New Governors Elected in 7 of 11 States

By Joetta L. Sack — November 03, 2004 4 min read
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Seven of the 11 states with governor’s races this year have elected newcomers, bringing in fresh faces to offices that are pivotal in shaping education budgets and policies across the nation and to carrying out the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

As of the morning after the Nov. 2 election, Democrats and Republicans were each expected to win at least five of the 11 gubernatorial races. Democrats had scored a big upset in New Hampshire and gained control of Montana’s highest office, while Republicans had won hard-fought contests in Indiana and Missouri. The gubernatorial election in Washington state was too close to call on the morning of Nov. 3.

Gubernatorial Race Results

The table below shows preliminary results in the state gubernatorial races. Winners are in bold.

State Candidates Results
Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) 50.9%
Bill Lee (R) 45.8%
Frank Infante (I/L) 3.3%

Source: Delaware Commissioner of Elections
(434 of 434 districts reporting)

Indiana Gov. Joseph E. Kernan (D) 45.39%
Mitch Daniels (R) 53.29%
Kenn Gividen (L) 1.32%

Source: The Indianapolis Star
(5406 of 5424 precincts reporting)

Missouri Claire C. McCaskill (D) 47.8%
Matt Blunt (R) 50.9%
John M. Swenson (L) .9%

Source: Missouri Office of Secretary of State
(3920 of 3920 precincts reporting)

Montana Brian Schweitzer (D) 50%
Bob Brown (R) 46%

Source: Billings Gazette
(877 of 881 precincts reporting)

New Hampshire John Lynch (D) 51%
Gov. Craig Benson (R) 49%

Source: The Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)
(100% of precincts reporting)

North Carolina Gov. Michael F. Easley (D) 55%
Patrick Ballantine (R) 43%

Source: Wilmington Star-News/AP
(99% of precincts reporting)

North Dakota Joe Satrom (D) 27.39%
Gov. John Hoeven (R) 71.25%

Source: North Dakota Secretary of State
(607 of 607 precincts reporting)

Utah Scott Matheson Jr. (D) 42.67%
Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) 56.41%

Source: State of Utah Election Returns
(98.6% of precincts reporting)

Vermont Peter Clavelle (D) 38%
Gov. Jim Douglas (R) 59%

Source: Burlington Free Press/AP
(100% of precincts reporting)

Washington Christine O. Gregoire (D) 49%
Dino Rossi (R) 49%

Source: Washington Secretary of State
(99% of precincts reporting)
*Too close to call

West Virginia Joe Manchin III (D) 64%
Monty Warner (R) 34%

Source: The Herald-Dispatch
(Huntington, W. Va)
(1,510 of 1,965 precincts reporting)

In one of the races most closely watched in education circles, Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. easily won the race for Utah governor, after a bruising primary and general election that focused heavily on education issues. Mr. Huntsman supported a plan to offer private school vouchers for special education students, an issue many said was a driving factor in his defeat of Democrat Scott Matheson Jr. Mr. Matheson, the dean of the University of Utah’s law school, was seen as the Democrats best hope in many years for taking control of an office that they have not held in more than two decades.

Although the economy was a top theme in most of the gubernatorial campaigns, in Utah, education played a significant role in the debate over how to improve the state’s fiscal situation. “A big part of our support came from voters who cared about education,” said Mr. Huntsman’s campaign spokesman, Jason Chavetz, on Nov. 2. “We think voters understood, it’s not just the economy, but education.”

What appeared to be the biggest victory for Democrats came in New Hampshire. Although it’s known for its staunchly Republican and anti-tax ideals, residents there appeared to have ousted conservative GOP incumbent Gov. Craig Benson, who garnered 49 percent of the vote to Democratic businessman John Lynch’s 51 percent.

Though the election debates were dominated by taxes and ethical issues in Gov. Benson’s administration, the state’s long-standing battles over school finance were also discussed at length. The candidates, both millionaire businessmen, had each opposed paying for schools with new income or sales taxes. The Republican governor, however, was also pushing for an amendment to the state constitution that would have limited the state courts’ authority to intervene in school-finance issues-a measure Mr. Lynch strongly opposed.

Easy Win in N.C.

Gov. Michael F. Easley of North Carolina, a Democrat, appeared to have held on to his seat, along with Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont and Gov. John Hoeven in North Dakota, both Republicans.

Gov. Easley, who won by a comfortable margin of 12 percentage points over his Republican challenger, Patrick Ballantine, has pledged over the next four years to further expand his “More at Four” preschool program for disadvantaged 4-year-olds. Mr. Easley has also said he will push for smaller high schools and a state lottery, with proceeds going to education programs and school construction.

New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Lynch of Hopkinton, N.H., looks toward his wife, Susan, left, as he leaves the voting booth with his son, Hayden, after voting in Hopkinton Town Hall Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2004.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware, a Democrat, also easily won re-election in spite of controversy over high-stakes graduation exams in her state. Her Republican opponent, Bill Lee, a retired judge who also ran against her in the 2000 election, had hoped to turn opposition to the testing system into votes for his campaign.

Economic issues trumped education in several closely watched governors’ races. Among them was the contest in Indiana. There, the former director of the White House office of budget and management, Mitch Daniels, soundly defeated Democrat Joseph E. Kernan.

Republicans appeared to have taken control of the Missouri governor’s mansion as well. The party retained control of the state’s legislative chambers, setting the stage for the GOP to control both the legislative and executive branches for the first time since 1920. Democrats easily won elections in West Virginia and Montana.

Associate Editor Debra Viadero and Staff Writer Vaishali Honawar contributed to this report.

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