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Republicans Make Gains in Governors' Races

With one election likely headed for a recount, Democrats have lost power in three states, including traditionally blue Vermont.

Republican Chris Sununu flipped the Democratic-held governorship in New Hampshire.
(AP/Jim Cole)
Last Updated: Nov. 10 at 7:04 a.m.

The GOP added to its stunning victory in the presidential race by flipping three gubernatorial seats on election night. One potential bright spot for Democrats is that they may have narrowly ousted their biggest gubernatorial target this year: North Carolina’s Pat McCrory.

Going into Election Day, Republicans made up a historically large 31-18 majority of governors. (There's one independent, Alaska's Bill Walker.)

Of the 12 gubernatorial races on Tuesday, Republicans won six, Democrats won five, and one is likely headed for a recount.

Prior to the election, we considered seven of the 12 gubernatorial races as tossups. The GOP was able to flip three of them. In Missouri, Eric Greitens won a Democratic-held open seat to replace term-limited Jay Nixon. In Vermont, the normally blue state opted for a moderate Republican governor, Phil Scott, to replace Peter Shumlin, who chose not to run for re-election. And in New Hampshire, Republican Chris Sununu flipped the Democratic-held governorship that's currently held by Maggie Hassan, who's in a tight race for the U.S. Senate.

In a close race, Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock held on for another term, defeating Republican challenger Greg Gianforte.

Democrats can take some comfort in the result in North Carolina, where Democrat Roy Cooper was about 4,000 votes ahead of McCrory, whose tenure has been controversial for implementing a strongly conservative agenda, including a “bathroom bill.” The race likely heads to a recount, but Cooper has the edge.

In another silver lining for Democrats, the party managed to maintain the governor’s mansion in West Virginia, with Jim Justice winning even as Donald Trump rolled to an easy victory in the state.

The only other tossup race going into the election was in Indiana, where Democrats had high hopes of taking the seat being vacated by Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence. In the end, buoyed by Trump’s victory in the state, Republican Eric Holcomb held the seat for the GOP.

The other contests went as expected -- Republican Gary Herbert was re-elected in Utah, Doug Burgum won a GOP-held open seat in North Dakota, Democratic incumbents Kate Brown in Oregon and Jay Inslee in Washington state won new terms, and Democrat John Carney successfully held an open seat for his party in Delaware.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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