribute to aggressive campaigning and his engaged campaign style. Someone with a less outsized personality may have been unable to pour it on at the end. Governor Dirk Kempthorne (R) was appointed by President Bush to be Secretary of the Interior.
Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) had enough vulnerabilities that something more could have happened here had Republicans been in better shape. Instead of taking out a weakened Democrat whose base is far from sturdy, voters returned Blagojevich for a second term, perhaps with a kind of inevitable wariness that comes from seeing a parade of battle worn governors. Judy Baar-Topinka (R) made the reform argument, but her message was undercut by ongoing Republican state ethics issues. Her background as a longtime political operative and ties to the old party regime worked against the image she tried to craft for herself. Perhaps a newer face and voice would have done better, but the March Republican primary had those choices and selected Baar-Topinka anyway. In March, no one could have imagined the national party's numbers would have been so bad, and that whatever unease there was about returning Blagojevich for a second term was outweighed by overall Republican disadvantages.
Iowa is a back and forth state. Republicans hold the governorship, Democrats take it back. One Senate seat for Democrats, one for Republicans. A state legislature always close to a tie, and always enough seats in play to change party control. Thus a competitive race to replace retiring Governor Tom Vilsack (D) was always anticipated. At the time Representative Jim Nussle (R), it was no surprise that the governorship was on his mind for a long time. Republicans cleared the field with creative candidate matching for him, avoiding a primary that kept the Democratic nominee from surfacing until June. Secretary of state Chet Culver (D) was a good choice, from a known political family and a solid campaigner who didn't run from the fact that he held office. Both Nussle and Culver talked about Iowa values and portrayed themselves as fair-minded individuals willing to govern based on issues, eager to move Iowa forward as a supplier of food fuel fiber for the world. In a year with ugly and terrible turning up often to describe the choices or the setting, Iowa's two candidates were about as dignified and civil as this cycle allowed. Culver finished ahead of Nussle, and by the time this ended, Nussle was even in trouble in his congressional district.
Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) won her second term in a state where her outreach to disaffected Republicans made her a heavy favorite. She beat Jim Barnett (R). When Republicans lose candidates, voters, elections in Kansas, something beyond a fight over high-emotion social issues must be going on beneath the surface.
Most of the time, resilience and persistence make the talent rise, and when talent is obvious, it overcomes all the statistical odds. This time for Governor Bob Ehrlich (R) it wasn't enough. In failing to hang on this cycle, Ehrlich lost to a popular engaging to-die-for candidate in Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley (D). Baltimore casts a huge vote, even though it no longer can wield the numbers necessary to win statewide if the Washington DC suburbs/exurbs split their support.
Governor John Baldacci (D) had a rocky first term, but Republicans were too weak to nudge ahead of him, and the assortment of indpendent third-party efforts lacked a viable alternative set of candidates. As a result, Baldacci won a second term over Chandler Woodcock (R) and others.
Governor Mitt Romney (R) didn't run again for this seat, and he became yesterday's news in the state within a matter of minutes. As chair of the national Republican gubernatorial efforts, he spent more of his efforts with other states with higher stakes, and his personal ambitions were obviously toward his next goal, only thinly disguised as the White House. His Lt. Governor Kerrey Healy (R) was outmatched from the start, with none of the pizzazz that Romney brought to the table, nor much that her office allowed her to tout. The chaotic Democratic primary was more messy than it was hostile, and quickly the troops rallied behind Deval Patrick (D). In a year of GQ glamour candidates with Oprah-like audience command, Patrick was among the best of this genre. He won a primary, but he'd also turned his come-from-nowhere magic into the earlier convention win. He will be on the list of the next great things.
Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) was losing this contest as long as she was the issue. Businessman Rich DeVos (R) attacked her by attacking the declining manufacturing economy and general funk about the state's economic prospects. Adaptable incumbents usually survive, no matter what they faced. If Arnold is the Republican example of rising from the dead heap, Granholm is this cycle's Democratic example. Given all the disappointment after she fell off the list of the celebrity political figures, she should have been on the mat and never allowed to recover. Instead, she put the blame for the auto industry on the White House, a tactic that worked because DeVos also said the White House had failed the industry. That gave her breathing room to come up with a plan that put state funds into plant sites, which critics said was meaningless, but it got her back in control of the headlines. DeVos carried huge baggage as the second-generation leader of the renamed Amway, whose reputation was similar to retailer Wal-Mart, love it or hate it, not without controversy. DeVos and his wife were never shrinking violets in political or policy circles. As Granholm made this contest more about him, she overcame early problems and emerged the winner for a second term.
As morning approaches, this race is too close to call. Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) would have done better had he been out there on his own. Usually given credit for blending all the skeptical factions of the state party behind him, he had trouble with the state legislature over budget and taxes, which tarnished the conciliatory image he conveyed in his 2002 election. Pawlenty was forced to run in the shadow of a failed RepublicanSenate campaign, with a national party whose themes weren't ideal for this state. . Attorney general Mike Hatch (D), far from the consensus Democratic choice, was at least adequate to the task, close to the mainline state party groups, and attached to successful women candidates for Senate and attorney general. In a state where women voters matter more than other states, these coattails were important to the gubernatorial contest. A public-funded third party candidate always was a factor, who it appears was more harmful to Pawlenty than to Hatch.
Governor Dave Heineman (R) is the incumbent by default, moving up to this seat when then-Governor Mike Johanns (R) joined the Bush cabinet. Some thought Heineman would accept a mere caretaker role, ready to step aside for the god-like Representative Tom Osborne (R), former Nebraska football coach. But, Heineman stayed in command and beat god in the primary. It was over then. He trounced David Hahn (D) in the general election.
This contest sputtered to a bizarre close, with headlines about things that would kill most candidates, but usually they surface earlier in a contest. Just when it appeared Representative Jim Gibbons (R) would run away with this contest over Dina Titus (D) despite a ho-hum view toward him in some circles, a case of early-victoryitus struck and Gibbons was on the defense for the final days. He had drinks with a woman in the company of others, that much is agreed. What happened next, believe what your experience tells you might have happened. He left to walk her to her vehicle, she fell, or he got overly friendly, or maybe nothing happened. Handled badly is about all one can say of the aftermath. When that subsided, headlines appeared questioning his relationship with a good friend who may have lavished favors on Gibbons for helping win federal contracts, or it was merely longtime family friends going on a cruise together where one is an aggressive businessman and the other a member of Congress. Not the right topic to be debating with less than a week to go. Titus ran a good challenger race, but she was handed these gifts at the end. Governor Kenny Guinn (R) did not run for reelection.
Governor John Lynch (D) won an easy victory over Jim Coburn (R).
Governor Bill Richardson (D) won an easy victory over John Dendahl (R), a replacement candidate for the June Republican primary winner. Dendahl has been around party circles, not without controversy, and he never had a chance against the high flying Richardson, who is presumed to have more ambition in his system.
Attorney general Eliot Sptizer (D) had this won the day he announced. Governor George Pataki (R) did not run again, and he had little to do with finding a credible candidate to replace him. Republicans dabbled in recruitment for the Senate contest, but John Faso (R) was left pretty much to himself to take on Spitzer. In listening to the campaign ads and debates, one might have decided Spitzer stole the Republican playbook, talking as he did about economic growth and lower taxes.
When did the earth open and swallow everyone standing on it? Right after 2004, sometime before? Whatever, the craters were huge and the list of victims almost endless. The hole of Republican oblivion leads back to Governor Bob Taft (R) who did not run for reelection and who had at one point an approval rating in the single digits. All who touched his administration were hurt, in a climate so ugly that most would have welcomed a visit from the White House just to surround themselves with someone who had high ratings. Secretary of state Ken Blackwell (R) wasn't universally popular either, and at best he emerged from a May primary forced to make nice with factions who didn't want him as the nominee. Republicans continued to believe as the weeks unfolded that Republicans would eventually return home, could not bring themselves to turn this critical state over to Democrats, and that Representative Ted Strickland (D) couldn't win. He did.
