- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004


Voters dumped a Democratic governor in Indiana for a former Bush administration official and forced a Republican incumbent in New Hampshire into a race for his political career as 11 states elected their top leaders yesterday.

In Montana, Democrats took the governor’s office for the first time 16 years. In Missouri and Washington, close contests left each party fighting for the last few votes as ballot counting went on into the night.

Elsewhere, incumbents won or the party in power kept control of executive mansions.

In Indiana, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. — the former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget — unseated Gov. Joe Kernan, a Democrat who was facing his first test at the polls since he took office after Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon died last year.

With 94 percent of Indiana’s vote counted, Mr. Daniels had 1,209,248 votes (54 percent) to Mr. Kernan’s 1,016,971 (45 percent).

In New Hampshire, with 86 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat John Lynch was ahead of one-term Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, by 16,000 votes, or about two percentage points.

An agonizingly close contest emerged in Missouri, where Democrat Claire McCaskill battled Republican Matt Blunt. In Delaware, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, withstood a surprisingly strong race from Republican Bill Lee to win a second term.

Elsewhere, Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. took Utah’s open governor’s seat.

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican; Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican; and North Carolina Gov. Michael F. Easley, a Democrat, each won second terms.

In West Virginia, Democratic Secretary of State Joe Manchin took an open governor’s seat.

In Missouri’s nail-biter, Mr. McCaskill, the Democrat state auditor, held a slim lead over Mr. Blunt, the Republican secretary of state and son of four-term Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. With a fifth of precincts reporting, she was ahead 50 percent to Mr. Blunt’s 48 percent.

In Delaware, Mrs. Minner won with 50.5 percent of the vote with 86 percent of precincts reporting. She had lost ground after making what some saw as an insensitive response to a prison inmate’s abduction and rape of a counselor.

She said, “In prisons, you almost expect this to happen.”

The contests for open seats in Missouri, Montana, Utah and Washington brought record spending and unprecedented bursts of out-of-state money, and the heat of the presidential race had an effect on at least a couple of races.

New Hampshire’s Mr. Benson fought to hold on for a second term against Mr. Lynch in a state leaning against President Bush. In Indiana, a state that went solidly and quickly for Mr. Bush, Mr. Daniels had the prominent support of the president.

Others contests remained resolutely local, turning on taxes, economic development or transportation issues.

Even before Election Day, dismay over economic problems and other woes over the past few years led to the ouster of governors in Missouri — where one-term Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, lost in the primary — and Utah — where Gov. Olene S. Walker, a Republican, lost the nomination at the party convention.

Three other governors — in Montana, Washington and West Virginia — chose not to seek re-election.

Montana Democrat Brian Schweitzer, a farmer who unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat in 2000, defeated Republican Secretary of State Bob Brown in the race for an open seat.

In Washington state, Democrat Christine Gregoire, the state attorney general, pulled narrowly ahead of Republican Dino Rossi, with a quarter of precincts reporting.

Republicans now hold 28 governorships to Democrats’ 22.

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