Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, turned back a challenge from Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on Tuesday, but Republicans still appeared on track to achieve their 2010 goal of retaking a majority of the nation’s governorships.
Seeking a second four-year term, Mr. O'Malley led 51 percent to 47 percent and was declared the winner with 11 percent of the precincts reporting.
“I just don’t want to go back to where we were four years ago” with Mr. Ehrlich, said William Watson, 68, a veterinarian and Montgomery County resident who voted for Mr. O'Malley.
With 37 governorships up for grabs, Republicans won governorships from Democrats in Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, in early reporting. Two of Election Day’s top prizes, the governor’s races in key swing states Florida and Ohio, were too close to call at deadline.
At a victory rally in Baltimore, Mr. O’Malley told jubilant supporters, “I love you guys.”
“The people of Maryland have once again decided that we move forward,” Mr. O’Malley added.
South Carolina elected its first female governor, when Sarah Palin-endorsed “tea party” favorite Nikki Haley narrowly defeated Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. Mrs. Haley held the governorship for the Republicans despite the scandals linked to outgoing GOP Gov. Mark Sanford.
In another closely watched contest, Denver Democratic Mayor John Hickenlooper won a three-way contest in which his closest competitor was American Constitution Party nominee Tom Tancredo, who ran far ahead of the official GOP nominee Dan Maes. In California, former Gov. Jerry Brown won a new term in Sacramento, defeating well-heeled Republican challenger Meg Whitman, a former eBay executive.
In Kansas, retiring Republican Sen. Sam Brownback defeated Democrat Tom Holland. Mr. Brownback replaces Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, who did not seek election to a full term after ascending to the governorship after Kathleen Sibelius joined President Obama’s Cabinet.
In Pennsylvania, another state that could loom large in the 2012 presidential sweepstakes, Republican state Attorney General Tom Corbett defeated Democrat Dan Onorato, Allegheny County executive, for the seat of Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who was term-limited from running for re-election.
In Tennessee, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam was declared the winner over Democratic businessman Mike McWherter. He succeeds Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.
In Michigan where the unemployment rate is roughly 13 percent, GOP moderate Rick Snyder defeat Democrat Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing, to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm.
Republicans held the lead in several other gubernatorial races, although full results were not available at press time.
In South Dakota, Republican Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard defeated Democratic state Sen. Scott Heidepriem. He replaces Republican Gov. Mike Rounds, who was term-limited.
In Alabama, Republican Robert Bentley defeated Democrat Ron Sparks. Mr. Bentley, a retired physician, in January will replace two-term Republican Gov. Bob Riley. His victory is the sixth by the GOP in the last seven elections for Alabama governor.