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Pandemic the focus of gubernatorial races; abortion a key ballot topic

Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum won reelection

Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum won reelection Tuesday, defeating Democratic challenger Shelley Lenz.  Credit: AP/Mike McCleary

Efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic put the nation's governors in the spotlight Tuesday while state legislatures were poised to determine redistricting, abortion, health care and other supercharged topics.

Both were on the ballot this year in races that have been overshadowed nationally by the presidential race but have drawn intense interest and massive spending in their states. Across the country, 11 states elected governors and 35 picked state lawmakers this year.

Results for state legislative races were not immediately available but Democrats hoped to gain control in several chambers nationwide.

Voters in several states returned their governors for another term.

In North Dakota, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum won a second term after a campaign that focused largely on his management of the coronavirus pandemic. Burgum defeated Democrat Shelley Lenz, a veterinarian running her first statewide campaign. Burgum won despite a state economy that’s been weakened by the epidemic.

Vermont’s incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott also won reelection to the office he has held since first being elected in 2016. In Tuesday’s balloting, Scott defeated Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. In neighboring New Hampshire, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu defeated state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes to win a third, two-year term. Sununu has enjoyed widespread support for his handling of the pandemic.

Democratic incumbent John Carney defeated Republican challenger Julianne Murray to win a second term as Delaware’s governor. Carney enjoyed voter registration numbers that heavily favor Democrats in thwarting Murray’s upset bid Tuesday.

Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice won reelection as well. He fended off a Democratic challenger by positioning himself as an ally of Trump with the experience to create jobs. Justice beat Democrat Ben Salango, a Kanawha County commissioner. He will serve a second and final term under the state’s term limits.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was reelected in North Carolina, defeating Republican challenger Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Cooper has often been reluctant to criticize Trump but generally received praised for his handling of the pandemic. Republican Eric Holcomb won another term as Indiana governor, fending off challengers who criticized his handling of the pandemic. Holcomb overcame Democrat Woody Myer, a former state health commissioner who called for tougher antivirus actions.

Utah Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox won the gubernatorial race in the state defeating Democrat Chris Peterson, a law professor who continued to advocate for a mask mandate as coronavirus cases spiked this fall.

In Missouri, Mike Parson won the governor’s race, defeating Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway for the chance to serve a full term in the role he inherited when his predecessor resigned under a cloud of scandal two years ago. Parson fought off criticism from Galloway over his laissez faire approach to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Democrats were hoping to gain control of more state legislative chambers after Republicans scored huge wins in 2010. The GOP's success put them in charge of drawing congressional and state legislative maps after the 2010 census, a process that kept them in control in most of those states throughout the decade.

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