Gubernatorial elections, 2010

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See also: 2010 gubernatorial electoral results
Gubernatorial elections in 2010
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Statewide elections, 2010Dates of primaries
Thirty-seven gubernatorial elections took place on November 2, 2010. That added up to the largest block of states to choose governors in a single election year.[1] Leading immediately into the 2011 Congressional reapportionment, the gubernatorial races became intensely contested. Four states that make up almost one-fourth of the entire U.S. House of Representatives - California, Florida, Texas, and New York were all in play.

Additionally, four key signalers of the nation's mood ahead of Presidential years - Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania - elected new Republican governors and, in doing so, changed power.[2]

2010 was also a remakable year for women seeking the highest office in the state.[3] New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Carolina all elected their first females governors. In New Mexico and Oklahoma, women, in fact, won both major party primaries.

In 15 of the seats up for election, the incumbent could not run again because of term limits, leaving 22 seats guaranteed to be open to non-incumbents. Of the incumbent but limited-out governors, 8 were Democratic and 7, Republican. When incumbents did choose to run, the primaries were good to them. Only in Nevada did an incumbent seeing re-election lose his own party's primary. (One of the term-limited governors, Dave Freudenthal in Wyoming, at one point indicated he planned to challenge his state's term limits law; while he did win his legal battle to have the state's term limits invalidated, he eventually declined to run for a third term.)

Republican elephant.gif Alabama

See also: Alabama gubernatorial election, 2010

Incumbent Republican Governor Bob Riley was term-limited out. Democrat Ron Sparks easily topped his opposition to score a primary victory. Republicans Robert J. Bentley and Bradley Byrne finsihed within two points of one another, requiring a mid-July runoff. Bentley's strong finish surprised race observers and he repeated the upset in the runoff to take the GOP nomination by nearly 13 points.[4][5]


Governor Riley remained neutral through the primaries but publicly committed his vote to Byrne, a former State Senator, the weekend before the runoff. As Byrne is also a former Clinton Democrat, having switched his affiliation in the late 1990s, the endorsement was something of an oddity. Bentley painted it as proff of the insider politics and stale ideas that had gotten Alabama into trouble before and leveraged his outsider persona into a win.


Ahead of sorting out the nominations, both Republican candidates were polling far ahead of Sparks and, once his runoff victory was in the past, Bentley pulled into a comfortable double-digit lead over his rival. Sparks never gained traction and Bentley became the Governor-elect of Alabama with 58.31% of the vote.

Republican elephant.gif Alaska

See also: Alaska gubernatorial election, 2010

In a race that was expected to go for the Republican all along, apointed Governor Sean Parnell dispatched five primary challengers, with his nearest competitor still finishing 17 points back, to get a shot at a full term in the office. The Democratic primary was a closer call, but Ethan A. Berkowitz, a one-time Minority Leader of the Alaska House of Representatives, still won a comfortable 8 point victory.


Libertarian William S. Toien and Donald R. Wright of the Alaska Independence Party were placed on the Democratic primary ballot, respectively taking 3.66% and 8.84%, something that both gave a taste of the performance minor parties could expect in the general election and likely affected Berkowtiz's ultimate margin. After the late August primaries, the polls, which had always shown Republicans to edge out Dems, simply belong to Parnell.


In the general election, he took almost 60% of the vote. On December 6, 2010, Sean Parnell was sworn-in, becoming one of the first winners of the 2010 midterms to take office.

Republican elephant.gif Arizona

See also: Arizona gubernatorial election, 2010

Between the May 26, 2010 deadline for nominations and the August 24, 2010 primary, Arizona's immigration law pulled national attention to the state's entire election slate and ultimately led to the departure of two GOP candidates from the ballot, one citing the changed race as having killed any interest in his key issues and one citing the need for a unified party as the immigration law and the party that passed it face scrutiny.


Voters voiced their confidence in incumbent Jan Brewer, handing her a rock solid 82% primary victory. She faced unopposed Democrat Terry Goddard in November. Despite Goddard's lead in spring 2010 polls, Brewer began eclipsing him around April and steadily widened her lead. While Goddard's numbers fell slightly, Brewer managed to soak up undecided voters as the election neared. She ultimately finished 12 points ahead of Goddard, taking 54% of the votes.


The results formalized Arizona's change of power on the governor's mansion, as Brewer had been the appointed replacement to Democrat Janet Napolitano, who left midway through her second term to head the Department of Homeland Security, prior to her election.

Donkey symbol.png Arkansas

See also: Arkansas gubernatorial election, 2010


Arkansas was one of the simplest gubernatorial contests in 2010 and one of the few easy wins for the Democrats. Both major parties put forward a single candidate, obviating the need for the scheduled May 18, 2012 primaries. Incumbent Mike Beebe and GOP challenger Jim Keet saw almost no upheaval in polling numbers for the last several months of the contest.


Going into the last weekend of the campaign, Gov. Beebe enjoyed 60% support, and he translated that an even larger victory, with just under 65% of the vote. He will, however, serve his second term with a new lieutenant governor. Arkansas is one of the relatively few states that conducts entirely separate elections for the two office, leaving open the possibility of a split ticket as well. When Republican Mark Darr eked out a victory in the lt. gubernatorial contest, he ensured that Arkansas will be one of only two states with just such a power-sharing arrangement at the top, the other being Rhode Island.

