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Election 2010

Familiar Faces Join New Ones as GOP Dominates Elections

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Some old familiar names will join the wave of new faces in statehouses around the nation after Tuesday’s elections.

In Albany, Andrew Cuomo retraced his father’s footsteps to win election as New York’s governor, while Jerry Brown retraced his own decades-old footsteps to win the California governor’s office.

The two Democrats’ success ran counter to a nationwide trend strongly favoring Republicans. Not only did the GOP regain control of the U.S. House, it emerged from Tuesday’s election with about 53% of the nation’s state legislative seats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — its best showing since 1928.

The Republican wave swept through much of the Midwest.

In Michigan, moderate Republican businessman Rick Snyder handily beat Lansing Mayor Verg Bernero for the governor’s seat vacated by two-term incumbent Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Snyder has said he will try to reinvent Michigan’s reputation and stabilize its rocky fiscal position in part by restructuring its tax system.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s quest for a second term was derailed by Republican former U.S. Rep. John Kasich in the state’s closest gubernatorial race in decades. The new governor will face a deficit as high as $8 billion in the upcoming two-year budget. Kasich has said he would consider overhauling part of state government, including making privatization plans a priority.

In both Michigan and Ohio, Republicans won control of both legislative chambers, giving the party a powerful position as each state begins the process of redrawing its legislative districts next year.

Though Iowa has fared better economically than many of its neighbors during the recession, Republican challenger and former Gov. Terry Branstad beat incumbent Democrat Chet Culver by a nearly 10 percentage-point margin.

In both Wisconsin and Minnesota, the governors’ offices were open, and voters rejected the candidate offered by the incumbent’s party. In Wisconsin, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett lost to Republican Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. The state faces a $3 billion deficit in the next two-year budget. Walker backs tax and spending cuts to rein in state spending and create jobs.

In Minnesota, Republican Tom Emmer, a state representative, lost to Democrat Mark Dayton, a former senator, though a recount is planned. The next governor will face a $5.8 billion deficit going into the next budget cycle.

In Illinois, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn claimed victory against state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, though Brady refused to concede Wednesday afternoon as the two were divided by just 10,000 votes with some absentee ballots still being counted. The race focused on the state’s fiscal turmoil, with Brady saying he would eliminate what could be a $15 billion deficit in fiscal 2011 through cuts alone. Quinn prefers a mix of cuts and tax increases. 

In California, Brown trounced Republican opponent Meg Whitman by more than 12 percentage points, though the former eBay executive spent a record $140 million of her own money on the campaign. Democrats won at least six of the seven statewide partisan offices, including that of incumbent Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who posted the most votes of any statewide candidate.

In New York, Democrats swept the three statewide elections, with Cuomo at the top of the ticket.

Incumbent Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli narrowly held the job to which he was appointed in 2007. DiNapoli has advocated restrictions on state borrowing.

With the state facing a $9 billion budget deficit in fiscal 2012, Cuomo faces difficult fiscal realities and possibly a split Legislature. While Democrats held their majority in the Assembly, the Senate was still too close to call Wednesday afternoon.

Cuomo favors a property tax cap for local governments and school districts. As governor, he will have the opportunity to shake up the leadership at the public authorities that issue most of New York state-backed debt.

Republicans in Pennsylvania will have control of both the executive and legislative branches. Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican, will succeed Democratic Gov. Edward Rendell, who will be termed out in January.

Corbett will enter office in the midst of taxing and funding issues, as well as the developing financial crisis in the state’s capital city, Harrisburg, which has $282 million of incinerator debt that it cannot repay.

In Florida, Republican Rick Scott claimed the governor’s office in a narrow victory over Democrat Alex Sink to replace the outgoing Charlie Crist. The GOP also added to its substantial legislative majorities.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry, already the longest-serving governor in state history, easily won re-election over former Houston Mayor Bill White as Republicans bolstered their strength in the Legislature, which in January will begin tackling a record budget shortfall that could run as high as $25 billion.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will keep the Colorado governor’s mansion in Democratic hands.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will govern for a second term after beating Republican Charlie Baker. Voters selected Democrat Steve Grossman as the next treasurer by 55%. Current Treasurer Tim Cahill sought the governor’s seat as an independent candidate, but finished a distant third.

The Oregon governor’s race was still too close to call Wednesday afternoon. Republican former professional basketball player Chris Dudley held a dwindling lead on Democrat John Kitzhaber, a former governor. Democrats were fighting to hold onto majorities in the legislature, where vote counting continued. Incumbent Treasurer Ted Wheeler kept his seat in a special election. The Democrat was appointed to the office earlier this year, after the death of Ben Westlund.

Yvette Shields, Ted Phillips, Jim Watts, Richard Williamson, Michelle Kaske, Caitlin Devitt, and Randall Jensen ­contributed to this story.

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