Democrats won hard-fought governor's contests in Florida and Texas, but the GOP countered with major victories in California and Michigan and a stunning upset in Minnesota.
In California, Sen. Pete Wilson, the Republican, pulled ahead to capture the governorship of the nation's most populous state, narrowly defeating Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco.In Minnesota, Republican state auditor Arne Carlson staged a narrow, upset victory over Gov. Rudy Perpich after a tumultuous campaign.
Carlson became the GOP candidate when nominee Jon Grunseth dropped out of the race just nine days before the election after a series of accusations involving alleged sexual misconduct.
In Michigan, Senate Republican Leader John Engler narrowly upset Gov. James J. Blanchard, who was vying for a third term in a sagging auto economy.
By midmorning, Democrats had won in 18 states and Republicans in 15, while independents won two others.
Republican George Voinovich snatched the governor's chair from Democratic control in another large state, Ohio, defeating state Attorney General Anthony Celebrezze Jr.
In Illinois, the victory of Republican Secretary of State Jim Edgar kept the governorship in GOP hands. Edgar defeated Democratic Attorney General Neil Hartigan to succeed four-term Republican Gov. Jim Thompson.
Edgar said he had made it clear in his campaign that cutting taxes now would hurt education in the state.
In most governor's races, however, Tuesday's tide was Democratic.
In one of the narrowest of victories, Nebraska Democratic businessman Ben Nelson defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Orr, who had sought a second term as the state's first female governor. A recount was possible.
In Arizona, Republican real estate developer Fife Symington held a whisker-thin lead over Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard, a Democrat. Elections officials said a runoff would be held because neither candidate had received more than 50 percent of the total votes cast, a requirement for election in Arizona. Democratic Gov. Rose Mofford will remain in office in the interim.
Oregon elected a woman, picking Democratic Secretary of State Barbara Roberts over Republican Attorney General David Frohnmayer.
She said voters were "fed up with politicians giving them fluff" and appreciated what she said was her "tell-it-like-it-is style."
In Massachusetts, Republican William F. Weld came from behind to defeat maverick Democrat John Silber, on leave as president of Boston University.
Weld called his victory "a referendum on big government," high spending and high taxes of the kind he said characterized the administration of outgoing Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis.
"They've really been spending money on Beacon Hill like drunken sailors and that's why people went Republican," Weld told ABC-TV today.
Former Democratic Sen. Lawton Chiles defeated first-term GOP Gov. Bob Martinez in Florida. Chiles' support for abortion rights appeared to help him against the antiabortion governor.
But Chiles gave credit to a grass-roots campaign that limited campaign contributions to $100 a person and to voter unhappiness with "government gridlock."
"I think it's a vote by people that know government today is not working," Chiles told ABC.
Kansas state Treasurer Joan Finney unseated Republican Gov. Mike Hayden, even though her anti-abortion stance lost her the support of feminist groups.
In Texas, Ann Richards, also her state's treasurer, defeated oil millionaire Clayton Williams, whose campaign was marked by campaign gaffes and an 11th hour disclosure that he failed to pay any federal income tax in 1986.