Republican candidates wrapped up gubernatorial elections nationwide, with the party collecting a net of three new seats and pulling out some surprise races in states where their Democratic opponents had held higher polling numbers.
Further, the GOP picked up seats in traditionally Democratic strongholds, including in President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois, where a newcomer, Bruce Rauner, who runs a private equity firm, won over incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, reports The Wall Street Journal
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Rick Scott squeezed through a tight challenge from Charlie Crist, a former governor, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was re-elected, taking the traditionally blue state despite a strong effort against him from state labor unions.
The Scott win in Florida came following one of the most expensive and publicized gubernatorial races in recent history. At least $83 million was spent to saturate the airwaves, reports The Tampa Bay Times
Further, Crist was attacked often over switching from Republican to Democrat to Independent, and polls showed that neither candidate had positive popularity ratings.
In addition, as Florida is the largest presidential swing state, several key players on both sides of the ticket went South to campaign for Scott and Crist, reports CNN
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the Sunshine State six times to stump for Scott, while Crist got visits from Democratic heavyweights such as Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden.
The Republican Governors Association, chaired by Christie, poured $19 million into Scott's political committee, and Tuesday night, Christie lauded Scott for his service to the state, saying his "leadership in his first term brought Florida back from the brink, and with four more years to enact his low-tax, pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda, the Sunshine State's future just gets brighter from here."
Other surprises came in Massachusetts, where Republican Charlie Baker defeated Democrat Martha Coakley; and in Maryland, where the GOP's Larry Hogan defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, reports The Journal.
But in Connecticut, as of this morning, the race between incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley was deemed too close to call, reports Bloomberg
According to preliminary results, Malloy, was holding 50.6 percent of the vote, with Foley at 48.3 percent, with 91 percent of precincts reporting, making a difference of about 22,000 ballots, Bloomberg said.
Four years ago, when Foley also challenged Malloy, he lost that race by about 6,400 votes and did not concede the election until six days after Election Day.
Other Republican wins came in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich scored an easy victory, and in New Mexico, where Gov. Susana Martinez held the party's seat by a wide margin. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Maine Gov. Paul LePage also won second terms in office.
In Vermont, the GOP forced the legislature to decide the race between Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who heads the party's national campaign office, and Republican challenger Scott Milne.
Shumlin brought in about 46.7 percent, while Milne netted just over 45 percent, reports The Associated Press
. Under Vermont law, candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and treasurer must be decided by a minimum vote of 50 percent plus one to win. If that margin isn't reached, the state Legislature decides the race outcome.
"In Washington, they’re all against something, we’re for something," Walker told supporters Tuesday night, The Journal reports. "We measure success by how many people are no longer dependent on government."
GOP candidate Asa Hutchinson also won in Arkansas, and will take over for Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who could not seek re-election because of state term limits.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was also able to keep his seat, defeating Democratic challenger Paul Davis in a fiercely fought battle after Brownback pushed for deep tax cuts to stimulate the state's struggling economy.
Democrats did defeat some Republicans. In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf defeated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett,
despite strong backing from the Republican Governor's Association and Christie.
And in New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated GOP challenger Rob Astorino by a wide margin, becoming the first Democratic governor since his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, to win re-election in the state, reports WCBS in New York
In addition, Democratic candidate Gina Raimondo took Rhode Island race against Republican Allan Fung.
Voters in Illinois said they picked Rauner over Quinn because they aren't seeing the changes Illinois needs under its current leadership.
Chicago-area voter Earl Strum told The Journal that it has been years since he voted for a Republican for governor, but he believed Rauner would bring change to the state.
"It was agonizing, but I came to the conclusion if we keep doing the same thing over and over with the same poor results, it is stupid," Strum said.
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