Democrats made a net gain of one governor in a dozen races Tuesday, to make the new national lineup 28 to 22 in their favor.
The Democratic victories included the first in 20 years in Indiana and defeat of West Virginia’s three-term governor. Republicans scored a breakthrough in Montana, and the GOP governors of Rhode Island and Utah eked out reelection although they had been expected to lose.
Republican incumbents won easily in Delaware, Missouri and North Carolina, while Democrats retained the governors’ chairs in North Dakota, Vermont and Washington state. Former GOP Congressman Judd Gregg followed in his father’s footsteps to capture the New Hampshire Statehouse.
In Indiana, 32-year-old Democrat Evan Bayh became the youngest governor-elect by defeating John M. Mutz, the Republican lieutenant governor, as presidential candidate George Bush and GOP Sen. Richard G. Lugar were rolling up landslides in the Hoosier state.
Bayh Wins Indiana
Bayh, the son of the liberal former Sen. Birch E. Bayh, ran as a fiscal conservative and captured 53% of the vote. Exit polls indicated that he got more than a third of the Republican ballots in a ticket-splitting frenzy. Indiana’s Gov. Robert D. Orr was barred from seeking a third term.
In West Virginia, political newcomer and multimillionaire Gaston Caperton trounced three-term Republican Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr., 65, by 59% to 41%, a margin Caperton called a mandate for change. Moore was the only incumbent who lost.
Caperton, an insurance executive who spent more than $3 million of his own money running in one of the poorest states, was a campaign fund-raiser for other Democrats before he sought office himself.
In Montana, Republicans scored an upset when former state Sen. Stan Stephens defeated former Gov. Thomas Judge, who was attempting a comeback after Democratic Gov. Ted Schwinden decided to retire. It was the first time the GOP had won the Statehouse since 1964, and was accompanied by another upset, Republican Conrad Burns’ defeat of Democratic Sen. John Melcher.
2 Underdogs Reelected
Although polls showed both were decided underdogs, Republican Govs. Edward DiPrete of Rhode Island and Norman H. Bangerter of Utah squeaked through against strong Democratic challengers.
DiPrete, elected as a reformer four years ago, was accused of profiting from a real estate deal made possible by a local zoning decision. He also was charged with favoritism in the awarding of state contracts.
His opponent, business executive Bruce Sundlun, also raised questions about the hiring of a reputed mobster’s ex-wife for a job with a state commission on law enforcement. DiPrete won reelection, 51% to 49%, confounding many members of his own party who had considered him a goner. It was his second triumph over Sundlun in back-to-back elections, though the Democrat said he would seek a recount.
In Utah, Bangerter made a remarkable comeback from being 30 percentage points in the polls behind Democrat Ted Wilson, the popular former mayor of Salt Lake City, and Merrill Cook, an independent who got more than 20% of the vote.
Survives Tax Hike
Bangerter was in political trouble because of a $164-million tax increase he pushed through last year after a campaign pledge not to raise taxes, but he scraped by with 40% of the vote to Wilson’s 38%.
Other returns were more predictable. Delaware’s popular Gov. Michael N. Castle, a Republican, clobbered his Democratic foe, Jacob Kreshtool, a retired labor lawyer. Castle won a remarkable 71% of the vote.
In Missouri, GOP Gov. John Ashcroft also won reelection by a landslide, nailing down 65% of the vote against Democratic state Rep. Betty Hearnes, wife of former Gov. Warren Hearnes.
James G. Martin became the first Republican governor of North Carolina to win reelection since Reconstruction, as he easily defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Jordan. Martin took 56% of the vote in a state that has been moving steadily into the GOP orbit.
In New Hampshire, where GOP Gov. John H. Sununu is retiring, former Congressman Gregg kept the Statehouse in Republican control by defeating Paul McEachern, a lawyer who has tried three times for the governor’s chair without success. Gregg won 61% of the vote.
In Vermont, however, Democratic Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin won a third term by the largest majority since she was elected the state’s first woman governor in 1984. She got 56% of the vote, to stop Vermont House Republican leader Michael Bernhardt.
Democrats George Sinner, in North Dakota, and Booth Gardner, in Washington state, also were returned to office in landslides. Sinner defeated GOP challenger Leon Lamberg, a business executive. Gardner overwhelmed an evangelical state representative, Bob Williams.