Democrats reclaimed governors’ offices Tuesday from the Northeast to the Rockies and even in the South, giving them control of the top political job in a majority of states for the first time in 12 years and an edge in places critical to the 2008 White House race.
A string of victories in Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, Arkansas, Colorado and Maryland meant Democrats will control the governorship in at least 28 states. They also held on to vulnerable seats that had been targeted by Republicans in Iowa, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Massachusetts Democrat Deval Patrick was declared the winner in his state – he will be the first black governor of the state and the second elected black governor of any state. In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland easily defeated Republican 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 one in 1990.
In Colorado – which voted Republican for president in the last three elections – Democrat Bill Ritter defeated GOP Rep. Bob Beauprez for the seat left open by term-limited GOP Gov. Bill Owens. Arkansas chose a Democrat – Attorney General Mike Beebe over Republican Asa Hutchinson – for the first time since 1992.
And Democrats turned out GOP Gov. Robert Ehrlich of Maryland, the lone party switch that wasn’t in an open seat.
Democrat Ted Kulongoski beat back a tough challenge in Oregon.
Republicans remained strong in some of the nation’s biggest states, including Florida and Texas. In California, the nation’s best-known governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, easily won re-election.
Ten states had open seats because of retirements, term limits and primary defeat. Republicans went into Election Day holding 28 governorships to 22 for the Democrats. The GOP began the year trying to hold eight open seats, while Democrats had only one. Republicans also saw another seat come open when Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski lost his primary.