GOP set to tighten grip on gov­er­nor­ships

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By David A. Lieb

JEF­FER­SON CITY, Mo. — Repub­li­cans and Democrats each re­tained gov­er­nor­ships Tues­day in hard­fought bat­tles in In­di­ana and West Vir­ginia as vot­ers picked chief ex­ec­u­tives in a dozen states.

The gov­er­nors’ con­tests were part of a bat­tle for state­house supremacy that also in­cluded nearly 6,000 state leg­isla­tive elec­tions. Head­ing into Tues­day, Repub­li­cans con­trolled more than two-thirds of the na­tion’s leg­isla­tive cham­bers, as well as 31 of the 50 gov­er­nors’ of­fices.

In­di­ana Lt. Gov. Eric Hol­comb de­feated Demo­crat John Gregg to keep Repub­li­can con­trol of the of­fice be­ing va­cated by GOP vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mike Pence. In West Vir­ginia, bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Jim Jus­tice won elec­tion to suc­ceed term-lim­ited Demo­cratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The states in play Tues­day in­clude:

North Carolina

In the na­tion’s high­est­pro­file race, Repub­li­can Gov. Pat McCrory faces a strong chal­lenge from Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Roy Cooper.

The race has be­come a ref­er­en­dum on North Carolina’s right­ward shift un­der McCrory, high­lighted by a law that lim­its anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions for les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple. Cooper has vowed to try to re­peal the law as gover­nor.

Mis­souri

For­mer Navy SEAL of­fi­cer Eric Gre­it­ens, a first­time can­di­date, is locked in a close con­test against Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Chris Koster. In­di­ana GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Eric Hol­comb suc­ceeded Mike Pence.

Gre­it­ens has cap­i­tal­ized on his mil­i­tary ser­vice and his work as founder of the vet­er­ans’ char­ity known as The Mis­sion Con­tin­ues. He casts him­self as an out­sider go­ing up against a ca­reer politi­cian. Koster, a for­mer Repub­li­can state se­na­tor, has picked up a key en­dorse­ment from the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

In­di­ana

Hol­comb’s elec­tion will con­tinue a 12-year run of Repub­li­can gov­er­nors in In­di­ana. Hol­comb, a for­mer state Repub­li­can Party chair­man, was nom­i­nated as Pence’s re­place­ment when he dropped his re­elec­tion bid in July.

Gregg had tried to cast Hol­comb as a “rubber stamp” for Pence, point­ing out Hol­comb’s sup­port for a re­li­gious-ob­jec­tions law that Pence signed. Op­po­nents said the law, which was later re­vised, sanc­tioned dis­crim­i­na­tion against same-sex cou­ples by al­low­ing busi­nesses to refuse to serve them.

New Hamp­shire

The gover­nor’s of­fice is open be­cause Demo­cratic Gov. Mag­gie Has­san is try­ing to oust Repub­li­can U.S. Sen. Kelly Ay­otte.

The race to re­place her fea­tures two mem­bers of the gover­nor’s Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil — Demo­crat Colin Van Ostern and Repub­li­can Chris Su­nunu, the son of for­mer Gov. John H. Su­nunu.

Ver­mont

Repub­li­can Lt. Gov. Phil Scott faces Demo­crat Sue Min­ter in what Repub­li­cans view as their best pick- up op­por­tu­nity. Demo­cratic Gov. Peter Shum­lin is not seek­ing an­other two-year term.

Scott is cur­rently the only Repub­li­can statewide of­fice­holder in a lib­er­al­lean­ing state but has tacked to the left by em­brac­ing abor­tion rights and gay mar­riage.

West Vir­ginia

Jus­tice’s vic­tory will con­tinue a 16-year stint of Demo­cratic gov­er­nors in a state that has oth­er­wise been tilt­ing to­ward Repub­li­cans. Jus­tice cast him­self as a po­lit­i­cal out­sider adept at cre­at­ing jobs.

Repub­li­can can­di­date Bill Cole, the state Se­nate pres­i­dent, had hoped to ride Trump’s coat­tails. But Cole’s pledge to re­vive the coal in­dus­try was off­set by Jus­tice, him­self a coal bil­lion­aire.

Mon­tana

Demo­cratic Gov. Steve Bul­lock faces a chal­lenge from Repub­li­can Greg Gian­forte, a busi­ness­man who struck it rich when he sold his cloud-based soft­ware firm to Or­a­cle five years ago.

Gian­forte has poured mil­lions of his own money into the race, air­ing more TV ads than all other statewide ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates in the na­tion, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by the Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­tegrity of data from the track­ing firm Kan­tar Media/CMAG.

PAIGE MAL­LORY PASSMAN/THE ELKHART TRUTH

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