1 of 7 | Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks while campaigning for re-election during an event Monday at Fulton County Airport in Atlanta. Kemp won reelection on Tuesday, defeating Democrat Stacy Abrams for a second time. Photo by John Amis/EPA-EFE
Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Republican incumbents Brian Kemp of Georgia and Greg Abbott of Texas each won re-election in their gubernatorial races Tuesday, while Democrats took contests in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Kemp defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams for the second time in four years in one of the most closely watched gubernatorial contests in the country.
Abrams conceded the race after 11 p.m. ET in Atlanta, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and CNN reported.
The win meant Republicans will retain control of the Georgia governor's mansion just two years after Democrats scored stunning victories in the state by taking both of its U.S. Senate seats.
The loss by Abrams, counted among the most influential Democrats in the country, was a blow to the party as political momentum in the battleground state swung back to the GOP.
Meanwhile in Texas, Abbott decisively won a third term over Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, according to projections by NBC News, CBS News and CNN.
Abbott, 64, triumphed over O'Rourke despite the challenger's fundraising advantages with a laser focus on border security and by tying his opponent to President Joe Biden, who is deeply unpopular in Texas.
"We started this campaign in South Texas, we celebrated my primary victory in South Texas and tonight we return to South Texas to celebrate my being your governor for four more years," Abbott told supporters in McAllen while flanked by his wife and daughter.
O'Rourke's efforts to turn the election into a referendum on the shortcomings of Abbott's second term failed to gain sufficient traction among the state's voters.
Kemp and Abbott joined Florida's Ron DeSantis in posting GOP gubernatorial wins in the U.S. South. DeSantis easily beat former Republican governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in a crucial test for a national conservative standard bearer.
The impressive victory could well become a springboard to a 2024 White House bid for the Florida conservative, perhaps setting him up for a battle with former President Donald Trump for the GOP nomination.
In Nevada, Republican challenger Joe Lombardo, a veteran and Clark County sheriff, was leading incumbent Gov. Stat Sisolak.
Though still too early to call, Lombardo had 50.5% of the vote to Sisolak's 45.8% early Wednesday, according to unofficial state election results.
But the gubernatorial news wasn't all bad for Democrats.
In Maryland, Wes Moore appeared on his way to making history as the state's first Black governor, declaring victory over Republican state legislator Dan Cox.
Moore told a crowd of supporters in Baltimore he had gathered enough votes to hand the governorship back to the Democrats after two terms of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Cox had not conceded by 11 p.m., but Hogan congratulated Moore in a phone call, The Baltimore Sun reported.
"What an amazing night and what an improbable journey," Moore said. "It's because you believed that I stand here humbled and grateful to become the 63rd governor of the state of Maryland."
In New York, incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul squeezed out a tight win over Republican state lawmaker Lee Zeldin, according to CBS News, ABC News and CNN.
Hochul was made governor in August 2021 after then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. She was viewed as the favorite to win Tuesday but polling had seen her lead slip in recent weeks against Zeldin, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
"Tonight, I want to speak directly to New Yorkers," she told supporters. "Tonight, you made your voices heard loud and clear. And you made me the first woman ever elected to be the governor of the state of New York. But I'm not here to make history. I'm here to make a difference."
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro secured the governor's residence that is to be left vacant by outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who had reached the two-term commonwealth limit.
Shapiro bested Republican Douglas Mastriano, who was present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when it was stormed by Trump supporters and is also an election denier.
Unofficial state results state Shapiro secured 54.8% of votes cast to Mastriano's 43.3%, with the race being called by NBC News, CNN and The Washington Post.
Shapiro told supporters as he was projected to win the governor's house that during the campaign he has done a lot of listening and learning from residents.
"And they basically all want the same thing," he said. "They want real opportunity for good schools, safe communities and an economy that just gives everybody a shot. No matter how different our commonwealth looks, no matter how different the terrain is, those are the basic that every single Pennsylvanian has a right to and I'm going to fight to deliver for."
Balloons and posters lie on the ground after Pennsylvania Republican candidate for Governor Doug Mastriano's Election Day watch party at the Penn Hill Hotel in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Trump-endorsed Mastriano was defeated by Josh Shapiro, a Democrat serving as the State Attorney General. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was projected to eke out a victory over Republican Tudor Dixon, a Trump-endorsed pro-life conservative media personality.
Dixon, who was relatively unknown prior to the start of her campaign, attempted to court votes from disgruntled Michiganders angry over COVID-19 lockdowns, which Whitmer implemented and backed.
She also ran on divisive social issues such as barring teachers from talking about sex and gender theory to students in Grade 3 and under as well as banning transgender athletes from school-sanctioned girls' sports.
Whitmer had campaigned against the novice politician by trumpeting her experience and vowing to fight for abortion rights.
Despite Whitmer being projected to win by NBC News, CBS News and CNN and others, Dixon has declared, "This race is not over yet."
"We expect counting to continue into tomorrow in our major counties," She said in a statement emailed to reporters late Tuesday. "This race has a long way to go."
The incumbent governor spoke to her supporters late Tuesday, and though she did not declare victory, she said, "we are feeling damn good about where we are headed."
"The prospect of leading this state for four more years is something for which we are incredibly grateful and excited about," she said.
And in Massachusetts, Democrat Maura Healey scored a historic victory, defeating Republican Geoff Diehl to become the nation's first openly lesbian governor.
Healey, the state's attorney general, waltzed to a decisive win over Diehl, according to projections by NBC News, ABC News and The New York Times.