Four years ago, Democrat Beverly Purdue became North Carolina’s first female governor, illustrating the powerful effects of Barack Obama’s coattails. Those coattails are long gone now.
As the state’s economy crumbled, Ms. Purdue became so unpopular she opted not to run for re-election. That cleared the way for the Republicans to pick up the seat.
And they did.
Republican Pat McCrory, who lost to Ms. Purdue in 2008, won easily Tuesday, defeating Democrat Walter Dalton. Mr. McCrory becomes the first Republican governor in North Carolina in 20 years.
The win was a significant gain for the Republicans, strengthening the party’s hold on the top jobs at the state level. Heading into the election, the Republicans held 29 governorships across the country compared to 20 for the Democrats (Rhode Island’s governor is independent).
A total of 11 governor seats were up for grabs Tuesday, with the Democrats defending eight and the Republicans three. The Republicans had high hopes of picking off three or even four of the Democratic governorships. That would have put the party in charge of up to 33 states, close to its all-time high of 34 in the 1920s.
The North Carolina results came in early Tuesday evening, boosting Republican fortunes. But as the night wore on, it became clear the party would not make the big gains hoped for. The Republicans kept the three governorships the party held heading into Tuesday. Popular GOP incumbents in North Dakota and Utah won big victories. The Republican candidate in Indiana also won, keeping a seat vacated by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.
But the Democrats appeared headed to keep seven of their eight.
Democrats kept New Hampshire with Maggie Hassan, a former state senator, winning handily. She defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne, a lawyer and conservative activist who was the Tea Party’s choice. In Montana, Democrat Steve Bullock, the state attorney general, also held the lead over challenger Rick Hill. Washington was expected to remain Democratic as well. The GOP had made a push to take all three.
Incumbent Democrat governors also kept their seats in Vermont and Delaware, with Peter Shumlin and Jack Markell each winning re-election easily. And despite strong challenges, Democratic incumbents in Missouri and West Virginia also won.