Republican elephant.gif California

See also: California gubernatorial election, 2010

From the crowded field of third party and independent candidates, the Green, American Independent, Libertarian, and Peace & Freedom Parties all sent candidates onto the ballot. However, the major focus was always on the battle between Republican Meg Whitman, who brought a $1 billion personal fortune and a pledge to spend up to $150 million of it to the race, and Democrat Jerry Brown, California's well-known Attorney General and the state's former Governor


Whitman vanquished a field of eight primary challengers while Brown himself took on seven. Whitman's 64% win was respectable but Brown simply annihilated the competition when he walked away with 84% of the primary vote. From that point one, the race was analyzed past comprehension, flooded with third party ads, and characterized by a series of scandals - be it Jerry Brown vacationing with Cuba's Communist dictator or Meg Whitman's son getting tangled up in sexual assault allegations.


Whitman was true to her word about spending lavishly on the race and set the new U.S. record for candidate self-funding in a race. Her strategy was beginning to pay off with neck-and-neck polling returns in October when a story about a former housekeeper, in the country illegally, broke. Whitman was unable to convince the voting public she had not known about her employee's status and her began slipping in the polls.


Ultimately, Jerry Brown won back his old office with 54%, to Whitman's 40% second place finish.

Donkey symbol.png Colorado

See also: Colorado gubernatorial election, 2010


Colorado may have been the GOPs saddest 2010 loss. Incumbent Governor Bill Ritter declined to run again early on, facing a near-consensus that he couldn't win. John Hickenlooper, the Mayor of Denver and a city father to Denver's regentrification, entered the race as the favored Democratic candidate. Still, early polls gave Republicans some well-justified hope of flipping the seat.


However, Republicans hoped to paint Hickenlooper as out-of-touch with the vast rural tracts and put forward former Congressman Scott McInnis as their own party-backed contender. Dan Maes, a Tea-Party backed political neophyte won the state's February caucuses, but he went largely un-noted by the estbalished Republican structure. Over the summer, McInnis went down in flames over plagiarism charges and the August 10th primary barely went to Maes.


At that point, a fellow alumni of the U.S. House, Tom Tancredo, switched his registration from the GOP to the American Constitution Party and entered the race, barely ahead of the cutoff to do so. What happened next was a series of escalating omissions, inaccuracies, and fundraising improprieties that dragged Dan Maes' poll numbers down to the single digits. Tancredo and Hickenlooper remained competitive, with isolated surveys suggesting the former could actually win. However, John Hickenlooper prevailed with 51% while the Colorado Republicans narrowly avoided relegation to third party status.

Republican elephant.gif Connecticut

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See also: Connecticut gubernatorial election, 2010

Republican incumbent Jodi Rell surprised political observers in early November 2009 with her announcement that she would not seek re-election. Despite being the first Republican in the race and having outgoing Governor Jodi Rell's support, Michael Fedele finished five points behind in the August primaries and the GOP nomination went to former Ambassador Tom Foley.

The two-way Democratic primary yielded Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy as the nominee, with a comfortable 15-point win. In the immediate aftermath of the primaries and through the early fall, the race was seen to lean toward a Democratic victory. However, by mid-October, all race trackers were calling it a toss-up. Indeed, the race was not immediately called and the Secretary of State's initial declaration of victory for Dan Malloy ran into trouble.

Foley publicly challenged the decision and, shortly thereafter, the venerable Associated Press retracted its 'call' of the race as a Democratic victory. Key precincts underwent emergency recounts and numerous figures on the GOP side alleged mishandling of ballots and poor management of the election overall. Foley finally conceded the week after the election and Malloy's half-point win became official.

Republican elephant.gif Florida

See also: Florida gubernatorial election, 2010

Charlie Crist gave up both his seat and his party to run, unsuccessfully, for a U.S. Senate seat. Attorney General Bill McCollum was the establishment GOP candidate, embroiled in a bitter primary fight against newcomer Rick Scott, a multi-millionaire healthcare executive whose companies had suffered high profile legal troubles. Running at the front of the Democratic primary pack was banking executive Alex Sink serving as Florida's CFO.


Though he trailed McCollum in polls taken just before election day, Scott pulled off a slight upset, winning by three points in a race that saw over 1.2 million Floridians cast ballots for the GOP. Alex Sink had a far easier primary, handily taking three-fourths of the Democratic primary vote. Surveys of voters through the race led to fears that Florida would face another recount, with leads shifting back and forth and neither Scott nor Sink consistently pulling ahead.


Race trackers ultimately gave in and widely called the contest a toss-up. Given the race's volatility, the small lead Scott developed in late October was not enough to make anyone confident about predicting the outcome. However, Scott did win a razor-thin 48.87% victory and Florida avoided going into a recount.

Republican elephant.gif Georgia

See also: Georgia gubernatorial election, 2010


With more than half a dozen hopefuls each for the Democrats and Republicans, the July 20, 2010 primary became a complicated tangle of endorsements and barbs traded back and forth. An early favorite for the GOP, John Oxendine, saw his lead vanish as Karen Handel, in third for much of the primary season, surged. However, she did not win the primary by enough to avoid a runoff against former Congressman Nathan Deal. Deal himself affect an upset in the runoff and took the Republican nomination.


