Introducing the new governors around the nation
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
A look at the newest faces in the nation’s governorships:
Republican state Rep. Robert Bentley, a retired Tuscaloosa dermatologist, wasn’t supposed to be on the general election ballot for governor of Alabama.
The 67-year-old Bentley entered the Republican primary regarded as an also-ran making his first statewide race. But he mortgaged his home and drew from his retirement to put $1.9 million of his own money into the race, and he caught voters’ attention with a promise not to take a salary as governor until Alabama’s near-record unemployment returned to normal levels.
He finished second but narrowly made the GOP runoff, then won it with the help of the state teachers’ organization. On the campaign trail, Bentley opposed federal health care legislation, praised Arizona’s immigration law and promised to fight the expansion of gambling in Alabama.
Bentley says he believes everyone is protected by the Constitution including “unborn children.” He has promised to “give Montgomery a bath” to clean up corruption in state government.
Democrat John Hickenlooper, Denver’s mayor since being elected in 2003, parlayed a successful career as a brew pub owner and restaurateur into a political career. He’s known for reaching out to business interests as well as the Democratic base.
He was born in Narberth, Pa., in 1952. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Wesleyan University in 1974 and a master’s degree in geology in 1980. After graduating, he went to work as a geologist for Buckhorn Petroleum in Colorado but was laid off when the oil industry collapsed in the 1980s, an experience he calls a “a kick in the gut.”
Hickenlooper started a brew pub in a run-down section of downtown Denver in 1988, expanding to eight restaurants before he sold his interests. He leased the run-down property for $1 a square foot and grew wealthy when baseball’s Colorado Rockies located their ballpark just down the street.
He and his wife, Helen Thorpe, a writer, have one son, Teddy.
Republican Sam Brownback’s election as Kansas governor represents a break with the state’s recent past in which voters have preferred GOP moderates or Democrats.
Brownback strongly opposes abortion and gay marriage, but he emphasized economic issues in his bid for governor. He’ll give up the U.S. Senate seat he’s held since 1997.
Brownback has promised to freeze overall spending of state tax dollars, set up an office to target laws and regulations for repeal and start a discussion about rewriting the state’s formula for distributing aid to public schools. Brownback’s goals include generating new private sector jobs.
Brownback, 54, remains a favorite of social conservatives who anticipate that he’ll sign anti-abortion legislation vetoed by past governors. His past associations with Lou Engle, an anti-gay evangelist, briefly became an issue late in the campaign.
He’s following Democratic Govs. Mark Parkinson and Kathleen Sebelius into office. The last Republican governor, Bill Graves, was a GOP moderate.
Brownback is a former Kansas agriculture secretary who served two years in the U.S. House before winning his Senate seat in 1996.
Republican Rick Snyder marketed himself during his campaign for Michigan governor as “one tough nerd.”
That nerdiness was evident in college, when he earned his undergraduate, business administration graduate and law degrees at the University of Michigan by age 23. After graduation, he taught at his alma mater and then went to work as an accountant at Cooper & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he became a partner.
In 1991, he joined fledgling computer maker Gateway Inc. He moved up to president and chief operating officer before leaving in 1997 to return to Michigan and set up two venture capital companies in Ann Arbor.
Snyder grew up in Battle Creek, home to cereal-maker Kellogg Co., and spent many summer days at a lake 40 minutes north where he still likes to water ski in his spare time.
A political newcomer, the 52-year-old largely avoided debates during the primary and general elections. He won a five-way GOP primary by letting his rivals split the conservative vote while he won the nomination by appealing to Democrats and independents.
He also used his personal wealth to put up more ads and run a more expensive campaign than any other candidate.
His pitch as a political outsider who knows how to create jobs struck a nerve in economically hard-hit Michigan, which has lost nearly 850,000 jobs in the past decade.
Snyder and his wife, Sue, a breast cancer survivor, have three children.
Democrat Andrew Cuomo has all the bearing, pedigree and experience — plus a famous last name — to be head of the Empire State. He first ran a major political campaign, his father Mario’s, at the age of 22, and he hasn’t stopped running since.
After helping his father get elected to three terms as governor of New York, the son parlayed the name into a political career that included housing secretary in the Clinton White House and a reforming attorney general in New York.
He ran for governor once before, in 2002, but withdrew before the primary, lagging in support and battered after saying that then-Republican Gov. George Pataki merely held New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s coat after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
This year, when incumbents were endangered, Cuomo cast himself as above it all, an investigator of Republican and Democratic wrongdoers alike and the protector of the middle class.
Cuomo frustrated Democrats and their left-leaning supporters in public worker unions by moving to his right early in the campaign. He called for an end to overspending on special interests, capping the growth in property taxes and harping on the need for an end to corruption and misconduct by legislators in both parties.
People close to him say this is a new Andrew Cuomo, one chastened by his 2002 loss and a messy public divorce from Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. He and TV food personality Sandra Lee have been a couple for five years. Lee, 43, is the host of two Food Network shows, “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee” and “Sandra’s Money Saving Meals.” He has three daughters.
