Factbox: Top races for state governors

LOS ANGELES (BestGrowthStock) – Republicans appear headed for big gains in state governors’ races on November 2, dealing President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats a blow that could echo through next year’s once-a-decade redrawing of congressional district boundaries and the 2012 U.S. presidential race.

Republicans are expected to win a majority of the governorships at stake in 37 of the 50 U.S. states.

Democrats, battling a difficult political climate and historic voting patterns that inflict losses on the party in the White House, hope to capture Republican-held governorships in big battlegrounds like California, Florida and perhaps even Texas.

Here is a look at some of the top governors’ races.

CALIFORNIA – Democrat Jerry Brown, a former governor and a fixture in state politics for decades, holds a 13 percentage point poll lead over Republican Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, in the race to replace Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whitman has been on the defensive over reports that she hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper, but Brown had to answer questions about an aide caught on tape calling Whitman a “whore.”

FLORIDA – Wealthy conservative Rick Scott has poured his own money into a tight race with Democrat Alex Sink, flooding the airwaves with ads. Scott has had to answer questions about his leadership of Columbia/HCA, a hospital chain that paid $1.7 billion in fines to settle the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. Scott, who was never charged in the case, has branded Sink an Obama liberal who oversaw huge losses in Florida’s pension fund as the state’s chief financial officer.

OHIO – Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland has closed the gap in polls on Republican John Kasich, a former U.S. congressman. Strickland has slammed Kasich’s for his work on Wall Street and accuses Kasich of supporting policies that would shift U.S. jobs overseas. Kasich has attacked Strickland’s stewardship of Ohio’s struggling state economy.

TEXAS – Incumbent Republican Rick Perry has opened a slight lead on Democrat Bill White in a heavily Republican state that will play a crucial role in the redrawing of congressional district boundaries that begins next year. Texas is projected to gain four congressional seats in redistricting, the most in the country and a potential windfall for the party that controls the process.

ILLINOIS – Democrat Pat Quinn, who took over when former Governor Rod Blagojevich was removed from office, has struggled to overcome the state’s struggling economy and the stain left by his predecessor. Republican Bill Brady has led polls in the heavily Democratic state although Quinn has made recent gains.

RHODE ISLAND – Former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, making an independent bid for governor in perhaps the most heavily Democratic state in the nation, is in a tight four-way race. Chafee has been hammered by his chief rival, Democrat Frank Caprio, over his plan for a 1 percent sales tax on currently exempt items.

(Reporting by John Whitesides in Washington, additional reporting by Tom Brown in Miami; editing by Will Dunham and Sandra Maler)

Factbox: Top races for state governors