GOP Firms Grip on Statehouses With Gubernatorial Wins

The number of GOP governorships surges to its highest level in 12 years.

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Pat McCrory is the first Republican governor elected in North Carolina since 1988.

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Republicans added another governorship to their ranks Tuesday after North Carolina went red for the first time since the 1980s, expanding the party's lead over Democrats at the statehouse level.

Eleven governor's posts were on the table in Tuesday's election with Democrats defending eight seats and Republicans three. With a tight race in Washington still to be called as of Wednesday afternoon, Republicans solidified their lead in the statehouse with the win in North Carolina, where GOP candidate Pat McCrory routed Walter Dalton, the incumbent lieutenant governor.

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McCrory—who will replace retiring Democrat Beverly Perdue—is the first Republican governor elected in the state since 1988.

Democrats held down governorships in New Hampshire, Montana, Vermont, Delaware, West Virginia, and Missouri, while Republicans kept posts in North Dakota, Indiana, and Utah.

The addition of at least one governorship to the GOP column brings the party's tally to 30 and marks the highest number held by either party in 12 years, according to the Republican Governors Association. The all-time high for the GOP was 34 seats in the 1920s.

Reinforcing the Republican lead in governorships strengthens the party's position against Democratic policies such as Obamacare, a CNN report noted, and arms the GOP with influence in Washington, despite the fact the White House will be blue for another four years and the GOP failed in its mission to capture the Senate.

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But while Republicans hailed their victory in North Carolina as a way forward to "four years of balanced budgets, limited taxes and economic growth," critics argued that losses in several other contested states revealed fissures in the GOP strategy.

"Like Republicans' failure to reclaim control of the Senate, 2012 presents a year of missed opportunities for the GOP in governors' races," a release from the Democratic Governors Association said.

Meg Handley is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter at @mmhandley.