New Blood to Fill Governor Positions

Radical changes may not impact Congress as a result of Tuesday's midterm election, but many of the states' executive branches have already seen major turnovers.

In New Mexico, Michigan and Illinois, Democrats stormed the Republican castle walls and took over statehouses.

Changes in governorships mean not only that the top authority in 36 states will be affected, but that elections in 2004 could be influenced.

Governors are the local executors of public policy and are often the de facto heads of their state political parties. With the mantle of government on their shoulders, they play a big hand in getting out the vote in presidential elections.

"Having an incumbent governor is worth about 3 points in a presidential election," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. "It's part of the fund-raising base, the turn-out-the-vote base and part of the pool of future presidential candidates.

"Just look at that block of electoral votes alone to see the implication just a few years from now," he said.

Tuesday's election could drastically alter the political landscape of the states. Currently, 27 states have Republicans and 21 states have Democratic heads. Two states have independents – Jesse Ventura in Minnesota and Angus S. King Jr. in Maine.

But while 23 of the governorships in the 27 states held by Republicans were up for grabs on Tuesday, only 11 governorships that are now controlled by Democrats could change hands. Both independent governorships are also being contested, though in neither case is the incumbent seeking re-election.

At least 20 of the races are for open governorships caused by term limits and retirements, and entire regions could change party leadership.

"What you're seeing in New England -- the voters are mad at whoever is holding the bag," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. "They're just voting for change."

New England could turn completely Republican by the time of the next presidential race. The GOP picked up New Hampshire and could pick up Vermont as well as keeping the seats in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

"We'll pick up a few in the Northeast that we didn't expect a year ago," said Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Rowland won re-election to a third term in his state.

Meanwhile, Dems are looking forward to making inroads in entrenched GOP territory. The Midwestern states of Michigan and Illinois are already in the Dem bag, and Wisconsin is an additional possible Democratic win; the southwestern state of New Mexico is now Democratic and neighbor Arizona could also follow. Socially conservative Kansas could actually go Democratic thanks to exhausting Republican infighting during the primaries.

"The battleground states are the battleground states. They'll be battleground for president. They'll be battleground for governor," Rowland said.

"We had a lot of ground to protect," he added. "We've had a great run for the last eight years."

The Republican governorships include New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Colorado, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma. Of those, nearly half -- 11 -- are considered too close to call or have been the site of heated campaigning.

The Democratic governorships up for a vote include Alabama, New Hampshire, Maryland, Georgia, Iowa, California, Oregon, South Carolina, Alaska, Vermont, and Hawaii. Of those, all but one -- California -- is considered close.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.