Too-Close-to-Call Governorships Trending Democratic

A cycle of tremendous upheaval for the nation's governorships is nearing its end, as the remaining too-close-to-call states appear to be going the Democrats' way.
by | November 5, 2010

Louis Jacobson appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this morning to discuss the gubernatorial and state legislature elections. To watch the interview and call-in segment, click here.

A cycle of tremendous upheaval for the nation's governorships is nearing its end, as the remaining too-close-to-call states appear to be going the Democrats' way.

In Connecticut, Democrat Dan Malloy appears to have enough votes to defeat Republican Tom Foley, thanks to a late surge of ballots from heavily Democratic Bridgeport. But Foley isn't conceding the race yet, and litigation could follow, amid accusations of voting irregularities.

In Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton is roughly 9,000 votes ahead of Republican Tom Emmer, with a recount expected. However, analysts suggest that Dayton should be able to be confirmed as the winner eventually.

Two other late-calling states also went the Democrats' way -- Illinois, where incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn held on narrowly, and Oregon, where Democrat John Kitzhaber reclaimed his old seat by a similarly narrow margin.

These late-deciding states cut into the GOP's otherwise impressive gains on Election Night.

If these races stay as they are, then the GOP will have flipped 12 seats, Democrats will have flipped five, and one seat -- Rhode Island -- will have flipped from Republican to Independent. If you cancel out Rhode Island and Florida (which went the opposite way from Rhode Island, shifting from from Independent to Republican), then the GOP will have gained a net six seats -- a nice bump, but numerically lower than they would have had if the wave had been stronger.

That's largely because the Democrats did so well in seizing GOP-held governorships in blue states. If Malloy's victory is confirmed, the Democrats will have swept the GOP out of office in California, Hawaii, Connecticut, Minnesota and Vermont, in addition to Chafee ousting a Republican in Rhode Island. This suggests that the Democrats had something of a breakwall in liberal states.

Putting together the change of parties in all states, a striking 18 governorships will have changed hands, or fully half of the 37 seats that were being contested. That's pro-change undertow just about equivalent to the one from 2002. That election set the stage for today's, because many of the 2002 winners served two terms and left their seats open this year.

Indeed, most of the party-shifting this year occurred in open seats. Of the 13 incumbent governors up for reelection in 2010, only two were ousted -- Iowa's Chet Culver and Ohio's Ted Strickland, both Democrats. By contrast, six Republican incumbents and five Democratic incumbents were reelected.

Despite the narrowed margin of gubernatorial gains for the GOP, Republicans still chalked up some vitally important victories on Tuesday. They seized the governorships of such swing states as Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, in many cases bringing along one or two chambers of the legislature -- all in advance of the redistricting effort that will determine Congressional and legislative boundaries for the next election.

Meanwhile, in California's hard-fought attorney general race, Democrat Kamala Harris continues to lead Republican Steve Cooley narrowly, but the result has not been made official yet.


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