Among the Democrats, Roy E. Barnes, governor of the state once before, ended his political retirement and won a decisive victory; the second place candidate only took one-third as many votes. From that point on, the vitriol that defined the GOP runoff came to define the entire race. Deal and Barnes both endured allegations of financial mismanagement and involvement in various scandals. When Deal's precarious personal financial situation came to light in September, opponents wasted no time in suggesting he lacked the fiscal discipline to tame Georgia's budgetary woes and shepherd the state through the recession.


As polling day approached, Deal was ahead but political analysts worried it wasn't enough to avoid a runoff, which would have prolonged the acerbic campaign for nearly a month. Perhaps fortunately for the state's weary voters, Deal took 53% on November 2nd, enough to quash rumors of a runoff and become the Governor-elect.

Republican elephant.gif Hawaii

See also: Hawaii gubernatorial election, 2010

Incumbent governor Linda Lingle was limited-out and race-watchers had to wait to see who would likely succeed her, as Hawaii holds one of the latest primaries in the nation. For 2010, the September 18th contests were the final gubernatorial primary of the cycle.


By then, former Congressman Neil Abercrombie was decisively ahead of Honolulu Mayor Muliufi F. Hanneman for the Democratic nod, something the primary election formalized with Abercrombie's 60% win. Among the Republicans, several lesser known candidates left the field after gaining name recognition and bringing in funds proved difficult. That left Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona, who enjoyed national GOP support in the bid to retain the governorship, against former state Senator John Carroll.


Aiona's whopping 93% primary win may rank among the most lopsided wins of 2010. However, he wasn't able to get even half as much support in the November general election and Neil Abercrombie, by 58% to 40%, became the Governor-elect.

Republican elephant.gif Idaho

See also: Idaho gubernatorial election, 2010


Keith Allred, a college professor, won the Democratic primary overwhelmingly, taking over 80% of the vote against his only opponent. The GOP primary attracted many more candidates, with incumbent Gov. Governor C. L. "Butch" Otter facing half a dozen challengers; however, Otter won just over half the vote in the primary.

Incumbent fatigue may have explained a lsight drop in Otter's poll numbers over the summer, but even then he held a double-digit lead over his challenger. Idaho's reliable GOP status when it has elected governors and Presidents in the past proved an accurate preductor, as Gov. Otter won another term 60% to 33%, an even larger margin that polls had predicted.

Donkey symbol.png Illinois

See also: Illinois gubernatorial election, 2010

Rod Blagojevich's unceremonious exit from office gave Republicans, rarely the dominant party in Illinois, high hopes for the 2010 gubernatorial race. The Illinois gubernatorial primary was held February 2, 2010, one of the nations's earliest. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn faced only one challenger in the primary, state Comptroller Dan Hynes. Quinn bested Hynes by just a single point on primary day, but it was enough to secure the nomination. and lingering doubts over who had actually won as precinct reports trickled in kept the race from being called until 48 hours after race day.


Earlier, both Scott Lee Cohen and William Walls had withdrawn their candidacies. Cohen in particular proved to be a media draw. The self-made millionaire owner of a chain of pawn businesses, allegations made his ex-wife led to statewide calls from Democrats that he leave the race and, in ar tearful press conference held at a local pub, he did so. Only months later, however, he returned to the race as a third party candidate.


On the Republican side, State Senator Bill Brady beat his fellow legislator Kirk Dillard, a former Attorney General, and an ex-chair of the state Republican Party, among others. Of half a dozen candidates, three found themselves unsure which of them had won the nomination after the polls closed. Andy McKenna, Kirk Dillard, and Bill Brady all hovered around 20% of the vote share. Even after McKenna slipped to 19.3%, it took more than a month to certify a final victor. Ultimately, Brady won by 193 votes.


Surveys of voters revealed deep satisfaction with Quinn's performance and, throughout the fall, polls consistently showed that Brady enjoyed a moderate lead. Going into the election weekend, most race trackers still projected that Illinois would be a GOP pick-up. Election Day ended without a clear winner; however, by late afternoon on November 4th, enough precincts had reported to show that Pat Quinn had in fact secured a full term in his own right, by just over half a point.

Donkey symbol.png Iowa

See also: Iowa gubernatorial election, 2010


In 2010, Iowans couldn't complain of a lack on experience in their gubernatorial hopefuls. Democratic incumbent Chet Culver defended his seat against on of its old occupants, Republican Terry E. Branstad, whose four terms beginning in his mid-30s made him the state's youngest and longest serving executive.


Gov. Culver was unopposed in the June 8th primaries while Branstad had one serious challenge from business leader Bob Vander Plaats. He won that race with just over half the ballots cast and, from that point on, he dominated Culver in polls. Culver performed better than voter surveys had indicated in the general election, but it wasn't enough to overcome a surge of newly registered GOP voters and he lost his seat by a ten-point margin.


Branstad's victory may indicate a shift in Buckeye State voters. The state has elected a spate of Democratic governors and has preferred the Dem in all but one Presidential contest going back to 1992. In 2004, they chose Bush over Kerry, but by less than a single point.

