- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Democrats reclaimed governors’ mansions from the Northeast to the Rockies yesterday, putting them on track to take a majority of the governorships for the first time in 12 years.

Victories in Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, Arkansas and Colorado meant Democrats would control at least 27 governors’ offices, provided they held on to their own states. Such an edge over Republicans could prove pivotal in the 2008 campaign for the White House.

Democrat Deval Patrick was declared the winner in Massachusetts — the first black governor of the state and the second elected black governor nationwide. In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland easily defeated Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. New York, as expected, chose Democrat Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general who crusaded for Wall Street and corporate reform.

Massachusetts and Ohio haven’t elected a Democrat since 1986. New York last elected a Democrat in 1990.

In Colorado — which voted Republican for president in the past three elections — Democrat Bill Ritter defeated Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez for the seat left open by term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Owens. In Arkansas, Democrat Mike Beebe easily defeated Republican former drug czar Asa Hutchinson.

In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, long targeted by the Republicans, defeated millionaire Dick DeVos, even though he put more than $35 million of his own money toward his campaign.

Democrats still needed to hold their own governorships in Wisconsin and Oregon to win a national majority. Though governors never enact national policy, they can organize state parties to rally around a White House race.

In a bit of good news for Republicans, the Florida contest to replace term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush saw Republican Charlie Crist, the state attorney general, defeat Democratic Rep. Jim Davis. Mr. Crist led 52 percent to 45 percent, with just more than half of precincts reporting.

In Illinois, Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich won re-election in a contest that Republicans at one time had hoped would go their way.

Republican incumbents won in Connecticut, South Carolina, Nebraska, Georgia and South Dakota, as did Democratic governors in New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Pennsylvania, where Edward G. Rendell defeated former pro-football star Lynn Swann. Also, early returns showed sitting Republican Govs. Rick Perry of Texas, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Jim Douglas of Vermont winning.

In Massachusetts, Mr. Patrick trounced Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey despite her support from outgoing Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential 2008 presidential candidate. The last elected black governor was L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, who left office in 1994.

The Democrats were hoping to reverse the Republican majority among governorships they have held since the landslide of 1994.

“We’re getting help with discontent with the Iraq war, and we’re getting help from Washington gridlock,” said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, head of the Democratic Governors Association.

Republicans went into Election Day holding 28 governorships to 22 for the Democrats. The Republican Party began the year trying to hold eight open seats, while Democrats had one. Republicans also saw another seat come open when Alaska Gov. Frank H. Murkowski lost his primary.

The contests for those open seats were some of the closest, including:

• Nevada, where Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons was hobbled by accusations that he assaulted and propositioned a cocktail waitress. He faced Democrat Dina Titus, a state senator. They were seeking to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn.

• Iowa, where Democrat Chet Culver, the secretary of state, and Republican Rep. Jim Nussle fought for the seat left by retiring Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is exploring a presidential run.

Other governors at risk included Republicans Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in Maryland. Also in close contests, though the latest surveys showed them slightly ahead, were Democrats James E. Doyle in Wisconsin and Theodore R. Kulongoski in Oregon.

A few states that strategists expected to stay safely Republican wound up competitive. In Alaska, Republican Sarah Palin unseated the unpopular Mr. Murkowski in the Republican primary and faced Democratic former Gov. Tony Knowles. In Idaho, Republican Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter was in a close contest with Democrat Jerry Brady, a former newspaper publisher.

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