Republicans sweep governors’ races across US
MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — Republicans swept governor’s races across the U.S., keeping control of key battleground states in presidential elections and scoring upsets in several Democratic bastions.
Democrats, who also lost their Senate majority, had hoped governor’s races would be a bright spot on an otherwise bleak night; instead, the contests for statehouses across the U.S. proved equally frustrating.
Republican victories boosted the prospects of several likely presidential contenders, none more so than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who became a hero to conservatives for taking on public sector unions, stripping them of nearly all collective bargaining authority. Opponents responded by trying to boot him from office, and he became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election in 2012.
Walker’s victory Tuesday was a blow to Democrats and labor unions, which dumped millions of dollars into the race.
Walker told The Associated Press that any decision about a presidential run in 2016 “will have to wait” while he pursues his agenda in Wisconsin.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a possible 2016 candidate for president, said he was gratified by Republican wins in Democratic-leaning states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, as well as victories in key battleground states like Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. He said Republican victories show voters want leaders who will “get things done,” rather that fighting over ideology.
In a significant upset in Maryland, Republican businessman Larry Hogan beat the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor. In Democratic-leaning Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker became the state’s first Republican governor since Mitt Romney left office in 2007.
In Illinois, Obama’s adopted home state, wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner poured $26 million of his fortune into his successful run campaign against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
Democrats’ only significant victory came in Pennsylvania, where businessman Tom Wolf ousted Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
Republicans flipped the governor’s seat in Arkansas, where Asa Hutchison won an open contest. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback thwarted Democrats who had hoped to make him an example of conservative overreach with his prescription of massive tax and spending cuts. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, turned back a challenge from Democrat Jason Carter, a state senator and the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.
Three governor’s races remained too close to call: Connecticut, Alaska and Colorado.
Governors were on the ballot in 36 states Tuesday. Several close governors’ races were closely watched because of implications for the White House race in two years.
In a hotly contested election, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott held on to his office in the largest presidential battleground state despite a strong challenge from Democrat Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor who changed parties to run for his old job. The campaign was among the most expensive and nastiest, with both sides and their allies spending more than $100 million on television ads. Democrats had hoped Crist would put the state in friendly territory for the next White House race.
Another governor who has figured in the 2016 discussion, John Kasich of Ohio, sailed to a second term largely on a record of economic growth and shrinking unemployment. Kasich’s state is also a major presidential battleground.
In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley handily won a second term. The victory boosts the national image of the first Indian-American woman governor, who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016.
In Maine, conservative Republican Gov. Paul LePage won a three-way race in the Democratic-leaning state.