Donkey symbol.pngKansas

See also: Kansas gubernatorial election, 2010

The Kansas gubernatorial primary, held August 3, was a relatively straightforward race compared to some states where gubernatorial primaries have involved lengthy ballots and numerous third party candidates. Tom Holland took the Democratic nomination with no opposition after the current officeholder, Mark Parkinson, declined to run. Tapped to replace Democrat Kathleen Sibelius, who left join President Obama's Cabinet, Parkinson served less a single term.


The GOP primary involved only two candidates, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback and businesswoman Joan Heffington, with the former winning 82% of the vote. Given that lack of any real opposition to the front-running candidates for each party, polls treated the race as if it were a battle between Holland and Brownback well before the primary. Going all the way back to the spring, Brownback's numbers virtually assured a GOP pick-up in the state and they stayed that way.


Election Day returns gave the Republican nearly twice as many votes as his opponent, with a staggering 63% to 32% win for Sam Brownback.

Donkey symbol.png Maine

See also: Maine gubernatorial election, 2010

Two-term incumbent John Baldacci was term-limited, creating an open seat that drew numerous candidates to the primary races. Democratic Senator Elizabeth "Libby" Mitchell and Waterville's Republican Mayor, Paul LePage won the primaries without taking a plurality, and effect of the long list of contenders splitting votes in each race.


Maine's large block of Independent voters made plausible scenarios involving a winner who didn't actually take the majority of the votes. The state's voter make-up also fueled a surfeit of write-in candidates and gave one Independent, attorney Eliot R. Cutler, a serious chance.


Ultimately, the win went to the Republican, LePage, whose compelling life story including a childhood spent in poverty nad fleeing an abusive home at 13 helped. Libby Mitchell actually finished third with just under 20%, coming in behind Cutler. Cutler won a 36% vote share while LePage's winning number was slightly over 38%.

Donkey symbol.png Maryland

See also: Maryland gubernatorial election, 2010


Maryland's September 14th primary was among the last of the 2010 cycle. By then, the slate of candidates had grown into a veritable book. However, both Democrats and Republicans were able to keep serious challenges to their preferred candidates out of the race. It worked, as incumbent Martin O'Malley and Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., himself a former Governor of Maryland, both won their primaries with in excess of 80% of the vote.


As the first Republican Marylanders had elected to govern them since the 60s, Ehrlich's single term from 2002-2006 stood out and he was the GOP's best hope for retaking the seat, which he lost in a re-election bid four years ago. There was a brief time after the primaries when his polling numbers suggested that luck and the 2010 mood of the electorate could give him a narrow win, but it ultimately proved fanciful.


O'Malley's numbers began a steady rise. Maryland's near saturation with Democrats, O'Malley's incumbent status, and his greater than 2-to-1 advantage in cash on hand finished off any real chance the GOP had, and the state returned its Democratic leader to power, 56% to 42%.

Donkey symbol.png Massachusetts

See also: Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 2010t.


Massachusetts' September 14th primary, held among a roster of candidates who had no intra-party opposition, was more a test of voter enthusiasm than a political decision. In addition the incumbent Deval Patrick, a Democrat, and Republican Charlie Baker, the race had a credible third party candidate in Tim Cahill, a former Democrat who changed his affiliation and ran as an Independent.


Despite his former partisan bent, Cahill's positions meant the support he gained came mainly from fiscally conservative voters who otherwise would have been Charlie Baker voters. Despite losing his lieutenant gubernatorial candidate late in the race and being publicly chastised for siphoning votes, Cahill remained in the race.


Ultimately, Deval Patrick's opponents could not unite behind one candidate and Patrick, the least popular incumbent governor in America, took 48.44%, just enough to return him to power. Baker finished the race with 42% and Cahill won 8%.

Donkey symbol.png Michigan

See also: Michigan gubernatorial election, 2010


Great Lakes Democrats were probably facing an uphil battle to retain the governorship in 2010 as soon as Jennifer Granholm was re-elected in 2006. Term limited out of trying for a third term, Granholm's fellow Democrat, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero took the nomination in a small primary against House Speaker Andy Dillon.


Republicans had a more open primary season, including the Assistant Senate Majority Leader, a U.S. Congressman, and the state's Attorney General. Ultimately, the race went to attorney and venture capitalist Rick Snyder, who campaigned as a "Super Nerd."


Following the early August primaries, Snyder consolidated his polling lead. Low national support from Democrats and the fact that only a single debate was held signaled the race's fading from the front lines. On November 2nd, Rick Snyder took almost 60% of voter support, to Virg Bernero's 40%.

Republican elephant.gif Minnesota

See also: Minnesota gubernatorial election, 2010

Incumbent Tim Pawlenty said in June 2009 that he would not be running for a third term. The resulting open seat drew immense interest, with at least four parties running candidates in addition to multiple independent and write-in candidacies.


Mark Dayton, a former one-term U.S. Senator, eked out a primary victory on the Democratic side. His victory over state Representative Margaret Anderson Kelliher,who had won the Minnesota Democratic Party's official endorsement earlier in the year, was by less a single point. The Republicans had no such narrow margins. Despite being in a four way race, state Representative Tom Emmer carried over 80% of the vote.


