Strong Night for GOP Governorships, 7 Races Too Close to Call

As expected, the Republicans had a strong night in the battle for the nation's governorships. Seven close races could decide the final net gain for the GOP.
by | November 3, 2010

As expected, the Republicans had a strong night in the battle for the nation’s governorships. As of the wee hours of the morning -- with a number of key races still to be decided -- the GOP had gained a net eight governorships. That number could go up or down depending on how the remaining results shake out.

As expected, the Republicans flipped governorships in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wyoming. They also flipped seats in two more competitive races: Ohio and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the Democrats flipped GOP-held governorships in California and Hawaii, while Independent Lincoln Chafee took a previously Republican-held seat in Rhode Island.

However, a number of races that are yet to be decided will determine how much above or below eight seats the Republicans end up.

The results for the Democratic-held governorships in Illinois, Maine and Oregon remain too close to call. The same goes for the Republican-held governorships of Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Vermont.

Currently, the Republican candidate holds a narrow lead in Connecticut, Florida, Oregon and Maine (where an Independent candidate is the closest competitor). The Democrat holds a narrow lead in Illinois, Minnesota and Vermont.

If the Republicans were to run the table with these contests, they would end up with a net gain of 11 governorships. If the Democrats were to run the table, they would reduce the net GOP gains to four, which would be something of a disappointment for the GOP.

This range of possible and average gains were almost exactly in line with Governing’s final pre-election handicapping of the governor’s races.

Going into Election Day, the Democrats controlled 26 governorships, compared to 23 for the GOP and one Independent (Florida’s Charlie Crist). At the low end of what seem to be the possible GOP gains, they would still move to 27 governorships -- an absolute majority. At the highest end of the possible range, the GOP would control 34 governorships, or two-thirds of the 50-state total.

The Democrats held on to several seats that were competitive to one degree or another: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Colorado, Maryland, Arkansas and New York.

The Republicans, for their part, kept control of several seats that were considered somewhat competitive, including South Carolina, Texas, New Mexico and Georgia.

The biggest potential upsets of the night would be a victory by Republican Tom Foley in Connecticut or by Republican Tom Emmer in Minnesota. Governing had rated both races Lean Democratic -- in play, but with a modest edge to the Democratic candidate. Republican wins by Brian Dubie in Vermont and Chris Dudley in Oregon would also be somewhat surprising, since both states, while rated tossups in our analysis, had been trending slightly Democratic as Election Day neared.

Among the biggest states, New York remained Democratic and Texas remained Republican, but California flipped to the Democrats while Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan shifted to the GOP. GOP-held Florida and Democratic-held Illinois are too close to call. The final results in these races will be important for shaping redistricting following the 2010 Census.

We’ll update the results as they trickle in Wednesday. Also, join us for an online live chat with the author at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday. GOVERNING will start accepting your questions at 9 a.m. ET.

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