Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott won re-election Tuesday, turning back a challenge from former Republican governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, in a bitter and expensive battle that bruised both candidates.
Scott overcame the challenge with the help of a massive fund-raising advantage and Crist's inability to get Democrat-rich South Florida to turn out in force, the Miami Herald
Nathan Gonzalez, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, described the Florida race as "two unpopular politicians running against each other in a very large and expensive state."
With 99.3 percent of the vote counted, Scott won with 48.3 percent of the vote – and 2,844,225 votes. Crist had 46.9 percent and 2,766,419 votes. The Associated Press called the election for Scott.
The battle continued until the polls closed, with the Crist for Governor campaign filing an emergency motion with the Circuit Court for the 17th Judicial Circuit to extend voting hours in Democrat-heavy Broward County until 9 p.m., citing, according to the Miami Herald, "individual and systemic breakdowns that made it difficult for voters to cast regular ballots." The motion was denied.
In another big win for Republican incumbents, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was projected the winner by ABC and Fox News in his race against business executive Mary Burke, boosting the chances he'll be a contender for a GOP run for the White House in 2016.
With a little more than 55 percent of the vote counted
, Walker was ahead 54.9 percent to Burke's 44 percent.
First elected governor in 2010, Walker survived a recall effort in 2012 after successfully taking action against collective bargaining by public employee unions.
Another Republican governor with possible White House ambitions, Ohio's John Kasich, also won re-election Tuesday in one of the early results from 36 gubernatorial contests that may help set national policy debates and even set the stage for the 2016 presidential election.
Another early winner Tuesday was Democrat Tom Wolf, who ousted Pennsylvania GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, and may have benefited from anti-incumbent fervor.
"There's a strong anti-incumbent mood," said John Green, professor of political science at the University of Akron and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.
"Although the economy is definitely better than it was a year ago, it's not up to anybody's expectations, and governors are in a real hot spot," Green said. "They're the ones who have to cut programs or raise taxes."
For the most part, Republican incumbents fared well in re-election bids, according to early returns. Voters re-elected Republican Govs. Bill Haslam in Tennessee, Robert Bentley in Alabama, Mary Fallin in Oklahoma, Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Dennis Daugaard in South Dakota, and Matt Mead in Wyoming.
Elsewhere, Republicans flipped Arkansas, where Asa Hutchinson won the race to replace outgoing Arkansas Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, a big gain in a one-time Southern Democratic bastion.
In Texas, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott beat Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who rose to national prominence with her pro-choice stance in a state that has one of the nation's toughest abortion
Abbott will succeed Republican Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in state history, who is considering another presidential run.
Around the nation, hot-button issues included taxes, gun control, abortion restrictions and healthcare costs.
For many voters, however, the economy was the central issue. An uneven recovery could prove the undoing of several incumbents, including the governors of Kansas and Pennsylvania, who are being held accountable for their states' fiscal woes.
"We've had a very difficult economy for years, and anyone in office is going to be held partly accountable, especially governors," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "They're not called 'little presidents' for nothing."
Going into Tuesday, Republicans held 29 governorships compared with the Democrats' 21.
Fourteen governors' races were seen as toss-ups, and at least 10 incumbent governors were battling to save their jobs, experts projected.
Reuters contributed to this report.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.