HERE WERE THE SOUTH’S SIX HOTTEST RACES FOR GOVERNOR:
RESULT: HUTCHINSON WINS
Two former members of the U.S. House, Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross, are facing off for the right to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. Ross, who retired from Congress in 2012, originally passed on this race but jumped in when the Democratic front-runner, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, exited the race after admitting to an extramarital affair. Hutchinson, who was the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Bush administration, is making his fourth bid for statewide office, after running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, attorney general and governor. In Congress, Ross was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats, and he was one of the few Democrats in the House to vote against Obamacare. Arkansas is a conservative state where Republicans hold all six federal offices and both houses of the legislature. However, Democrats hold most of the state constitutional offices, showing that Democrats can still get elected in the Natural State. Beebe, who remains popular, has been pulling out all the stops for Ross. Hutchinson and outside conservative groups that have been swamping Arkansas with negative ads have been portraying Ross as an ally of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Polls show the race is extremely close.
RESULTS: DEAL WINS
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal seemed to be headed to an easy re-election, until the Republican incumbent ran into an avalanche of criticism for the state’s response to a snowstorm in January that paralyzed metro Atlanta. Deal has drawn a surprisingly strong challenge from Democratic State Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Carter has raised more than $4 million for the race, which, while less than half of Deal’s haul, enabled him to go up with television ads early. Politically, Georgia is a Republican state, and the GOP has won three governor’s races in a row, and Deal is still considered the favorite. Recent polls still have him in the lead but at under 50 percent — never good news for an incumbent.
RESULTS: SCOTT WINS
This race pits the last two men elected to Florida’s top job against each other. Republican Governor Rick Scott is seeking a second term against former Governor Charlie Crist, who has undergone a remarkable political makeover. Just eight years ago, Crist was elected governor as a conservative Republican. But in 2010, he decided not to seek re-election to make what turned out to be a disastrous bid for the U.S. Senate. After falling behind the eventual winner, Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Crist bolted the GOP to run as an independent. In 2012, he endorsed Barack Obama, became a Democrat and, just two years later, easily won his new party’s nod for the Sunshine State’s governorship. Florida is an evenly divided swing state, and the race between Scott and Crist is an expensive, high-octane affair. Scott, who made a fortune in the healthcare industry before entering politics, will have a financial advantage, although Crist has raised more than $20 million. Florida is one of the most expensive places to run statewide, and this race is expected to break all records.
RESULTS: FALLIN WINS
Given Oklahoma’s strong Republican tilt, Governor Mary Fallin is a prohibitive favorite for re-election this year – a win that could put her into the conversation for national office in 2016. Her opponent is State Rep. Joe Dorman, a six-term lawmaker from Rush Springs who is running as a bipartisan problem-solver. Oklahoma is a state where Democrats are often competitive at the state level, but Fallon has raised $3.3 million, more than four times what Dorman has taken in. This will be an uphill climb for the Democrat.
RESULT: HALEY WINS
This race is a rematch between Republican Governor Nikki Haley and the man she defeated in 2010, State Senator Vincent Sheheen. Haley’s tenure is Columbia has been bumpy, and she entered the year with weak approval ratings. But her polls have improved since then, and, given the Palmetto State’s strong GOP tilt, she has to be considered the favorite. Two public polls in July put her up by double digits.
RESULT: ABBOTT WINS
The Texas governorship opened up when Republican Governor Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in the state’s history, opted not to seek another term. Armed with a massive war chest, Attorney General Greg Abbott cruised to the Republican nomination with only nominal opposition. The Democrats nominated State Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who shot to national fame in 2013 by leading a filibuster against a bill that would have placed restrictions on abortion. Texas Democrats, who haven’t won the governorship since 1990, were initially enthusiastic about Davis’s chances and her fundraising prowess. However, her campaign has been rocky, and she has been dogged about the veracity of her rags-to-riches story as a divorced teenage mother who clawed her way from a trailer park to Harvard. Polls show Abbott with a double-digit lead.