x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Republicans win key governor races

The Republican tide included the second Indian American governor, in South Carolina, and the first female Hispanic governor, in New Mexico, among 10 total gains in gubernatorial polls.

Republicans picked up big wins in governor mansions yesterday as part of a conservative electoral wave that swept across the United States, but Democrats took back California and held onto New York.

The Republican tide included the second Indian American governor, in South Carolina, and the first female Hispanic governor, in New Mexico, among 10 total gains in gubernatorial polls held the same day as mid-term elections.

The loss of so many governorships was a big blow to President Barack Obama's Democrats as it could allow some Republican winners to redraw voting districts along party lines under a process called gerrymandering.

Democrats were driven from power in the House of Representatives in what was projected to be one of the biggest mid-term routs of the last century and saw their majority in the Senate trimmed back significantly.

Among the few Democratic victories from the drubbing however, Jerry Brown won out in the battle to succeed Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger for the governorship of California - a state facing a crippling budgetary crisis.

Beating the billionaire former chief executive of eBay, Meg Whitman, who poured millions from her personal fortune into the race, Mr Brown earned himself a rare distinction.

At 72, he became the oldest ever to hold the post, but he had already been the youngest California governor since the 1850s when he was first elected to the position at the age of 36.

In South Carolina, Republican Nikki Haley, who is of Indian heritage, pulled out a win in a state synonymous just decades ago with racial segregation.

The 38-year-old daughter of Sikh immigrants who ran a clothing business, Ms Haley rarely emphasised her Indian roots and identified herself in campaign material as a Christian.

Her victory came as part of a coalition of female candidates in the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement endorsed by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Further west in New Mexico, voters elected Republican Susana Martinez as the country's first female Hispanic governor, who Ms Palin also endorsed as part of her pack of conservative women, who she famously dubbed "mama grizzlies".

Ms Martinez succeeded Democratic Governor Bill Richardson, a former Mexican American congressman and UN ambassador.

In New York, Democrats had little difficulty guarding their party's safe seat against erratic Republican and Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino, who gained notoriety in the campaign for his extreme views on gay rights.

Democrats suffered losses in states key to Mr Obama's chance of re-election in 2012, including Republican John Kasich in Ohio and Tom Corbett in neighboring Pennsylvania.

The governor's race in the key state of Florida was considered too close to call with Democratic Alex Sink at 48 percent and her opponent Rick Scott edging ahead with 49 percent, according to CNN.

Jan Brewer was re-elected with ease in the desert state of Arizona, despite controversy surrounding her championing of an immigration law that critics labeled as draconian for its targeting of Hispanics.

In a first for the tiny northeastern state of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee became the first independent candidate to be elected governor.

The 10 new governorships for Republicans were offset by just the one for Democrats, in California, giving them a net gain of nine mansions across the country with a handful of swing races left to declare.