Tom Horner won the Independence Party's nomination with just under two-thirds of the vote. His platform was based on arguing that Dayton and Emmer were each to far to the extreme wings of their parties. Even in a state that has elected Independent candidates to the governorship in the past and that frequently seats candidates from minor parties at debates, Horner was unable to take more than 12% of the vote in the general election.


That left Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer separated by less than half a percentage point, representing about 9,000 votes. As expected, the state canvassing board called for a hand recount, which actually marginally increased Mark Dayton's lead. Emmer's inability to gain ground in the recount and the failure of several legal challenges he brought doomed his campaign and he conceded to Dayton on December 8, 2010, making Minnesota the last 2010 gubernatorial race to be decided.

Gop logo2.jpg Nebraska

See also: Nebraska gubernatorial election, 2010


When Nebraskans headed to the primary polls on May 11, 2010, incumbent Governor Dave Heineman easily won the GOP nomination. His two opponents barely secured 10% of the vote between them. The Democrats had a far harder time in a state that tends to the red much more than the blue.


They were already on shaky ground when, only nine days before the filing deadline, they found a candidate in business executive Mark Lakers. He went uncontested in the primary but abruptly ended his candidacy on July 2, 2010 amid fundraising struggles, questions regarding compliance with campaign finance laws, and calls from leaders of the Nebraska Democratic Party for him to step down.


For approximately half of July, the Democrats had no one running for the governor's seat. However, they nominated Mike Meister at their party convention that month and his candidacy become official on the 19th of the month. By then, having a candidate in the race was a formality for Dems.


Gov. Heineman won relection with just under 75% of the vote. His 48.53% winning margin over Mike Meister was the most lopsided win in any of the 2010 gubernatorial contests.

Republican elephant.gif Nevada

See also: Nevada gubernatorial election, 2010


Nevada was the lone state where an incumbent who sought another term was rebuffed by voters. Sitting Republican Governor Jim Gibbons went up against Brian Sandoval, a former judge. The conventional wisdom was that Gibbons would not seek re-election at all and his choice to enter the race after all ended badly, when he was a distant second in the June 8th primaries.


The Democratic primary was smaller field, and Rory Reid, son of the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, took more than 70% of the vote. His electoral fortunes were somewhat tied to his father's campaign, and Harry Reid's re-election bid proved surprisingly difficult. However, even as Nevada has been willing to vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate in recent elections, the state is solidly Republican when choosing governors, and that trait prevailed.


Sandoval's polling numbers crushed Reid's as soon as pollsters hit the ground in February 2010. In the November general elections, Sandoval beat Reid, 53% to 42%.

Donkey symbol.png New Hampshire

See also: New Hampshire gubernatorial election, 2010


Volatile and independent New Hampshire saw competitive primaries for both parties on September 14, 2010. Incumbent Democrat John Lynch defended his seat against Timothy Robertson, the state Representative for Keene, and retired teacher Frank Sullivan. Picking up almost 90%, Lynch made short work of any notion of being successfully primaried.


The Republican field included sophomore state Representative Frank Emiro, assistant Attorney General John Stephen, Tea Party activist Jack Kimball, and Karen Testerman, founder of the Cornerstone Policy Institute. Stepehen's poll numbers ahead of the primaries made him the presumptive nominee and he delivered on that, winning the GOP primary with 67%.


Lynch's inability to get and hold at least 50% and the block of undecided voters through much of the fall campaign season made him a vulnerable incumbent. He did, however, manage to hold slight leads in voter surveys. Republicans were hopeful that Stepehen might eke out a win, but Lynch secured a record fourth consecutive term with 52% of the vote. New Hampshire also became the first state on the 2010 gubernatorial slate to have a declared winner, when the AP called the race at 7:44 pm on election night.

Donkey symbol.png New Mexico

See also: New Mexico gubernatorial election, 2010


Term-limited Democratic Governor Bill Richardson passed his party's banner to his Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish. She faced a single write-in candidate in the primary and walked away with 99.07% of the vote.


In those early June primaries, five Republicans fought for their party's nomination, with Santa Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez winning a slight plurality. With women holding both major party nominations, New Mexico was set to elect its first female governor, and the ensuing general election season rapidly turned vitriolic in that pursuit. Debates were peppered with veiled insults and both candidates were targeted with attack campaigns.


Martinez held steady, if small, polling advantages, and began to pull away from Denish in October. Election day returns delivered the governorship to her, with 54% of the vote.

Donkey symbol.png New York

See also: New York gubernatorial election, 2010


The chaotic September primaries led to a decision by the New York State Board of Elections to fire the man tasked with organizing and running the primaries, a fitting note to the circus that was New York's gubernatorial race. Following Elliot Spitzer's disgraced exit from office, Lieutenant Governor David Patterson took over, and fared little better.


New York Democrats turned to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as their candidate. Republicans, faced with a slim chance to win the governorship, initially backed former Congressman Rick Lazio. However, Tea Party backed businessman Carl P. Paladino, who been rebuffed by GOP party leadership at the March 2010 convention, made a comeback and won the nomination.


