Democrats picked up at least three governorships Tuesday and were running neck-and-neck in tight contests — but failed to capture key prizes in Florida and Ohio.
Former Michigan Senate leader Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, captured the governor’s office in a state that President Trump won two years ago, defeating Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is retiring.
Ms. Whitmer criticized Mr. Schuette’s tenure as attorney general for opposing Obamacare. One of her top campaign promises was to rebuild the state’s roads with a multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan.
In Illinois, billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker easily defeated Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, with networks calling the race for Mr. Pritzker shortly after polls closed. The governor-elect is an heir to the Hyatt hotel chain.
Mr. Rauner came into office four years ago promising to cut taxes and reduce spending, but became embroiled in a budget stalemate with Democrats in the Legislature. The last time an incumbent governor lost a re-election bid in Illinois was in 1976.
Voters in 36 states were choosing governors, with Republican incumbents defending 26 of those seats. Democrats were defending nine seats, while Alaskans were voting for a new governor after independent Gov. Bill Walker abandoned his re-election bid.
Two other Republican Party stalwarts were coming up short. In Kansas, GOP nominee Kris Kobach, a staunch ally of Mr. Trump, lost to Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly for a governorship that Republicans had held. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was trailing Democrat Tony Evers in his bid for a third term, with more than half of precincts reporting.
In Pennsylvania, a state carried by Mr. Trump narrowly in 2016, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf won a second term handily over Republican Scott Wagner, a former state senator. Mr. Wagner warned the governor late in the race that he would “stomp all over your face in golf spikes.” He later apologized.
But in the race for governor of Ohio, another state that Mr. Trump won, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine captured the seat. With nearly 90 percent of the vote counted, Mr. DeWine was holding a lead of about 7 percentage points over Democrat Richard Cordray, who had clashed with Mr. Trump as head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The president had campaigned aggressively for Mr. DeWine.
In Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan cruised to re-election over Democrat Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP. In Massachusetts, pro-choice Republican Gov. Charlie Baker easily won re-election over Democrat Jay Gonzalez.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire won a second two-year term over Democratic former state Sen. Molly Kelly.
Two of the most closely watched contests were in Georgia and Florida, both tight races for open seats. In Georgia, Democratic former House minority leader Stacey Abrams was seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor in a campaign against Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
With about half of Georgia’s votes tallied, Mr. Kemp was leading Ms. Abrams by 10 percentage points.
In Florida, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, who was trying to become the state’s first black governor, by about 1 percentage point with 93 percent of precincts reporting.
Mr. Trump visited Florida twice in the final week of campaigning for Mr. DeSantis, saying Mr. Gillum was “not equipped” for the state’s top job.
The president also made a campaign appearance for Mr. Kemp in Georgia, saying the Republican would keep the state prospering while Ms. Abrams would raise taxes.
In Minnesota, Democrats held onto the governorship as Democratic Rep. Tim Walz defeated Republican former state Rep. Jeff Johnson. In Colorado, Democrat Jared Polis became the nation’s first openly gay governor with a win over Republican Walker Stapleton.
Republicans held on in Tennessee as GOP businessman Bill Lee defeated Democratic former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean for the governor’s office.
Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, one of the most popular governors in the nation, won a second term as expected over Democrat Jared Henderson.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, won a second term easily over Democrat James Smith. And in Alabama, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey won a full term over Democratic Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, won a second term over Democrat Lupe Valdez, and Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey defeated Democrat David Garcia.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also captured a second term. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, won another term in his race against Democrat Christine Hallquist, the first transgender major party nominee for governor.