By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – Democrats won governorships in Massachusetts and Maryland with historic candidates on Tuesday, while Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis cruised to re-election in Florida, Edison Research projected.
In Massachusetts, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey became the first woman to ascend to the state’s highest office. She will also be the country’s first openly lesbian governor.
In Maryland, a state where 31% of the population is black, Democrat Wes Moore became the state’s first African-American to win the election for governor.
DeSantis, who won the office by less than half a percentage point four years ago, was ahead of Democratic challenger Charlie Crist by 19 percentage points with 92 percent of the vote counted.
DeSantis, 44, is now expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. That likelihood has already drawn the ire of former Republican President Donald Trump, 76, who has nicknamed him “Ron De-Sanctimonious.”
Trump has said he would make a major announcement next Tuesday, when he is expected to declare his candidacy.
A total of 36 states will choose a chief executive in US midterm elections on Tuesday, with the future of abortion rights and Democratic elections up for grabs in competitive elections across the country.
The high stakes brought more money and attention to statewide races, which are typically overshadowed in midterm elections by the battle for control of Congress.
Elsewhere in the country, Democrats are fighting to retain control of governorships in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to retain the power to veto any legislation from Republican-controlled legislatures that could curb abortion rights and access to vote.
Republican victories in these presidential battleground states and Arizona could have implications for the 2024 White House election. The party’s candidates have bought into Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
In Arizona, which has one of the closest gubernatorial races in the country, Trump-backed candidate Kari Lake has repeated her claims about voter fraud and said she would not have certified President Joe Biden’s victory in this been
His opponent is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who rose to national prominence in 2020 when she championed Arizona’s electoral victory for Biden.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, Calif.; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Howard Goller and Aurora Ellis)