In addition to Cuomo and Paladino, New York had numerous third party candidates on the ballot. Additionally, the state's "fusion voting" laws allow one candidate to accept multiple nominations, see his name printed as many times on the ballot as he is affiliated with a party, and take the total votes under all appearances of his name. Cuomo added backing of the Independent Party and the Working Families Party to his Democratic nomination. Lazio, having lost the GOP nod, maintained the Conservative Party line for just a few days before completely leaving the race on September 27th.


The final weeks of the camping were nominated by outlandish debates performances and series of increasingly bizarre media outbursts from Paladino, who grappled with the revelations of a decade long affair and the child from that relationship and who, at one point, threatened a journalist on live camera. To no one's surprise, Andrew Cuomo won an easy victory, with nearly double Paladino's vote hare share on election day.

Donkey symbol.png Ohio

See also: Ohio gubernatorial election, 2010

Incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland was easily identified as a GOP target in 2010, due in no small part to Ohio's near mythical status as the defining swing state of Presidential elections. Interestingly, no parties had primaries in Ohio, including the third-party Libertarians and Greens.


Strickland was renominated and went to face Republican John Kasich, a former Congressman. The Democrat's early lead in surveys faded and Kasich began posting numbers during the summer of 2010 that gave race watchers reason to make cautious predictions that Ohio could see a change of power.


Kasich did indeed win, by a relatively narrow three points, a slightly smaller margin that final polls results might have predicted, but nevertheless a victory that represented a key strategic and psychological win or Republicans going into 2012.

Donkey symbol.png Oklahoma

See also: Oklahoma gubernatorial election, 2010


Incumbent Democratic Governor of Oklahoma Brad Henry opted not to run, clearing the way for an open seat. Lt. Governor, Jari Askins, ran for and won the Democratic nomination, narrowly edging out Oklahoma's Attorney General, Drew Edmondson.


The Republicans chose Mary Fallin, Representative for Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House and herself a one-time Lieutenant Governor, over state Senate member Randy Brogdon. The primary decisions meant Oklahoma was set to elect its first female chief executive. Fallin had done well in polls ahead of the late July primaries and prevailed in almost all surveys of voters once the nominations were decided.


The November election returns went 60%-40% in favor of Mary Fallin.

Donkey symbol.png Oregon

See also: Oregon gubernatorial election, 2010


With Democrat Ted Kulongoski term-limited from running again, primary voters overwhelmingly chose John Kitzhaber, a former Governor of Oregon himself, with two-thirds of the ballots cast. Chris Dudley, who played several seasons with NBA before retiring to Oregon, won a smaller victory in the Republican primary.


Predictions on the race's outcome were divided, with many analysts hedging and calling it a toss-up. Despite Oregon's solid blue status in recent gubernatorial contests, Dudley had narrow leads in some polls and the race was an outside chance for the GOP pick-up. Election night returns were insufficient to call the race and Oregon had to wait for some of the more rural precincts to deliver their reports.


Late on the evening of November 3rd, Dudley offered his concession with Kitzhber ahead by the small but decisive margin of 1.39%.

Donkey symbol.png Pennsylvania

See also: Pennsylvania gubernatorial election, 2010


In the May 18th primary, Republican State Attorney General Tom Corbett and Democrat Dan Onorato, the Chief Executive of Alleghany County, won the right to compete for the seat that term-limited Gov. Ed Rendell was leaving. Corbett faced a far smaller primary field, compared to the half dozen Democratic contenders.


Neither candidate faced truly serious competition in the primaries and both won by easy margins. Corbett picked up some early momentum when he moved to the front of the GOP field in polls; Onorato took significantly longer to emerge as the clear Democratic favorite and it may have affected his performance in surveys of voters throughout the campaign season.


Pennsylvania last elected a Republican Governor when they chose Tom Ridge in 1998, but Ridge never completed his term, instead joining George W. Bush's newly created Department of Homeland Security. At the Presidential level, the state has been steadily blue for decades. Corbett managed to upend that trend by just under ten points on election day, beating Onorato 54.5% to 45.5%.

Republican elephant.gif Rhode Island

See also: Rhode Island gubernatorial election, 2010


Rhode Island's Governorship had been in GOP hands for so long that winning the seat was a key Democratic priority in 2010. Donald L. Carcieri was limited-out and Republican John F. Robitaille was not widely seen to be strong enough to win the seat. The state's late primary date meant much of the race unfolded over the summer.


When Carcieri barely won re-election in 2006, Democratic hopes were bolstered and the party initially fielded two serious candidates in Attorney General Patrick Lynch and General Treasurer Frank T. Caprio. Under a scenario with two Democrats subjecting the party to a competitive primary and the Republicans unable to offer a serious threat, an Independent candidate began to look like a very credible candidate.


In Rhode Island's case, the Independent was former Senator Lincoln Chafee, who left the Republican Party and ran his gubernatorial campaign arguably to the left of either Democratic candidate. The Chafee's have long been a well-known political family in Rhode Island and Chafee's campaign relied heavily on capitalizing on name recognition and working the crowd at events.


At the same time, Patrick Lynch struggled badly in polling and fund-raising. Lynch's campaign was sapped of its vitality and he exited the race, endorsing his former rival, Caprio, for the Democratic candidacy in mid June. The move made the Democrats' election situation much easier and was enough to shift the race's likely outcome into favorable territory for them.


