- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

For the first time in a dozen years, Democrats hold a majority of the nation’s governorships after taking 20 of 36 races, including races in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania that will be crucial to the 2008 presidential election.

Democrats now possess 28 of the top state jobs, the same majority held by Republicans going into Tuesday’s elections. The mood behind the reversal was no better expressed than in Ohio. No Republican president has taken office without winning that state.

Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland became Ohio’s first Democratic governor since 1986, routing Republican challenger Ken Blackwell, whom Democrats criticized for his role in overseeing the 2004 presidential election as secretary of state.

Ten states had open seats because of retirements, term limits and, in the case of Alaska, a failure by the incumbent to win the primary. Democrats won six of those, and held on to vulnerable seats in Iowa, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin.

The trend followed a national wave of dominance — Democrats wrested control of the House and were in a strong position to capture the Senate.

In other gubernatorial races Tuesday:

• Former civil rights prosecutor and Democrat Deval Patrick became Massachusetts’ first black governor and the nation’s second to be elected. He also ended a 20-year Republican grip on the governor’s office.

• Eliot Spitzer, the crusading attorney general who led a crackdown on Wall Street practices, captured a state-record 69 percent of the vote on his way to becoming the first Democratic governor of New York since 1990. Mr. Spitzer’s margin beat former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s mark of 64.6 percent in 1986.

The geographical reach of the victories will be critical for the next White House race and for redistricting of congressional seats, which is typically controlled by the governor and the legislature. Governors don’t enact national policy, but they can strengthen a party’s grass roots, turn out votes for presidential contests and cultivate future national leaders.

“In the past, the Democratic Party was strong in the Northeast and California, and that was about it,” said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who won re-election and is exploring a presidential run. “Now we’re a more centrist, national party who can show victories across the country.”

Republicans prevailed in the country’s biggest states. Former movie star and incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger easily won the California contest, beating Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides. Another Republican incumbent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, successfully fended off several challengers, including eccentric mystery writer and musician Kinky Friedman.

Republican Charlie Crist, the state attorney general of Florida, defeated Democratic Rep. Jim Davis in the contest to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who served the maximum two terms.

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