WASHINGTON – Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis were locked in a very close Florida governor’s race on Tuesday night.
Gillum is attempting to become the first black governor in Florida history and the first Democratic governor in the Sunshine State since 1994.
In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp were also in a very close contest that some analysts said would take a long time to decide election results. Abrams is trying to become to first black woman governor in U.S. history.
The 36 governors races being decided Tuesday will play a major role in the next two elections: The winners will help presidential candidates of their party in 2020 and play a key role in drawing the new House district boundaries for the 2022 midterm elections.
The voting process itself became a major issue in the Georgia race with Kemp accusing Democrats of trying to hack into the state’s voting system and Abrams charging that Kemp, who is secretary of state, was trying to suppress turnout among minority voters.
A group of Georgia voters filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta to stop Kemp from presiding over the election because of concerns about his fairness.
Common Cause, a member of the Election Protection coalition, said that as of 10:30 a.m., it had received reports of “voting machines going down in large numbers across the state.”
Election watchdog groups were reporting wait times for voters of three hours Tuesday in the Atlanta metro area — the result of a combination of large turnout and technical problems.
Problems with machines used to check in voters in five Gwinnett County precincts, part of the northeast Atlanta metro area, caused delays. In one case, a precinct did not open on time and a judge ordered it to stay open until 7:25 p.m. ET, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported.
Going into Election Day, Republicans held 33 governorships to 16 for Democrats. One independent, Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, withdrew from his re-election race a few weeks ago.
Of the 33 GOP-held seats, 26 are up for election and 13 of those are open. Of the 16 Democratic-held seats, nine are up for election, of which four are open.
Most experts predict Democrats will pick up a net of six to eight governorships. Three states now in GOP hands – Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico – appear likely to elect Democratic governors.
Nine races are considered tossups by many observers: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma, Maine, Nevada, and Ohio.
Kansas and Oklahoma feature elections to replace term-limited Republican governors – Sam Brownback in Kansas and Mary Fallin in Oklahoma – whose experiments in severe tax cuts left their states reeling.
Democrats are not only hoping to reduce the GOP advantage in governors, but they also are hoping to cut into the large advantage the Republicans have in state legislative seats.
The GOP holds almost 1,000 more state legislative seats than Democrats, 4,101 to 3,118, and controls about two-thirds of state legislative bodies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty-four states have one-party control of the governor’s office and both legislative bodies – 26 are all Republican and 8 are all Democratic.
Again, the makeup of state government becomes crucial when the results of the 2020 census are used to draw new maps for the U.S. House seats in each state. Those new maps will first be used in the 2022 election.
The GOP controlled much of the map-drawing after the 2000 census, giving the party a large structural advantage, experts say. The Brennan Center for Justice estimated in a report issued in March that Democrats would have to win the overall vote for House seats by 11 percentage points in order to recapture control of the body.
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