What happened next approached the bizarre. A late September story alleged that Caprio, struggling in the polls, had approached Robitaille about dropping out of the race and endorsing him. The RNC confirmed that Caprio had previously met with them to seek support. Meanwhile, Chafee was pulling ahead in polls. At the tale end of the election season, President Obama, on a trip through Rhode Island, pointedly declined to endorse his fellow Democrat's campaign, widely seen as a nod to Lincoln Chafee. Caprio shot back that neither he, nor the state, needed Obama's endorsement.


In the end, that may have done more harm then help. On election day, Lincoln Chafee placed first and took just over a third of the vote. As Rhode Island does not require pluralities to win the governorship, that was enough. Robitaille came in a close second, surprisingly, while Caprio was third with only 23%. Chafee takes office as America's only sitting governor not ot belong to one of the major parties.

Republican elephant.gif South Carolina

See also: South Carolina gubernatorial election, 2010

South Carolina's May 18th primary day only decided half the gubernatorial ballot by day's end. Democrat Vincent Sheheen was able to overcome fellow state Senator Robert Ford and Superintendent of Education Jim Rex with a healthy 60% vote share.


Republican Nikki Haley came agonizingly close to clinching her party's nomination with 49.8% of the vote - a clear victory in some states, but not in the Palmetto State, which requires at least 50% to avoid a runoff. Two weeks later, Haley faced her closest runner-up, Congressman J. Gresham Barrett, in a runoff, securing the GOP nod by a 2-to-1 margin.


With the nomination decided, it might have seemed the largest hurdle for Republican to clear would be effectively dissociating themselves from Governor Mark Sanford and his highly publicized extra-marital affair. This may owe something to the fact that Sanford was limited-out and thus the GOP began preparing its candidates before news broke of Sanford's scandal. However, Haley's campaign was weakened by repeated allegations that she had conducted affairs of her own.


Toward the end of the race, Vince Sheheen, trailing in the polls, began circulating results of an informal survey taken among members of the South Carolina legislature that he claimed showed Republican lawmakers were less than enthusiastic about having Haley in the governor's mansion. Sheheen got a slight bump in polls in the final weeks of the campaign season, perhaps owing to negative publicity surrounding Haley, but it wasn't enough to give him a victory. Haley narrowly took a plurality and beat Sheheen by five points to become South Carolina's first female governor.

Republican elephant.gif South Dakota

See also: South Dakota gubernatorial election, 2010


Incumbent Republican Governor Mike Rounds was limited-out and his Lieutenant Governor, Dennis Daugaard, was the obvious front runner in the GOP primary. Dauguaard won over 50% in the June 8th primary, while four other candidates split the remainder.


Democratic State Senator Scott Heidepriem faced no primary opposition but had little real chance in the general election. WHile South Dakota's electorate had been somewhat freidnly to Democrats at the state level, the party's best chance to take the governorship was probably represented by U.S. Representative Stephenie Herseth Sandlin, who declined to run in favor of seeking to retain her Congressional seat.


The sparse polling done in the state, which was of little interest to national political reporters, put Daugaard consistently ahead by double-digit margins. The massive 24-point gulf in the last polls proved prescient, as the Election Day returns made Daugaard the new governor 62% to 38%.


South Dakota's race still had the distinction of being one of the few high-level races in 2010 where the major party's respective candidates could boast of a long time friendship, Heidepriem and Daugaard having known each other going back to their undergraduate days, and conducted a rancor-free campaign.

Donkey symbol.png Tennessee

See also: Tennessee gubernatorial election, 2010


Tennesseans headed to the polls on August 5th to select candidates from among five Republicans and no fewer than a dozen Independents. The lone Democrat, Mike McWherter, an attorney who spent his career in private practice and had never sought office before, was in the enviable position of watching it all unfold and waiting to see who his opponent would be.


Outgoing Governor Phil Bredesen, though a Democrat, governed as a conservative Democrat and the national trend in favor of Republican candidates in 2010 was particularly strong in southern states. The GOP primary field was still quite crowded, with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Lt. Governor, Ron Ramsey and Congressman Zach Wamp jockeying for first place


However, both Ramsey and Wamp made comments in the final days of the primary season that drew negative attention to their campaigns and may have weakened the GOP's position slightly. Haslam prevailed and comfortably topped polls for the remainder of the campaign season. The final gubernatorial ballot had the distinction of being the longest in the 2010 races, with 16 listed names, many affiliated with minor parties or running as Independents.


Ultimately, only McWherter and Haslam even broke the 1% threshold, and it was the latter who won two-thirds of the vote share to become the Republican Governor-elect.

Republican elephant.gif Texas

See also: Texas gubernatorial election, 2010


Texas' March 2nd primary put the state in the first round to select candidates. U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison challenged the incumbent Republican Governor, Rick Perry for the nomination; Perry, however, outran Hutchison to the point that she conceded soon after the polls closed rather than wait for the official vote count to emphasize what was already obvious. Debra Medina entered the GOP field as an unknown but her connections to Tea Party activists gave her some traction and she ultimately took close to 20% of the primary vote, enough that she may have played spoiler to Sen. Hutchison's hopes.


