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Breaking down gubernatorial election results from across the country

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Results are in for most of the three dozen governors offices up in this cycle. NPR's Laura Benshoff is here to talk about it.

Hey, Laura.

LAURA BENSHOFF, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What do we know about the races that were supposed to be close?

BENSHOFF: You know, this was a night where incumbents largely held on, even in many of those really close races. For example, there was a Republican, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Republican Brian Kemp of Georgia. They both won reelection, Kemp beating Democrat Stacey Abrams for the second time. You know, and in races where it wasn't so close, places like Florida, Ron DeSantis beat Charlie Crist by a mile. You know, this was a really close race back in 2018, but not even close this time. And another one that got a lot of play but did not end up being a close race was Texas. Greg Abbott is back there.

And, you know, a lot of Democratic incumbents also held on. You know, some of them had been really bracing for maybe a painful result going into this Election Day. Several were locked into tight races that were considered toss-ups or close to toss-ups. Biden's low approval ratings and concerns about the economy were all weighing on these candidates.

MARTIN: Yeah.

BENSHOFF: But you had, you know, Janet Mills, who won reelection in Maine, Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico and even Tony Evers of Wisconsin - such a tight race going into it. But he won.

MARTIN: Any big upsets or seats that flipped?

BENSHOFF: You know, there were a couple of offices that GOP governors had occupied that flipped from red to blue. That's in Maryland and Massachusetts. But these are very safe, you know, pretty Democratic strongholds, states that sometimes will elect a moderate Republican. But it's not surprising when they elect a Democrat. So those seats did flip. And they were also historic races. Maryland elected Wes Moore to be its first Black governor, just the third Black governor to be elected in the United States. And in Massachusetts, Maura Healey became the first openly lesbian governor in the nation.

And in these and other states, the Democrats were able to defeat opponents that had allied themselves with former President Donald Trump. That was also the case in New York, where Kathy Hochul won and became the first woman elected to the governor's office, even though she was already in that role.

MARTIN: Yeah.

BENSHOFF: And over in Pennsylvania, voters chose Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro over the Trump-backed candidate here as well.

MARTIN: So those races all decided, but voting is going to take a while in some of these places. What races are we still waiting on?

BENSHOFF: You know, there's some really close calls that we have not seen made yet. I'm watching Nevada, where it's not clear yet if the Democratic incumbent has fended off a challenge. It's the same story in Kansas. And there are also a couple of open seats that are too close to call. You have Arizona, where Kari Lake and Katie Hobbs are facing off. Kari Lake is a former local Fox News anchor who's one of former President Trump's sort of favorite people to champion. And then you have Katie Hobbs, who is a state bureaucrat. That race is too close.

There's also a three-way race in Oregon. You have an independent there named Betsey Johnson, who's funneled off more than 100,000 votes, making it very close between the Democrat Tina Kotek and the Republican Christine Drazen. And so even though this is Oregon that hasn't elected a Republican in four decades, we have to just wait and see what happens.

MARTIN: NPR's Laura Benshoff. Thank you.

BENSHOFF: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Laura Benshoff
Laura Benshoff is a reporter covering energy and climate for NPR's National desk. Prior to this assignment, she spent eight years at WHYY, Philadelphia's NPR Member station. There, she most recently focused on the economy and immigration. She has reported on the causes of the Great Resignation, Afghans left behind after the U.S. troop withdrawal and how a government-backed rent-to-own housing program failed its tenants. Other highlights from her time at WHYY include exploring the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election cycle through changing communities in central Pennsylvania and covering comedian Bill Cosby's criminal trials.