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Get caught up on all the action from Election Day, and who the next top government executives will be in the 36 states that held gubernatorial contests this year.
Three dozen states are electing governors this year, including eight where incumbents are term-limited or not running again. Below is Route Fifty's roundup of the results from Election Day. This post was last updated on Wednesday, Nov. 9 around 3:30 a.m. Eastern time. Some governors races still weren't called at that time, including competitive ones in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and Oregon.
Two Midwest Democrats Win Second Terms in Battleground Races
Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Tony Evers of Wisconsin were both reelected to second terms, with the Associated Press calling the races in their favor early Wednesday morning. Evers and Whitmer were both in competitive reelection battles with Republicans. Whitmer ran against Tudor Dixon, a media personality who had former President Donald Trump’s support and raised doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. With 79% of votes counted around 3 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, Whitmer held 53.1% of the vote and Dixon 45.3%. Whitmer’s national profile grew during the pandemic as she clashed with Trump over the federal response to the public health crisis. She’s also put an emphasis on fixing the state’s roads. Michigan, the traditional center of the nation’s auto industry, is also among the states vying for electric vehicle manufacturing facilities. And Whitmer has been taking part in that push.
Evers, a former state superintendent of schools, defeated Tim Michels, an Army veteran who’s helped lead his family’s construction business. The race was expensive, attracting over $100 million in spending. Evers has spent much of his time in office at odds with Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature. This has crimped his ability to enact his policy priorities, like expanding Medicaid and increasing school spending. On the flip side, Evers serves as a roadblock to the agenda of GOP lawmakers. Wisconsin Public Radio reported last month that Evers had vetoed 126 bills since January 2021. Whitmer and Evers both won their first terms in 2018, and in both cases, Republican governors had held the office before them. “As it turns out, boring wins,” Evers, who isn’t known for having a rockstar political persona, said during a victory speech. “We’re just getting started, folks. We’re going to polka tonight and get back to work tomorrow.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is set to become the state’s first female governor and the nation’s first openly lesbian governor, defeating Republican former state representative Geoff Diehl, to succeed moderate Republican Charlie Baker, who did not seek re-election for a third term. Diehl conceded late Tuesday.
Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elected Arkansas’ first female governor, defeating Chris Jones, a Democrat who mounted a long-shot campaign in a deep red state. Huckabee Sanders will succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. She is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and she served as Trump’s press secretary while he was in the White House.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, became the first woman to be elected governor of New York (see below for more on that race).
In Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore was elected Maryland’s first Black governor, defeating Republican Dan Cox to replace Larry Hogan, a popular Republican during his two terms. (Hogan withheld his support from Cox, at one point calling the Republican contender a “QAnon whack job.”) Moore, an author, former nonprofit executive, Army combat veteran and Rhodes Scholar has not held political office before but is already being discussed as a rising star in the Democratic party.
His platform focuses on areas like driving inclusive economic growth, funding education and combating gun violence. He says he wants to make Maryland the first state in the country with "a service year option for every single high school graduate" and emphasizes that he wants to strike a balance between the state allowing businesses to thrive and looking out for workers. "Our Maryland will be more competitive and more equitable. And we don’t have to choose between them: We can, and will, do both," Moore tweeted on Tuesday night.
Kemp Defeats Abrams in Georgia Rematch
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp held off Democratic former state representative Stacey Abrams in one of the nation’s most closely watched races. It was Kemp’s second victory over Abrams, who he narrowly defeated in 2018. This time, around midnight Eastern time, he’d captured nearly 54% of the vote, compared to Abrams’ 45.5%, with 89% of ballots counted. That’s sure to be a disappointment for Democrats who’ve seen Abrams as a promising politician and strategist within the party—and in a state where they made inroads with two U.S. Senate wins during the 2020 election cycle.
It’s also a notable outcome for Republicans in that Kemp has been at odds with former President Donald Trump, who backed ally David Perdue in the GOP primary. Kemp beat Perdue in a landslide. The GOP incumbent focused his campaign on areas like his efforts to spur along the state’s reopening from Covid-19 shutdowns and a plan he has for tax rebates for residents. Abrams took stances like calling for tougher gun laws and the repeal of a ban backed by Kemp on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
DeSantis Wins Another Term in Florida. But Will He Complete It?
Incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has built a national profile and is known for his pugnacious political style, won re-election against Charlie Crist, a Democrat. Crist was Florida’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, but later switched parties and served in the U.S. House as a Democrat from 2017 until earlier this year. DeSantis, though, is widely seen as a 2024 GOP presidential contender and in recent days was the target of barbs from Trump, who is teasing a comeback campaign for the White House after his 2020 loss.
