GOP expands majority in governors' mansions, CNN projects

Republican Pat McCrory celebrates his victory in the North Carolina gubernatorial race over Democrat Walter Dalton .

Story highlights

  • Democrat Steve Bullock projected winner in Montana
  • Washington State governor's race vote count will take days
  • Republicans win in Indiana, North Dakota, North Carolina and Utah, CNN projects
  • Democrats were defending eights seats; Republicans three in Tuesday's gubernatorial races
Republicans flipped North Carolina, a state that hasn't elected a GOP governor since the 1980s, expanding their national lead over Democrats at the statehouse level, according to CNN projections.
Eleven states held governors' races Tuesday. Democrats were defending eights seats, Republicans three.
By Wednesday afternoon, CNN had projected winners in all but one of the elections -- Washington -- where mail-in ballots to be counted make up about 40% of the votes. It is expected to take several more days before the race can be called.
The latest to be called was in Montana, where Democrat state attorney general Steve Bullock defeated former congressman Rick Hill, a Republican.
In North Carolina, Republican candidate Pat McCrory bested Walter Dalton, the sitting lieutenant governor, CNN projected.
McCrory, who will replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, would be the first Republican governor elected in North Carolina since 1988.
"There's no doubt that the Republican Party's strength comes from the states, and the RGA's ability to expand our majority provides optimism for the future," said Republican Governors Association Chairman Bob McDonnell.
With their expected wins in North Carolina and the states they were defending, Republicans will have at least 30 governorships nationwide -- the highest number held by either party since 2000, according to the governors association. The all-time high for the GOP was 34 seats in the 1920s.
Democrats hold 18 governorships, with an independent and another to be decided.
Such an advantage will fortify the Republican position against Democratic policies like Obamacare, and give them influence in Washington, even with Barack Obama as president.
In other races, CNN projected that Democrats will retain control of the governors' mansions in West Virginia and New Hampshire. The race in New Hampshire to replace a popular outgoing governor was one of the country's most competitive.
Democratic governors in Vermont and Delaware -- Peter Shumlin and Jack Markell -- won re-election, CNN projected. Similarly, Republican incumbents in Utah and North Dakota -- Gary Herbert and Jack Dalrymple -- were projected to win.
In Missouri, Democrat Jay Nixon became the first governor there re-elected to a second term since 1996, CNN projected. In Indiana, CNN projected that Republican Rep. Mike Pence will fill the shoes of outgoing Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Going into the election, Democrats held 20 governorships to the Republicans' 29. Rhode Island is held by an independent.
Here are snapshots of each race:
Delaware
Gov. Jack Markell (D) vs. Jeff Cragg (R)
CNN has projected Democratic Gov. Jack Markell will be serving a second term, beating his Republican opponent, Jeff Cragg.
Delaware has become an increasingly reliable Democratic state and with the defeat of former Rep. Mike Castle in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary, the state now has no Republicans in statewide elected office. Cragg, a small-business owner from Wilmington was unlikely to change the GOP's fortunes, especially in a presidential election year with Vice President Joe Biden, a Delaware native, on the Democratic ticket.
Indiana
(Open seat) -- Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is term-limited
Rep. Mike Pence (R) vs. John Gregg (D) vs. Rupert Boneham (Libertarian)
CNN has projected Republican Rep. Mike Pence will win the governor's race in Indiana, beating Democratic competitor John Gregg.
Pence, having already served six terms as a member of the House of Representatives, mulled a 2012 presidential bid but opted instead to run for governor to replace term-limited Republican incumbent Mitch Daniels. Gregg is the former Indiana House speaker.
Pence's win was thought as likely. Years in Congress and on the Sunday talk show circuit, as well as his brief foray in near-presidential politics, gave him a relatively high profile for a state candidate. Indiana is also a Republican-friendly state, with Republicans controlling the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat and a majority of U.S. House seats.
Missouri
Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vs. Dave Spence (R)
CNN has projected Democrat Jay Nixon will become the first Missouri governor re-elected to a second term since 1996. Nixon defeated Republican businessman Dave Spence. A veteran campaigner with at least seven statewide races under his belt, Nixon had a solid lead over Spence for much of the past year. Nixon won the governorship in 2008 with 58% in a state known for its tendency to be fickle at the ballot box when it comes to state office. Since the 1970s, Republicans and Democrats have traded control of the governorship six times. Though a long-time swing state, Missouri has voted Republican in the last three presidential elections.
Montana
(Open seat) -- Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) is term-limited
Steve Bullock (D) vs. Rep. Rick Hill (R)
The race to replace outgoing Democratic incumbent and frequent CNN contributor Brian Schweitzer was extremely competitive with Democrat Steve Bullock beating Republican Rick Hill. Schweitzer leaves office with fairly high marks. He began October with a 61% approval rating, which helped Bullock. But the state leans Republican overall.
New Hampshire
(Open seat) -- Gov. John Lynch (D) is retiring
Maggie Hassan (D) vs. Ovide Lamontagne (R)
Democrats retained control of the governorship in New Hampshire with Maggie Hassan beating her Republican challenger Ovide Lamontagne, CNN has projected.
As was the case in Montana this year, the race in New Hampshire to replace a popular outgoing Democratic governor became one of the most competitive races in the country. Hassan, a former state senator, faced Lamontagne, an attorney and conservative activist who was the tea party's choice over Kelly Ayotte in the 2010 GOP U.S. Senate primary. He also was the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 1996, receiving 39.5% of the vote against Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.
Gov. John Lynch leaves office with high marks. He began October with a 68% approval rating, which helped Hassan. Democrats have controlled the governorship for all but two years since Shaheen's win in 1996.
John Babiarz ran as the Libertarian candidate in the race.
North Carolina
(Open seat) -- Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) is retiring
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton (D) vs. Pat McCrory (R)
Republicans have picked up a governor's seat in North Carolina with Republican Pat McCrory beating Walter Dalton, the sitting lieutenant governor.
Democratic incumbent Beverly Perdue made history in 2008 when she became the first woman to win the North Carolina governorship, undoubtedly helped by Obama's even more historic win there at the top of the ticket. Since her election, Perdue's approval ratings rarely crept above 40% as she faced both a struggling state economy and a Republican-controlled state legislature. Her decision not to seek re-election gave Democrats their best hope of retaining the seat, bu