Bill White, Houston's Mayor, was the favored Democratic nominee. Celebrity Richard "Kinky" Friedman might have been a challenged to White but he left the primary and race and then urged Farouk Shami, the only other credible contender in the field, to end his campaign in the interests of boosting the chances of a Democratic win. Shami stayed in the race but White still ran away with the race, to the tune of 76%.


Texas law does not require a gubernatorial candidate to take a plurality to win and Perry won his second term in 2006 with only 39%, giving Dems some hope they could elect White by triangulating Perry. However, not enough serious third-party candidates emerged to make that a possibility and Perry cruised to a third term with 55% to White 42%.

Republican elephant.gif Utah

See also: Utah gubernatorial election, 2010


Utah was not scheduled to elect a governor in 2010. However, Republican Jon Huntsman resigned to accept an ambassadorial post under the Obama Administration and his Lt. Governor, Gary Herbert become the temporary governor. The November 2010 election is a special election for only the remainder of the term that Huntsman was elected to in 2008, Utah being one of the few states that calls such elections rather than waiting for the next regular election. Utah is still set to hold a regular gubernatorial election in 2012.


Gary Herbert, as the incumbent, received his party's formal nomination at convention and won the primary with a commanding 70% of the vote. Neither the Democrats nor the Libertarians held a primary, sending, respectively, Salt Lake City Mayor Peter Corroon and attorney W. Andrew McCullough onto the November ballot.


Utah is one of America's strongest Republican states and Herbert won the general election with 64%, more than doubling Corroon's 31% vote share.

Republican elephant.gif Vermont

See also: Vermont gubernatorial election, 2010


It was three days after the August 24th primary that Vermont's Democrats finally knew who their candidate would be. Vermont primaried the same day as Florida and Arizona, becoming the race that went unwatched that day. Of five Democratic candidates, only Susan Bartlett was eliminated early on, posting a meager 5% vote share.


Matt Dunne was competitive through the end of polling, but his 20% of the vote came up short against Secretary of State Deborah L. Markowitz and state Senators Doug Racine and Peter Shumlin. Those three each hovered around one-fourth of the vote share and each held the lead at some point on primary night. Markowitz would later fall out of contention, leaving Shumlin and Racine to battle for several days. The official vote count issued by the Vermont Secretary of State on August 31st made Shumlin the Democratic candidate for Governor.


Across the aisle, the Republicans had no primary worries. Incumbent Jim Douglas announced he would not be seeking another term in August of 2009, backing his Lt. Governor, Brian Dubie for the job. No one emerged to challenge Dubie, who became the nominee without a primary.


In recent years, Vermont has chosen Republican governors while giving its electoral votes to Democrats in Presidential years. The gubernatorial race was considered a toss-up, possibly due in large part to the fact that polls showed Deborah L. Markowitz, a strong candidate going into the primary, could beat Brian Dubie in a general election. Dubie always polled ahead of any potential Democratic challenger other than Markovitz, and Republicans felt they had a chance to retain the seat when she lost the primary.


Post-primary polls slightly favored Shumlin and race trackers considered the race to lean Democratic. Despite taking until the morning after the election for the result to be clear, Shumlin did win, albeit by just under two points, adding Vermont to the tally of states that Democrats were able to flip.

Donkey symbol.png Wisconsin

See also: Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2010


Democratic incumbent Jim Doyle's decision not to run created the first open gubernatorial election Wisconsin saw since 1982. The state had one of the latest gubernatorial primaries in the nation, with candidates facing the voters on September 14th. The protracted primary season did much to cull the field, with the Democratic slate cut by two-thirds and the Republican ballot, which peaked at seven candidates, down to two finalists.


Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett defeated Timothy S. John for the Democratic slot, as was expected. Republican Scott Walker bested Mark Neumann for the nomination after an aggressive and hard-fought campaign, which saw hot button social issues highlighted in debate. Walker led in the polls for much of the primary campaign, extending his lead as the primary approached.


Despite Democratic control of the state going into the elections and the Wisconsin's preference for Democrats in the last several Presidential cycles, Republicans saw an opening and chased it aggressively. The entire campaign season was one of 2010's most acrimonious battles and neither side shied away from personal attacks. Democrats went after Walker for his role as a Milwaukee County Executive during a time when a county owned building collapsed, killing a child. Republicans pushed the story of a loose-lipped Union organizer who bragged of the questionable tactics he was undertaking to help elect Barrett.


In the end, beleaguered voters elected Walker by a 53% to 47% margin.

Donkey symbol.png Wyoming

See also: Wyoming gubernatorial election, 2010


Incumbent Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, was legally term-limited, a decision he fought in the courts. Having winning the right to pursue a third term, he chose not to run after all. His 2002 and 2006 wins were part of major Democratic inroads in the Mountain states, something his party was concerned about holding onto.


In the August 17th primary, Leslie Petersen won a certain victory among the Democrats, coming in with just under half of all votes in a field of five contenders. The Republicans saw a tighter primary race; Matt Mead barely edged out Wyoming State Auditor Rita Meyer, who declined to exercise her right to call for recount, instead conceding.


With Freudenthal definitely out of the race, almost no one expected the Democrats to retain the seat, which markedly cut down on any national attention, including polling, the state saw. Surveys taken after the primaries showed Mead leading Petersen by approximately 30 points, a margin that grew by election day, when Mead became the Governor-elect 66% to 23%.

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