GOP picks up governorships despite N.C. nail-biter

Source: Manuel Quiñones, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 9, 2016

North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Duke Energy Corp. executive, has lost re-election in one of the country’s closest races.

Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper won by 4,772 votes. McCrory’s loss is a notable defeat for the GOP in an election in which other vulnerable party incumbents pulled through.

Democrats criticized McCrory for his handling of a 2014 coal ash spill. But environmental issues may not have made that much of a difference in North Carolina compared to a controversial trangender bathroom use law, which McCrory defended.

In West Virginia, despite Republicans’ making significant gains, Democrats managed to keep control of the governor’s mansion with 49 percent of the vote by nominating billionaire coal mine owner Jim Justice (see related story). But Democrats were unable to hold governorships in Missouri, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Missouri

Republican Eric Greitens, a veterans’ advocate, defeated longtime Show-Me State politician Chris Koster with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Greitens, who survived a bruising GOP primary, will replace Democrat Jay Nixon.

Voters also agreed to renew the soil and water conservation sales tax for an additional decade. It generates about $90 million each year for conservation and state parks.

Washington

As predicted, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, one of the most environmentally minded chief executives in the country, won re-election against former Republican Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant.

Voters in the state rejected a statewide carbon tax. Some environmental advocates joined other interests in opposing the measure because it would have cut other taxes rather than directing money to environmental efforts.

Vermont

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott defeated former Democratic state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter with more than 50 percent of the vote. Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin decided against running for re-election.

Minter supported a controversial wind farm. Voters rejected the Iberdrola SA project in a nonbinding referendum, according to local media outlets (E&E Daily, Nov. 7).

Other states

  • In Oregon, incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who succeeded former Gov. John Kitzhaber when he resigned, defeated Republican Bud Pierce. Voters also agreed to a measure to ban the sale or purchase of certain wildlife.
  • In North Dakota, Republican businessman Doug Burgum defeated Democratic state Rep. Marvin Nelson to replace Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who decided against seeking re-election.
  • In Delaware, Democratic Rep. John Carney defeated Republican state Sen. Colin Bonini with almost 60 percent of the vote. Carney will replace incumbent Democrat Jack Markell, who was term-limited.
  • In New Hampshire, Republican Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan ran for the Senate.
  • In Montana, incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock defeated engineer and businessman Greg Gianforte.
  • In Utah, incumbent Republican Gov. Gary Herbert easily swept aside Democratic health care executive Mike Weinholtz.
  • In Indiana, Republican Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb defeated former Democratic state House Speaker John Gregg. Both were vying to replace Mike Pence, who gave up plans for re-election to the governor’s job to join Donald Trump on the GOP White House ticket.

Other votes

  • In Florida, voters rejected a proposed measure — Amendment 1 — to make sure people could own or lease solar power equipment from their homes but also make sure power prices wouldn’t go up for other grid users. Pro-renewable advocates said the measure, backed by utilities, was anti-solar.
  • In California, voters were close to ratifying a ban on single-use plastic bags. They rejected another ballot measure that would have redirected plastic bag fees to environmental programs.
  • In Colorado, voters approved a measure backed by the oil and gas industry to implement stricter requirements for ballot initiatives. The goal of supporters is to curb efforts against hydraulic fracturing.