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Dems win two open governor races, make history in N.C.

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  • NEW: CNN projects Washington incumbent wins in rematch from 2004
  • NEW: CNN projects eight incumbent governors will hold on to their seats
  • CNN projects Democrat Jay Nixon will take governorship from GOP in Missouri
  • Washington governor's race a rematch of 2004 race decided by 133 votes
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(CNN) -- Democrats celebrated victories in two open gubernatorial seats early Wednesday, including the history-making election of North Carolina's first female governor.

North Carolina was viewed to be the Republicans' best chance of picking up a governorship.

North Carolina Democrat Beverly Perdue, in the middle of her second elected term as the state's lieutenant governor, defeated Republican Pat McCrory.

McCrory, who has been the mayor of Charlotte for a record seven two-year terms, sought to make history as well.

If he had won, he would have become only the third Republican governor in more than 100 years and the sixth in North Carolina's entire history.

In the only gubernatorial party change, CNN projects Democratic candidate Jay Nixon will win the governor's seat in Missouri, beating Republican Kenny Hulshof.

CNN has projected that eight incumbents will win gubernatorial contests in their states.

CNN projects that Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will also remain in their respective governor's mansions.

In Delaware, CNN projects State Treasurer and Democrat Jack Markell will win the governorship.

CNN projections are based on actual results and exit poll data from key areas.

Leading up to Election Day, the most competitive gubernatorial race of 2008 was a rematch from four years ago. In Washington, Democratic incumbent Christine Gregoire faced Republican opponent Dino Rossi, a former state senator, who she edged out by a national record of 133 votes after a 51-day recount.

On Election Night in 2004, state election officials certified Rossi as the winner, but a manual recount requested by Gregoire uncovered a number of previously uncounted ballots in heavily Democratic King County. Republicans contested the results in court for months, even after Gregoire took office.

During the Washington primaries, where all 10 contenders were on the ballot at the same time, Gregoire edged Rossi as the winner with 48 percent to 46 percent.

The race for governor in Missouri became competitive after Republican Gov. Matt Blunt announced in January he would not seek re-election.

Despite the state normally leaning Republican, Nixon was slightly ahead in state polls.

Hulshof, a six-term congressman whose district covers Columbia and part of the St. Louis suburbs, narrowly became the Republican nominee after winning the state's primary.

The election was an uphill battle for Hulshof, whose chances might have been hurt by the close win in a heated primary and statewide Republican woes. Voters had indicated their frustration with Blunt, whose term was marred by budget battles and a controversial decision to scale back the state's Medicaid program.

Nixon, on the other hand, has been elected as the state's attorney general a record four times, though he also has had two failed U.S. Senate bids.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer had been expected to win his second term, defeating Republican Roy Brown, a state senator.

In Utah polls, the governorship had appeared to be a lock for Republicans, who have held the position for 24 years. Republican Gov. John Huntsman, seeking his second term, ran against Democratic Bob Springmeyer.

In North Dakota, Republican incumbent John Hoeven was considered a safe bet to win his third term by defeating Tim Mathern, a Democratic state senator. Hoeven is the first North Dakota governor to win three four-year terms.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch was considered a safe bet to win re-election to a third two-year term after facing off against Republican Joe Kenney, a state senator.

As a Republican nominee, Kenney faced a uphill battle. In 2004, Republicans lost the governorship and President Bush lost to John Kerry after winning there in 2002. In 2006, Democrats took the seats of the state's Republican U.S. representatives and for the first time since 1874, Democrats had control of the governorship and both chambers of the state Legislature.

Joe Manchin, who is also the Democratic Governors Association Chairman, was expected to be re-elected to his second term in West Virginia after battling former state Sen. Russ Weeks.

In Delaware, Jack Markell was expected to defeat Republican opponent Bill Lee, who had run for governor in 2002 and 2004

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, seeking his second term in office, held a lead in the polls. Daniels, the former head of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bush, was unopposed as the Republican nominee and faced Jill Long Thompson, a former three-term congresswoman in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

While the state leans Republican, increasing support for Barack Obama in Indiana had raised a question of whether a high Democratic turnout for the presidential election could help sway the gubernatorial race.

Democrats in the state had hoped Long Thompson would be helped by Daniels' close ties to Bush. The Republican has a Web site,, and used the tagline in his campaign, which is a reference to the nickname Bush gave him during his White House days.

Daniels had a 56 percent approval rating and Long Thompson faced a cash flow problem, which caused her to go off the air with advertisements between Labor Day and October 21.

Long Thompson also hasn't fared well in previous elections. She was defeated in her re-election bid for Congress in 1994 during that year's GOP landslide and also lost a close race in 2002, when she ran for a congressional seat in a neighboring city.

In Vermont, Republican incumbent Jim Douglas appeared poised to defeat Democratic opponent Gaye Symington and independent Anthony Pollina in polls leading up to the election.


Despite trailing Douglas in the polls by a decent margin, Pollina had posed an unusual threat. Vermont is one of two states where if a candidate fails to get 50 percent of votes, the choice for governor would fall into the hands of the Legislature.

With economic issues topping the list of voters' concerns for the year, Democrats hoped increased voter turnout would help sway gubernatorial races.

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