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Former Philadelphia mayor Rendell Pennsylvania governor

Ed Rendell
Ed Rendell

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell defeated Republican Mike Fisher Tuesday to take the open governor's chair in the Keystone State, CNN projected, returning the seat to the Democrats after eight years of GOP control.

Rendell became the first Philadelphia mayor elected governor since 1906 and the first Philadelphian since 1914. Republicans had hoped to paint Rendell as a liberal and regional candidate with limited appeal to conservatives in western Pennsylvania.

Rendell lost the backing of the National Rifle Association, which hailed him during the 1990s for his "courageous leadership." The NRA backed his primary rival, state Auditor Robert Casey Jr., and endorsed Fisher in the general election.

Yet pre-election polls showed Rendell widening his lead over Fisher, the state's attorney general, especially among women.

Fisher served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly for 22 years before being elected attorney general in 1996.

Rendell served as Philadelphia's mayor from 1992 until 2000. He was named general chairman of the Democratic National Committee in September 1999.

Two-term Republican Gov. Tom Ridge resigned in 2001 to become President Bush's director of the Office of Homeland Security. Acting Gov. Mark Schweiker, also a Republican, declined to run for a full term.

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