The Vote: Governors

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.

Vermont

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.

Washington

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.

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