The Vote: Governors

Democratic Rep. Bob Wise has unseated Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood in West Virginia, while in 10 other states, the incumbent party has held on to governorships, ABCNEWS projects.

Democrat Bob Holden claimed the Missouri governor’s mansion early this morning. He defeated Republican Jim Talent, a congressman from St. Louis.

Holden used his victory speech to pay tribute to the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash while campaigning for U.S. Senate.

The West Virginia race had been seen as a tossup with Underwood, the nation’s oldest governor, holding a slim lead in recent polls.

The Party Power Struggle

Democrats retained seven gubernatorial seats — with victories by incumbents in Indiana, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, and wins in Delaware, Missouri and North Carolina.

Republicans retained three seats — with the incumbent winning in Utah, and other candidates winning in Montana and North Dakota.

Coming into Election Day, Republicans controlled 30 governor’s offices, Democrats 18 and independents 2. The results move one governorship from the Republican column to the Democrats’.

In Montana, Republican Lt. Gov. Judy Martz defeated State Auditor Mark O’Keefe. The Democrat was believed to have made it a close race after pouring millions of dollars of his wife’s family fortune into his campaign.

In North Dakota, Republican John Hoeven beat Heidi Heitkamp, whose announcement in September that she had breast cancer gave her a fleeting surge in the race.

In winning Vermont, Democratic Gov. Howard Dean overcame an expected backlash over his state’s decision to allow same-sex civil unions. He also survived a challenge by third-party candidates that threatened to prevent him from getting a majority of the popular vote, which is required for an Election Day victory in the Green Mountain State.

Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen’s re-election in New Hampshire and Democrat Mike Easley’s win in North Carolina came in other races where Republicans had faint hopes of unseating the Democrats.

In Delaware, Lt. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, the winner, had a large lead in pre-election polls. So did Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon, who defeated Republican Rep. David McIntosh.

In Utah and Washington, incumbent governors won re-election, as many expected. Democratic Gov. Gary Locke took Washington, while Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt was the victor in Utah.

Following are details on the 11 states that had governorships up for grabs this year. The candidate from the incumbent party is listed first.


Ruth Ann Minner (D) vs. John Burris (R)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (D) Wins

With 100 percent of the vote counted, Lt. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner has won the governorship in Delaware, preserving the Democrats’ hold on the office.

Her margin of victory over John Burris, the former state Chamber of Commerce president and a former state representative, was 59 to 40 percent, according to unofficial figures.

The sitting governor, Democratic Gov. Tom Carper, easily beat his Republican opponents in 1992 and 1996, but was barred from running for re-election because of term limits. Instead, he made a successful bid for the Senate.

A poll out last week showed Minner surging to a 12-percentage-point lead, after earlier polls showed a once-sizeable lead shrinking down to eight points.


Gov. Frank O’Bannon (D) vs. David McIntosh (R)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (D) Wins

Frank O’Bannon has won re-election as governor of Indiana.

With 97 percent of the vote counted, O’Bannon had a 56 to 42 percent lead over Rep. David McIntosh.

O’Bannon first took office after gaining 52 percent of the vote in 1996.

Early in the current campaign, some national Republicans believed he was vulnerable. However, after the most expensive gubernatorial race in Indiana history, O’Bannon appeared to have a clear lead heading into Election Day.

Ed Schafer, chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, said recently that Republicans simply hadn’t “been able to get any traction” against O’Bannon’s persistent double-digit lead in the polls.

Despite apparent Republican leads in statewide presidential and Senate races, O’Bannon has consistently led McIntosh, a congressman, in polls, including a 52 to 37 percent lead in a sampling by Research 2000 taken in late October. The poll listed a 4 percent margin of error.

McIntosh has accused O’Bannon of mismanaging the state. Democrats have attacked McIntosh’s Congressional attendance record.

Republicans complained O’Bannon consolidated his popularity by temporarily suspending the state’s gasoline tax on July 1. O’Bannon said the move responded to dangerously high gas prices, and was not politically motivated.


Bob Holden (D) vs. James M. Talent (R)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (D) Wins

Bob Holden, the state treasurer, defeated James M. Talent, a congressman, in a hard-fought race almost overshadowed by the death of Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan.

Carnahan, who had been barred from running for re-election by term limits, died in a plane crash on Oct. 16 as he was running for the U.S. Senate.

Holden, an Ozarks dairy farmer’s son who rose to the pinnacle of Missouri politics, was narrowly elected governor after an agonizing Election Night of seesawing numbers.

“I look forward to having a very successful four years as governor of the state of Missouri,” Holden declared to cheering supporters in St. Louis just before 3 a.m. today.


Judy Martz (R) vs. Mark O’Keefe (D)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (R) Wins

ABCNEWS projects that Lt. Gov. Judy Martz has held off a well-funded opponent to keep the governorship in Republican hands.

Republican Gov. Marc Racicot won a landslide election victory in 1996, but was barred from running again because of term limits. Racicot endorsed Martz as his successor.

The race had been considered a tossup. In Mark O’Keefe, the state auditor, Martz faced a wealthy opponent who poured millions of dollars of his and his wife’s personal fortune into his campaign. The family of O’Keefe’s wife, Lucy Dayton, once co-owned the Dayton-Hudson department store chain.

Martz accused O’Keefe of lying on issues and overspending, and attacked him as a “tax and spend liberal Democrat” originally from out of state. O’Keefe is a native of Pennsylvania.

O’Keefe portrayed himself as an independent politician despite his Democratic affiliation, and said he had to spend his family’s money to respond to alleged distortions about his record in campaign ads.

New Hampshire

Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) vs. Gordon Humphrey (R) & Mary Brown (I)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (D) Wins

Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has defeated Gordon Humphrey for re-election to a third term as governor.

