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Election ’07: Tuesday’s Winners and Losers

by Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer

Democrats regained the Kentucky governorship, ousting the scandal-tainted incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), and appeared to pick up enough seats to take control of the Virginia and Mississippi senates.


The odd-year election also saw Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi easily win a second term.

Elsewhere, voters rejected many high-profile ballot measures. Utah overwhelmingly said “no” to what would have been the nation’s broadest statewide program of tax-funded vouchers to pay for private schools. New Jersey voters defeated a ballot measure to spend $450 million on stem-cell research by a 53-47 percent margin, while Oregon voters rejected by a 3-to-2 vote margin a cigarette-tax hike to pay for children’s health insurance. Texas, however, will become a leader in cancer research by handily approving a $3 billion, 10-year bond proposal.

In legislative races, Democrats appeared to pick up at least four seats to take control of the Virginia state Senate and end a decade of GOP dominance, The Washington Post reported.

In Mississippi, Republicans were unable to keep control of the state Senate, where they had earned a bare majority for the first time since 1873 after a Democratic lawmaker defected to the GOP earlier this spring. Democrats appear to have won at least 27 of the 52 Mississippi Senate seats, although several races are still very close and could wind up being recounted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In New Jersey, Democrats withstood recent scandals and retirements to maintain control of both chambers.

Heading into the 2008 presidential campaign, Democrats held their 28-to-22 advantage in the nation’s governor’s suites and will continue to have the upper hand in most statehouses. Democrats will control both houses in 23 legislatures while Republicans control 14. Twelve legislatures are split between the parties, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Legislative races in Virginia, New Jersey and Mississippi took on added importance because the party that controls the statehouse will have extra influence when new legislative and congressional districts are redrawn after the 2010 census.

Kentucky voters replaced their first Republican governor in more than 30 years with Democrat Steve Beshear, a former lieutenant governor. With his win, Beshear returns to the Kentucky capitol 20 years after losing his first gubernatorial race.

Fletcher’s defeat wasn’t a surprise. He had been trailing in the polls, unable to overcome a merit-hiring scandal that overshadowed his first term. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear netted 59 percent of the vote while Fletcher had 41 percent, according to the state elections board.

In the only other gubernatorial contest on Nov. 6, Barbour of Mississippi defeated Democrat John Eaves, an attorney and evangelical Christian who ran a pro-life, pro-guns, pro-Bible campaign. Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, had won praise for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Wilting criticism of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s (D) handling of devastation in New Orleans led her to bow out of this year’s race in her state. Lousiana voters elected U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) to succeed Blanco in balloting last month. Jindal is the country’s first politician of Indian descent to be elected governor and, at 36, will become the youngest sitting governor in the nation.

Fletcher had been dogged by a hiring probe that led to his own indictment and to charges against several key officials in his administration of rewarding political allies with jobs. Fletcher pardoned the officials. Charges against Fletcher, a former U.S. congressman, were dropped as part of an agreement with Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

Beshear capitalized on Fletcher’s scandal and garnered bipartisan backing on a platform emphasizing “honesty and integrity,” as well as promising to increase health-care coverage of those needing insurance.

Beshear is no newcomer to state politics. The Kentucky native won a seat in the Legislature in 1974, was elected state attorney general in 1979 and lieutenant governor in 1983. In 1987, however, Beshear finished last in a three-way Democratic primary for governor and has spent the past 20 years in private law practice.

Kentucky may have lost a family physician in the governor’s mansion with Fletcher’s departure, but the state gains a surgeon in the executive suite. Beshear’s running mate is state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, an ear, nose and throat surgeon.

Voters in Kentucky and Mississippi Nov. 6 also elected lieutenant governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general.

Incumbent Kentucky Secretary of State C.M. Trey Grayson won a second term, besting Democrat S. Bruce Hendrickson, while Democrat Jack Conway was elected attorney general over Republican Stan Lee to succeed Stumbo.

Governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately in Mississippi. Republican Phil Bryant, the state auditor, defeated James “Jamie” R. Franks (D), a state representative, for the No. 2 job. Current Lt. Gov Amy Tuck (R) opted not to seek re-election.

Go to for an interactive guide to 2007 State elections and a rundown of high profile issues on 2007 ballots.

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