Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pence in as governor of Indiana; Hassan wins N.H.

Darron Cummings / AP

Indiana gubernatorial victor Republican Mike Pence speaks to supporters with his family at his side on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Pence defeated Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham.
By NBC News' Kari Huus and wire services
Updated 12:48 a.m. ET: Rep. Mike Pence, a notable social conservative in Congress clinched the Indiana state house in a race against Democrat John Gregg, a former Indiana House speaker. Pence will take the seat vacated by Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is up against term limits.

Pence is known, among other things, for his outspoken views against Planned Parenthood, which he sought to strip of funding, not just for abortion but for all functions.

In 11 governor’s races around the country, Republican candidates gained at least one state house for their party, bringing the total to 30.

In North Carolina, Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, won the seat being vacated by Gov. Bev Perdue, becoming the first Republican to hold that office in 20 years.

McCrory, who cast himself as a pragmatic centrist, defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, to replace the Perdue whose administration was sullied by an investigation that led to charges against her former campaign aides.

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Becoming the first Republican governor in North Carolina in 20 years, Pat McCrory thanks his supporters.

The outcome of all but two governors’ races had been determined by midnight ET, but races in Washington and Montana remained too close to call.

Democrat Margaret "Maggie" Hassan clinched the governorship in New Hampshire Tuesday in a hard-fought race, retaining the seat for her party. It was one seat that Republicans had hoped to add to their state house seats.

Cheryl Senter / AP file

Democrat Maggie Hassan is shown addressing supporters in Manchester, N.H. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.

Hassan defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne by a greater margin that pundits predicted in a race dominated by taxes and social issues, for the seat of Gov. John Lynch, a retiring Democrat.

Both Hassan and Lamontagne's campaigns attempted to portray their competitors as ideological extremists on social issues including abortion and same sex marriage, but both had to court the independent voters who account for 39 percent of the electorate in that state, according to the Union Leader.

Hassan, who is pro-choice and supports same sex marriage, received millions of dollars worth of help in attacking her rival from groups such as EMILY's List, Planned Parenthood Action and NARAL, the Leader reported. Polls indicated the attacks created, or widened, a significant gender gap between the two candidates, according to the report.

Six incumbent governors were projected winners, including two Republicans and four Democrats: Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) of North Dakota, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), Gov. Jack Markell (D) of Delaware, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) of Vermont, and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) of Missouri. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) also retained his seat. Tomblin became governor in 2010 after then-Gov. Joe Manchin resigned. He defeated coal businessman William "Bill" Maloney.

Nail-biters in Montana, Washington
Montana and Washington state contests were the only two gubernatorial races for which the outcome was still outstanding as of midnight ET.

In Washington, the race was neck-and-neck heading into the final stretch between former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, and former Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democrat.

Although Washington voters had not elected a Republican governor since 1980, the seat being vacated by retiring Gov. Christine Gregoire is hotly contested, and witnessed a large influx of outside money.

According to the Seattle Times, the race was expected to cost more than $46 million, with the single biggest share of spending coming from out-of-state interest groups.

Both candidates put job creation at the top of their to-do lists.

Inslee touted his jobs-creation program based on green energy technology, was pro-choice and favored Obama’s health care plan.

McKenna ran on creating jobs by cutting red tape and taxes for the state’s business owners.

Dispute over election contribution
The race in Montana was also a toss-up as voting day approached, with a dispute over a $500,000 contribution forcing the two-year battle for governorship into court in the final stretch.

Democrat Steve Bullock, the state’s Attorney General was vying with Rick Hill, a Republican who served in the U.S. House.

Hill argued that Montana needed to lift burdensome state regulations to generate jobs, and supported anti-union, right to work laws.

Bullock rejected much of his opponent’s criticism of Montana's business and regulatory position and said that outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer was leaving the state in a relatively strong position to draw more business.

Just weeks before voting day, a legal battle erupted over a $500,000 donation to Hill from the Republican Governors Association, and a judge's order barring him from using it.

The donation came after a federal judge ruled that Montana’s campaign contribution limits were unconstitutionally low on Oct. 3, and before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked that ruling on Oct. 9, restoring the limits pending appeal.

The legal distraction may have diverted attention from Hill’s message, according to The Republic. Another source of uncertainty for him was whether Libertarian candidate Ron Vandevender would attract enough Republican votes to undermine Hill.

Republicans controlled 29 governorships going into Tuesday's elections, with Democrats holding 20 and an independent as governor in one — Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. If the GOP were to win both Montana and Washington, the party would be in charge of 32 state houses.

Kate Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Governors Association, acknowledged that this is a tough year for Democrats, since they had more seats to defend.

"We're pleased with the shape of the more competitive tossup races going into the homestretch — because we have excellent candidates focused on creating jobs and expanding opportunity, and we've made smart and early investments throughout the year," Hansen said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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