Voters Elect Governors in 13 Jurisdictions in November 6 Election

By Bridget Hunter

Staff Writer

Late on November 6, the race for White House was the center of attention as election returns trickled in from across the United States, but results also were being reported in another 13 chief executive contests.

Voters in the states of Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia and the territories of American Samoa and Puerto Rico all were selecting their next governors.

In 2012, Republicans held the governorships in 29 states, as compared to the 32 the party held for most of the 1990s, or the record high of 33 in the 1920s. The party had hoped to expand that advantage in the November 6 elections and invested heavily in those races. The Republican Governors Association raised about twice as much money as the Democratic Governors Association for the 2012 election cycle.

Of the 11 contested state governorships in 2012, eight currently are held by Democrats and three by Republicans. Six seats were being defended by incumbents, while five others were “open” seats in which the current governor either is retiring or is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. In the territories, one seat was defended, the other open.

In Missouri, incumbent Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat who ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism, successfully defended his seat against a challenge by St. Louis businessman Dave Spence. Fellow Democrats Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia, Jack Markell of Delaware and Peter Shumlin of Vermont also held onto their offices, as did Republicans Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota and Gary Herbert of Utah.

Governor Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico, who fell to challenger Alejandro Garcia Padilla, was the only incumbent governor defeated in the 2012 elections.


The only clear gubernatorial gain for Republicans on the morning of November 7 was in North Carolina, where the Republican candidate, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, cast himself as a pragmatic centrist and won by a comfortable margin despite a much closer statewide contest for the U.S. presidency.

In New Hampshire, Republican Ovide Lamontagne and former state Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, contended for a seat being vacated by retiring Democrat John Lynch. Hassan’s victory kept the seat in Democratic hands.

Indiana will continue to be headed by a Republican, where outgoing Governor Mitch Daniels will be succeeded by Mike Pence.

Pat McCrory (AP Images)North Carolina voters selected Republican Pat McCrory as their next governor.

The successor to Montana’s popular Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer remained in question as of midday November 7, when Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock held a slim lead over former Republican Representative Rick Hill.

Further west, the future of the Washington state governorship also is still to be determined with thousands of ballots yet uncounted in a contest that pitted two candidates who both ran as fiscal moderates. Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna currently trails Democrat Jay Inslee, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In American Samoa, none of the six candidates running for governor achieved a majority. A runoff election is scheduled for November 20.


The structure of state governments loosely mirrors that of the U.S. federal government, with executive, legislative and judicial branches. The governor heads the executive branch and performs many of the same functions at the state level that the U.S. president does at the national level: sets policy, appoints department heads, prepares and administers a budget, recommends legislation, and signs laws. In most states, the governor also plays an important role in appointing state and local judges.

In the U.S. system, states have a high degree of autonomy. States cannot enact laws that are in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and cannot engage in activities that are set aside as exclusively federal, such as negotiating treaties, but have broad jurisdiction in most other areas of governance.

State governors often move on to hold federal posts and many now serve in the U.S Senate, including Lamar Alexander, Thomas Carper, George Voinovich and Mark Warner.

A Cabinet position could also be a future job for today’s governors. In the Obama administration, former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius heads the Department of Health and Human Services, Iowa’s Tom Vilsack the Department of Agriculture and Arizona’s Janet Napolitano the Department of Homeland Security.

For four decades, the governor’s mansion served as a springboard to the U.S. presidency: Jimmy Carter from Georgia, Ronald Reagan from California, Bill Clinton from Arkansas and George W. Bush from Texas.

That pattern was broken November 4, 2008, when Americans for the first time since the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy sent a sitting U.S. senator, Barack Obama, to the

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