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North Carolina Elects First Republican Governor in Two Decades

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- (NEW YORK) --  North Carolina elected a Republican governor for the first time in more than two decades Tuesday night.

GOP candidate Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who had been leading in local polls in the final days leading up to the election, defeated Democratic candidate Walter Dalton, the state's lieutenant governor. It's the first time North Carolina has elected a Republican governor since 1988.

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, who narrowly beat McCrory in 2008, served one term but was not seeking re-election.

North Carolina was a big target for Republicans in winning gubernatorial seats. The Republican Governors Association spent nearly $6 million in advertising buys to support McCrory and link Dalton to Perdue after a grand jury indicted one of Perdue's top aides for allegedly scheming to pay a staff member off the books in violation of state election laws.

Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst for Cook Political Report, a non-partisan election analyst group, said state Democrats made a mistake putting up Dalton against McCrory.

"Beverly Perdue was so unpopular she couldn't run for a second term," Duffy said. "It's easy to tag [Dalton] with everything she did, so Democrats kind of gave up on that one two or three weeks ago."

However, a big gubernatorial win for Democrats came in New Hampshire, one of three statehouse races that were considered toss-ups in the final days leading up to the election.

Democratic candidate Maggie Hassan, a former state Senate majority leader who had kept a slight lead in a tight race over the past few days, beat Republican challenger Ovide Lamontagne, despite the Republican Governors Association dumping a reportedly $6 million advertising buy into Lamontagne's campaign over the weekend.

Current New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat who has been in office for eight years, is retiring after his term.

It's an important win in the Democrats' column because New Hampshire, despite its meager four electoral votes, is considered a key battleground state in the presidential election. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney made last-minute campaign stops there before Election Day.

Eleven states are voting for governors Tuesday, and Republicans are aiming for a historic election night in statehouse races. The GOP now holds a total of 30 gubernatorial seats to the Democrats' 19. One state, Rhode Island, has an independent governor. If Republicans can grab four new seats, it will push their number to 33, the highest for the GOP in almost a century.

Six incumbent governors face re-election, four Democrats and two Republicans. Democrats grabbed the first two gubernatorial wins of the night with incumbent victories in Vermont and Delaware, two states that ABC News projects will also go to President Obama.

In those states, both of which were expected to remain blue, Democratic incumbents Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware and Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont were elected to second terms. In the presidential race, Obama picked up three electoral votes in each state.

But two Democratic incumbents, Jay Nixon of Missouri and Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia, both face serious Republican challenges.

If Nixon wins, he will be the first Missouri governor to be re-elected in 16 years. In West Virginia, Tomblin faces GOP challenger Bill Maloney, whom he narrowly defeated in a special election just last year after then-governor Joe Manchin won a seat to the Senate.

Jack Dalrymple, the Republican incumbent for North Dakota, cruised to a second term, and Utah's Gary Herbert, also a Republican incumbent, is expected to do the same.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio