Republicans take 10 governorships
Washington - Republicans captured Democratic governorships in at least 10 states on Tuesday, including some prime presidential battlegrounds, and hoped for even more statehouse gains.
The same tide sweeping Republicans into office in Congress was leaving its mark on governors' mansions as well, especially in the US industrial heartland.
Changing hands in the Republican wave were governorships now held by Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming.
In Ohio, a state viewed by both parties as crucial to the 2012 presidential election, former Representative John Kasich defeated Governor Ted Strickland. Republican Susana Martinez won the New Mexico governorship - she is the first Hispanic woman to become chief executive of a state - and will succeed Democratic Governor Bill Richardson.
Republicans will keep the governorship in Florida, where Democrat Alex Sink conceded to Republican Rick Scott on Wednesday.
But there were a few bright spots for Democrats. In California, Democrat Jerry Brown coasted past former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to reclaim the post he held three decades ago.
He will replace moderate Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Democrats also picked up Republican-held governorships in Vermont and Hawaii.
Democrats also held onto governorships in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Colorado.
Further turnovers seemed likely. In five states - Democratic-held governorships in Illinois, Oregon and Maine and Republican-held ones in Connecticut and Minnesota - the tally early on Wednesday was still too close to call.
The gubernatorial races were especially important this year. There are a record number of them on the ballot _ more than two-thirds of the states.
Governors will play important roles in 2012 presidential politics, especially in swing states, and governors next year will participate in redrawing of congressional and legislative seats to reflect the 2010 census.
Republicans also seized control of about a dozen state legislative chambers, scoring decisive wins in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. In those three states, they knocked Democrats from the majority in the state House chambers, putting the split legislative bodies under full Republican control.
Republicans were expected to gain control of even more state legislative chambers as votes continue to be tallied. That would give Republicans a freer hand to draw up House district boundaries, making it harder for Democrats to regain control of the House in 2012.
Among the bright spots for Democrats was New York where Andrew Cuomo surged past ultraconservative tea party Republican Carl Paladino to win the governor's seat, the same post his father, Mario, had held two decades ago.
Loud and clear
"The people have spoken tonight, and they have been loud and clear," Cuomo said standing alongside his father and mother.
"They are angry."
In Massachusetts, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick won a second term, defeating Republican Charles Baker and two other candidates. Patrick and President Barack Obama share Chicago roots and Harvard Law degrees, and national Republicans tried hard to topple him.
Oklahoma and South Carolina elected their first female governors, both Republicans. In South Carolina, tea-party backed Republican state Representative Nikki Haley will also become the nation's second Indian-American governor when she replaces term-limited Governor Mark Sanford.
Louisiana's Bobby Jindal also is Indian-American. She is the first American raised as a Sikh to hold the office of governor.
In a high-profile race into which both parties spent millions, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, who has already served 10 years, defeated Democrat Bill White, a former mayor of Houston.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who drew national attention when she signed a state law cracking down on illegal immigration, was re-elected, defeating Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Some 37 governorships were on the line - a combination of the usual rotation plus races to fill unexpired terms and some states changing their election cycles.
There are currently 26 Democratic governors and 24 Republicans.