With 98 percent of the vote counted, Shaheen had a 49 to 44 percent lead.

Democrats expected to win in New Hampshire, although Republicans believed they had a legitimate shot.

Polls since mid-October showed wildly different pictures, with Shaheen’s lead ranging from eight to 19 percentage points over Humphrey, a former senator. Brown, a Republican state senator running independently, registered in the single digits in the polls.

Shaheen first took office in 1996, and began a second term in 1998 after winning 65 percent of the vote.

Republicans were encouraged for a time because Shaheen’s poll numbers through October indicated she would not get 50 percent of the vote. However, a November poll showed her with 51 percent.

The candidates frequently clashed over how to deal with a court order to reform education funding in the state. Shaheen said she wouldn’t propose a solution until after the election, when she hears from a special study committee. Humphrey challenged her to join him in a pledge not to raise taxes to address the problem.

North Carolina

Mike Easley (D) vs. Richard Vinroot (R)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (D) Wins

Mike Easley, the state attorney general, has beaten Richard Vinroot to keep the governorship of North Carolina in Democratic hands.

With 97 percent of the vote counted, Easley held a 52 to 46 percent lead.

Republicans had hoped for an upset in North Carolina, claiming their candidate — Vinroot, the former mayor of Charlotte — had momentum in his favor after narrowing a large deficit in recent months.

Still, Democrats were confident they would keep their grip on the statehouse in the largest of the states at play in this year’s gubernatorial races.

Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt was barred from running for re-election by term limits.

A mid-October poll showed Easley leading Vinroot by six points, with a 4.9 percent margin of error.

A poll at the end of October showed Easley’s lead growing to eight points, but the two-point change was within the Research 2000 poll’s 5 percent margin of error.

Republicans believed Vinroot would benefit from support for George W. Bush, the party’s presidential candidate. ABCNEWS has projected Bush as the winner in North Carolina.

However, Hunt coasted to a 56 to 43 percent victory in 1996, even though his state chose the Republican, Bob Dole, in the presidential race.

North Dakota

John Hoeven (R) vs. Heidi Heitkamp (D)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (R) Wins

John Hoeven, the former president of the Bank of North Dakota, kept the governor’s office in Republican hands by beating state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, who announced in September that she had breast cancer.

Up until that announcement, Hoeven and Heitkamp had fought a close race on the issues — including agriculture policy, economic development, education, prescription drugs and the role of state government.

Heitkamp believed she was only slightly behind Hoeven before her cancer diagnosis was made public. An early-October Minnesota State University poll showed her leading Hoeven 48 to 42 percent, with a 4 percent margin of error.


Gov. Mike Leavitt (R) vs. Bill Orton (D)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (R) Wins

As expected by many observers, Gov. Mark Leavitt has beaten Bill Orton, a former congressman, for re-election to the statehouse, ABCNEWS projects.

Leavitt has been governor since 1992, and won with 75 percent of the vote in his last election.

Orton is a former congressman.

Jeremy Friedbaum, a conservative candidate with the American Independent Party, attracted media attention in early October by fasting for more than a month and losing nearly 50 pounds.

National Democrats and Republicans agreed Leavitt was likely to return to office.


Gov. Howard Dean (D) vs. Ruth Dwyer (R) & Anthony Pollina (I)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (D) Wins

ABCNEWS projects that Gov. Howard Dean has won re-election, beating Ruth Dwyer, the same opponent he defeated in the 1998 race.

Civil unions for gays and lesbians was the dominant issue in this state. Dean, governor since 1991, favors civil unions, which give same-sex couples similar legal rights to those enjoyed by traditional married couples.

Vermont is the only state to have such a law, which it passed in July.

Dwyer, a former state legislator, wanted to repeal the civil unions law.

The issue may have been why national Democratic and Republican organizations have poured in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the governor’s race and other campaigns in this small state.

Dean defeated Dwyer by a 56 to 41 margin in the 1998 gubernatorial election.

Polls showed Dean leading Dwyer again, with Pollina, a Progressive Party candidate who supports civil unions, a distant third.

Before Dean’s victory, there was some question as to whether Pollina’s numbers would prevent either of his opponents from getting 50 percent of the popular vote. If no candidate had reached 50 percent, the state legislature — control of which also appears to be up for grabs — would have chosen the next governor.


Gov. Gary Locke (D) vs. John Carlson (R)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (D) Wins

ABCNEWS projects that Democratic Gov. Gary Locke has won re-election.

Locke first cruised into office in 1996 with a 58 to 42 percent margin of victory.

Carlson is a former radio talk show host and newspaper columnist.

Polls in late October showed Locke with a commanding lead, and he was considered a heavy favorite to win.

West Virginia

Gov. Cecil Underwood (R) vs. Bob Wise (D) & Denise Giardina (I)

ABCNEWS PROJECTION: Incumbent Party (R) Loses

Rep. Bob Wise has unseated Gov. Cecil Underwood to swing West Virginia’s statehouse into Democratic hands.

With 90 percent of the vote counted, Wise held a 51 to 46 percent lead over Underwood.

As of late October, polls were showing Underwood, the nation’s oldest governor, maintaining a slim lead despite state demographics the Democrats felt were in their favor.

Underwood, a former coal company executive, has been governor since 1996, ascending to office with just 52 percent of the vote amidst what Republicans say was public discontent with the prior governor, a Democrat. Underwood also served a term as governor in the late 1950s.

At issue, as is often the case in West Virginia, was the coal industry.

Both candidates wanted to modify a federal court decision critical of the environmental impact of mountaintop strip mining in the state. However, Underwood accused Wise of shifting positions on the issue.

Giardina, a third-party candidate, complained both major-party candidates were too easy on the coal industry.