DeSantis earlier this year signed into law a ban on most abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. He also touted his reopening of the state’s economy during the Covid-19 pandemic before other states and he got into a major spat with Walt Disney Co. after a top executive at the company spoke out against a Florida law restricting how information about gender and sexual orientation is taught in schools. Crist, meanwhile, tried to portray himself as more of a moderate. In recent weeks, DeSantis also faced scrutiny for his involvement in flying migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Florida is also in the midst of a major storm recovery after Hurricane Ian slammed Fort Myers and other areas in late September.
Voters Reject Election Denier in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro defeated Doug Mastriano, a Republican who drew national attention for his strong embrace of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, as well as other stances, like his harsh views on abortion, and his willingness to blur the lines between church and state. Shapiro tried to discredit Mastriano as a conspiracy theorist. As governor, Shapiro is promising to take up a slate of Democratic priorities, like defending abortion rights, improving economic equality and tackling issues related to climate change. Shapiro will replace Gov. Tom Wolf, a term-limited Democrat. The incoming governor enjoyed a strong funding advantage over Mastriano during the campaign. Pennsylvania is one of the nation’s most closely watched swing states and the possibility of Mastriano winning the governor’s race and potentially influencing how elections are conducted stoked concerns.
New York Republican Falls Short of Upset Win
The buzz about this race in the run-up to Election Day was that Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul was at risk of losing, despite the huge advantage her party enjoys with voters in the Empire State. Lee Zeldin, a Republican congressman from Long Island, ran on a tough-on-crime public safety agenda popular with GOP candidates in this cycle. The race was closer than past ones, with Zeldin making a solid run. But, in the end, Hochul held on. As 1 a.m. Eastern time approached on Wednesday, she had about 53% of the vote, with about 89% of ballots counted. Zeldin trailed with 46.7%. Hochul will now embark on her first full term as governor. She stepped into the job from the state's lieutenant governor post in 2021, following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo amid sexual harassment allegations against him. When Cuomo won a third term in 2018 against a Republican challenger it was by a much wider margin—59.6% to 36.2%.
GOP Incumbent in Ohio Defeats Former Dayton Mayor
Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Republican incumbent, defeated former Dayton mayor, Nan Whaley. DeWine, who was favored, emphasized economic development wins under his watch—notably a planned investment by Intel of upwards of $20 billion in semiconductor plants. He also played up tax cuts and state spending reductions. Whaley is the former head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and steered Dayton through a mass shooting and series of tornados. Running for governor she zeroed in on abortion and stressed that the state’s next governor “may be the last line of defense protecting abortion rights in our state.” DeWine in 2019 signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, which would prohibit most abortions after a detectable “fetal heartbeat.” It took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year. But a lower court has since put the restrictions on hold. Whaley focused on economic issues and promised to push for clean energy priorities as well.
Former Maine Governor Denied a Third Term
Incumbent Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, held on for another term in Maine, besting former Gov. Paul LePage who was trying to revive his political career. LePage left office in 2018 after two terms, barred by term-limits from a third in a row. During the campaign, Mills touted her record pushing ahead the state’s Medicaid expansion, shoring up school funding and embracing the transition to clean energy. In rejecting LePage, voters opted to not go along with a candidate who was known for controversy during his time in office and seen by some as a forerunner to Trump’s combative style of politics.
Incumbents Glide to Victory
A raft of incumbent governors from both parties cruised toward easy wins on Tuesday.
Republicans Bill Lee of Tennessee, Kay Ivey of Alabama, New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu, South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, Wyoming’s Mark Gordon, Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, Vermont’s Phil Scott, Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt, South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, Texas’ Greg Abbott, and Idaho’s Brad Little all won reelection.
On the Democratic side, California’s Gavin Newsom, Colorado’s Jared Polis, Connecticut's Ned Lamont, Illinois’ JB Pritzker, New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Minnesota’s Tim Walz, of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, all won reelection. In Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee, the state’s former lieutenant governor who replaced Gov. Gina Raimondo last year when she became commerce secretary, defeated Republican challenger Ashley Kalus.
New Governors in Nebraska and Hawaii
In Nebraska, Republican Jim Pillen, a businessman in the agriculture sector, easily won against Democratic state Sen. Carol Blood. Pillen succeeds Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who was term-limited. In Hawaii, Democrat Josh Green, an emergency room doctor and the state's lieutenant governor, defeated a former lieutenant governor, Republican Duke Aiona, by a wide margin. Gov. David Ige, a Democrat is term-limited as well.
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