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GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Outshine Democratic Opponents


And now let's zoom in on the governors' races. Thirty-six governors' seats were on the ballot yesterday, and Republicans won a lot of the big ones. Florida's Rick Scott, Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Kansas's Sam Brownback held on to their seats. Democrats even lost in some states they would usually win, like Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: There may have been no governor's race more closely watched or more expensive than that in Florida. Incumbent Republican Rick Scott spent more than $70 million on television ads alone to defeat a former Florida governor. Charlie Crist was a Republican who switched parties and ran against Scott as a Democrat. In the end, Scott won reelection by a narrow 1 percent margin. At his victory party, Scott said he would keep his focus on creating jobs.


GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: Florida is on a mission, and that mission is to keep growing and to become the very best place in the world to get a job, to raise a family and live the American dream.


ALLEN: It was a race Democrats thought they could win. In state after state last night, it was a similar story. In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback has drawn the ire of many, including voters in his own party, with controversial tax cuts that left the state with a budget deficit. Many polls show Democrat Paul Davis with a small lead. But in Topeka last night, Brownback claimed victory.


GOVERNOR SAM BROWNBACK: Ideas and direction do matter, and I think that's what the state of Kansas, the people of Kansas and the American people have said tonight. Ideas and direction matter.


BROWNBACK: And they matter a lot.

ALLEN: In Georgia, for months, Republican Governor Nathan Deal was dogged by an ethics investigation that gave an opening to his Democratic challenger. Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, mounted a well-funded campaign, but fell short.

Likewise, in Maine, Republican Governor Paul LePage hung onto his seat despite a history of controversial comments that made him unpopular with many. He was helped by the presence of an Independent in the race who split the opposition vote and gave the outspoken LePage a second term.


GOVERNOR PAUL LEPAGE: What it is, it's about the American people. We have spoken. We have said that enough is enough. We want to go back to the American ideals.

ALLEN: LePage's victory, and that of several other Republican governors, was also victory for someone who wasn't on the ballot, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As head of the Republican Governors Association, Christie campaigned in Maine and in other states, including Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. They're states where he may look to cash in chits when presidential campaign season rolls around.

With his reelection last night, another Republican governor also helped build his credentials as a possible presidential contender. Wisconsin's Scott Walker has now won three elections in the last four years, two races for governor and a recall vote. His policies have angered labor unions and many Democrats. But as he said last night, his latest victory shows he's not going away.


GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER: It's interesting when you think about the last couple months, if not the last couple years, you see, there was a group out of Washington who thought they could spend a lot of money and a lot of time in this state and convince the people in this state to be against something. People in this state wanted to be for something, not against something, and look what happened tonight.


ALLEN: Democrats did knock off one Republican governor last night in Pennsylvania, where businessman Tom Wolf defeated the widely unpopular incumbent, Tom Corbett. But for Democrats, there was little other good news. In Illinois, President Obama's home state, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn lost to Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. And in Maryland, another blue state, Republican businessman Larry Hogan defeated the state's Democratic lieutenant governor - another blow to President Obama who campaigned there.

There's one governor's race, though, that wasn't decided last night. In Vermont, neither candidate won at least 50 percent of the vote. The decision of who will be governor now goes to the state legislature which convenes in January. Greg Allen, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.

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