Governor Brad Henry (D) was an easy winner over Representative Ernest Istook (R).
Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) had serious trouble in winning his second term. He won the May primary over two others with just 54%, reflecting a party filled with angst about his viability based on his difficulties with tax-spend issues. Republicans nominated Ron Saxton, a former Portland school board member who wasn't associated with the more extreme elements of his party. Under the right circumstances, this could have been a closer race, but the national party image was such that even a far-from-Washington contest for governor had an overhang of the war and the national party low favorability ratings.
Governor Ed Rendell (D) made this look easy at a time when other incumbents in both parties had to struggle. Republicans will remain puzzled as long as he is office as to what accounts for his appeal. He put away former football hero Lynn Swann (R) long before the general election. Rendell got on the tax cut side of the rhetoric, even though his critics said this was false. He showed up in places that should have been hostile, not quite a personality to charm the birds out of the trees, but comfy enough of a figure that he deflected lots of potentially bad scenes. He stomped in the Philadelphia area, and did well statewide despite efforts to portray him as nothing other than a former mayor of a big city the rest of the state often resents. As the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rendell managed to get Republican donors and voters in his corner. His moves on the political field were as spectacular as the ones Swann performed in the heyday of his career, a step ahead with great arm extension.
Governor Donald Carcieri (R) won his second term despite Republican difficulty elsewhere, and no real help from Senator Lincoln Chafee (R). He beat Lt. Governor Charles Fogarty (D).
Governor Mark Sanford (R) lost a third of the vote in his June primary, but went on to solidify his base. Given points for being outspoken and searching for new solutions, he beat Tommy Moore (D) for his second term.
Governor Mike Rounds (R), nice guy image and grassroots tactics, beat Jack Billion (D) to win his second term.
Governor Phil Bredesen (D) appealed to both parties in his first election and in his first term, and that helped him put away this contest early. Jim Bryson (R) never had much chance.
Governor Rick Perry (R) emerged from his victory looking like a loser. He lost votes to eccentric independent candidate Kinky Friedman, and he lost votes to a longtime state Republican officeholder who decided not to oppose him in the primary. Somewhere in that mix, former Representative Chris Bell (D) lost before he ever got out of the starting gate. Badly outclassed by the media savvy Friedman, Bell couldn't get his own campaign viewed as the alternative to those dissatisfied with Perry. The incumbent's troubles probably won't go away as Texas struggles with economic and demographic changes affecting education funding in a state without a personal income tax.
Governor Jim Douglas (R) beat Scudder Parker (D).
Governor Jim Doyle (D) had weak polling for four years, never getting much beyond the 45% margin he won in the 2002 election. Republicans figured this was one of the easier seats to win in 2006, especially with the close presidential race in 2004. A few more votes, President Bush would have carried Wisconsin. Included in the strategy to maximize the resources here was to settle on one candidate early. That was Representative Mark Green (R), a popular House member with a good staff and exceptional fundraising skills. In retrospect, surfacing a House member wasn't such a wise idea because the institutional approval ratings went down, hurting all who served there. Green's fundraising forte was also a negative. He moved money from his federal account to the state race, a complicated transaction that a supervisory board said was improper, but maybe it wasn't, but maybe it was politics, but maybe he could appeal, but maybe the court would rule otherwise, and maybe it did, and maybe the press made a big deal about it, and maybe it was what again? ... you get the picture ... too convoluted to sort out during a campaign, so most casual viewers thought it sounded fishy. Green in another time and place might have won a matchup on issues.
Governor Dave Freudenthall (D) won his second term, a blue candidate in a red state, over Ray Junkins (R).