Mary Fallin, a stalwart of Republican politics in Oklahoma, will become Oklahoma’s first female governor. She decided not to seek re-election to a third term in the U.S. House to pursue the governor’s seat being vacated by term-limited Democrat Brad Henry.
Fallin, 55, served as the state’s first female and first Republican lieutenant governor for 12 years before running for Congress. Before that, she served in the state House.
During the campaign, Fallin stressed her conservative credentials and focused on jobs, the economy and opposition to an “overreaching federal government.”
In her “Working Across Oklahoma” campaign strategy, she visited 21 counties and performed various jobs, including ranch hand, convenience store clerk, oil field pumper, nursing home caregiver and teacher at Oklahoma State University.
Fallin remarried in 2009. She and her husband, attorney Wade Christensen, have six children between them.
Republican Tom Corbett wears the white hat of a government reformer. The state attorney general since 2005, he directed an ongoing probe into the illegal use of taxpayer resources for electioneering in the Legislature. Twenty-five current and former lawmakers and aides have been arrested. Of the 12 cases already decided, 10 brought convictions or guilty pleas. A former House leader and a former aide were sent to prison.
As a candidate, Corbett signed a pledge not to raise state taxes and later extended it to rule out fee increases as well.
Corbett 61, had run in only two previous statewide elections — for his two terms as attorney general. But temporary appointments to vacant posts — U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania and state attorney general — kept him in the public eye for most of a decade before that.
A Philadelphia native, Corbett grew up in the Pittsburgh area. He and his wife, Susan, who have two grown children, live in the same house in the Pittsburgh suburbs where he lived with his parents and older sister.
Corbett has a political science degree from Lebanon Valley College and a law degree from St. Mary’s University Law School in San Antonio.
Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley will become the nation’s second Indian-American governor. She rode to victory on a wave of support from the tea party, an endorsement from Sarah Palin and a platform that positioned her against an old-boy political network in Columbia.
Haley, 38, ran as a fiscal conservative and cited her experience as an accountant on the campaign trail. But she and her husband have filed their taxes late since at least 2004, according to records released by her campaign.
Before Haley won the the primary, a lobbyist and a blogger both claimed to have had affairs with her. Haley, a married mother of two, categorically denied the unsubstantiated claims.
She defeated Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen after repeatedly attempted to link the fairly moderate lawmaker to Barack Obama and score points by characterizing him as a liberal trial lawyer for his work on worker’s compensation cases.
Haley was an ally of Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who was term-limited.
Republican Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard describes himself as an experienced and compassionate leader who used hard work to rise from humble beginnings.
Daugaard, 57, grew up on a dairy farm near Garretson in eastern South Dakota, the son of deaf parents. He attended a one-room country school through seventh grade and graduated from high school in Dell Rapids.
He got a bachelor’s degree in government at the University of South Dakota in 1975 after working his way through college by washing dishes, waiting tables, welding on an assembly line and painting water towers. He graduated from law school at Northwestern University in 1978 and worked in the Chicago area for three years before returning to South Dakota, where he worked as a banker for about a decade.
Daugaard began working for the Children’s Home Society of South Dakota, which provides services for children with emotional and behavioral problems, and eventually became the organization’s executive director. He spent six years in the South Dakota Senate before becoming lieutenant governor in 2003.
Republican Bill Haslam abandoned early hopes of studying to become a pastor after college to join the truck stop business founded by his father. After two decades with Pilot Corp., he surprised family members by deciding to run for mayor of Knoxville in 2003. He was overwhelmingly re-elected mayor in 2007.
Haslam, whose mother died of a stroke when he was 16, graduated from Emory in 1980 with plans to teach high school history and coach basketball and then attend a Presbyterian seminary.
His father persuaded him to work at Pilot, where he and brother Jimmy took leading roles in expanding the chain from mostly gas stations and convenience stores to a “travel center” concept of truck stops featuring branded fast-food service.
Haslam remains a large shareholder in the company, which has projected revenues of $20 billion this year. He has refused to release his annual earnings from Pilot over concerns it would reveal personal information about the income of other family members and proprietary information about the privately held company.
Republican Matt Mead follows a political family tradition. He is the grandson of Clifford Hansen, the former Wyoming governor and U.S. senator who died last year. His mother, Mary Mead, ran unsuccessfully for governor before her death in 1996 in a riding accident.
Mead, 48, was born in Teton County. He received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and his law degree from the University of Wyoming.
He stepped down as U.S. attorney for Wyoming in 2007 to seek the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Craig Thomas. He came in fourth in the GOP’s selection process, and the seat went to John Barrasso.
This year, Mead spent $1.4 million, most of it his own money, to win a crowded Republican primary. He spelled out a conservative approach to social issues, saying he’s staunchly pro-gun and opposes same-sex marriage. He also emphasized the importance of Wyoming energy production, while hammering on his family’s ranching heritage.
For the past few years, Mead has worked on his family farming and ranching operation in southeastern Wyoming.
He and his wife, Carol, have two children.