GOP set to tighten grip on governorships
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.