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Plurality in Gubernatorial Elections

From 1946-2012, 108 of the 986 gubernatorial elections nationwide - 11 percent - were won with less than 50 percent of the vote. No general election was won with less than 35 percent of the vote. The following is the list of every general election over that span won with less than a majority of votes cast, with the state, year, elected winner and winning percentage.

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Plurality Gubernatorial Races 1946-2012 (106 total)





35.0-39.9% (14)


State Year Winner Winning %
Rhode Island
2010 Lincoln Chafee 36.10%
Maine 2010 Paul LePage 38.20%
Maine 2006 John Baldacci
38.11%
Texas 2006 Rick Perry
39.03%
Minnesota 1998 Jesse Ventura 36.99%
Maine 1994 Angus King
35.40%
Connecticut 1994 John G. Rowland 36.20%
Hawaii 1994 Benjamin J. Cayetano
36.60%
Alaska 1990 Walter J. Hickel 38.90%
Arizona 1986 Evan Mecham
39.70%
Maine
1986 John R. McKernan Jr.
39.90%
Alaska 1978 Jay S. Hammond 39.10%
Maine
1974
James B. Longley
39.10%
Utah 1956 George D. Clyde 38.20%




40.0-44.9% (11)


State Year Winner Winning %
Minnesota 2010 Mark Dayton 43.70%
Oklahoma 2002 Brad Henry
43.27%
Minnesota 2002 Tim Pawlenty 44.37%
Vermont* 2002 Jim Douglas 44.94%
Alaska 1994 Tony Knowles
41.10%
Utah 1992 Michael O. Leavitt 42.20%
Connecticut
1990 Lowell P. Weicker Jr. 40.40%
Utah 1988 Norman H. Bangerter
40.10%
New Hampshire
1972 Meldrim Thomson Jr.
41.40%
Idaho 1966 Don Samuelson
41.40%
New York
1966
Nelson A. Rockefeller
44.60%
       




45.0-49.9% (83)


State Year Winner Winning %
Indiana 2012 Mike Pence 49.59%
Montana 2012 Steve Bullock 49.03%
West Virginia
2011 Earl Ray Tomblin
49.60%
Illinois
2010 Patrick J. Quinn
46.80%
Massachusetts 2010 Deval Patrick
48.50%
Florida 2010 Rick Scott
48.90%
Ohio 2010 John Kasich
49.00%
Oregon 2010 John Kitzhaber
49.40%
Connecticut 2010 Dan Malloy
49.50%
Vermont* 2010 Peter Shumlin 49.60%
New Jersey
2009 Chris Christie
48.46%
Minnesota 2006 Tim Pawlenty
46.69%
Nevada 2006 Jim Gibbons
47.93%
Alaska 2006 Sarah Palin
48.33%
Illinois 2006 Rod Blagojevich
49.80%
Washington 2004 Christine Gregoire
48.87%
California
2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger
48.58%
Wisconsin 2002 Jim Doyle
45.09%
Maine 2002 John Baldacci
47.15%
California 2002 Gray Davis
47.26%
Arizona 2002 Janet Napolitano
48.74%
Oregon 2002 Ted Kulongoski
49.03%
Alabama 2002 Bob Riley
49.17%
New York
2002 George Pataki
49.40%
Massachusetts 2002 Mitt Romney
49.77%
Wyoming 2002 Dave Freudenthal
49.96%
New Hampshire
2000 Jeanne Shaheen
48.74%
Missouri 2000 Bob Holden
49.12%
Mississippi* 1999 Ronnie Musgrove 49.62%
Colorado
1998 Bill Owens
49.06%
New Jersey
1997 Christine Todd Whitman
46.90%
Pennsylvania 1994 Tom Ridge
45.40%
Oklahoma 1994 Frank Keating
46.90%
Rhode Island
1994 Lincoln C. Almond
47.40%
New York
1994 George Pataki
48.80%
New Mexico
1994 Gary E. Johnson
49.80%
New Jersey
1993 Christine Todd Whitman
49.30%
Oregon 1990 Barbara Roberts
45.70%
Maine 1990 John R. McKernan Jr.
46.70%
Kansas 1990 Joan Finney
48.60%
California 1990 Pete Wilson
49.20%
Texas 1990 Ann W. Richards 49.50%
Arizona 1990 Fife Symington
49.60%
Minnesota 1990 Arne Carlson
49.60%
Michigan 1990 John Engler
49.80%
Nebraska 1990 Ben Nelson
49.90%
Alaska 1986 Steve C. Cowper
47.30%
Oklahoma 1986 Henry L. Bellmon
47.50%
Idaho 1986 Cecil D. Andrus
49.90%
Hawaii 1982 George Ariyoshi
45.20%
Alaska 1982 Bill Sheffield
46.10%
California 1982 George Deukmejian
49.30%
Illinois 1982 James R. Thompson
49.40%
New Jersey
1981 Thomas H. Kean
49.50%
Maine 1978 Joseph E. Brennan
47.70%
Ohio 1978 James A. Rhodes
49.30%
Kansas 1978 John Carlin
49.40%
New Hampshire
1978 Hugh J. Gallen
49.40%
Texas 1978 William P. Clements
49.96%
Alaska 1974 Jay S. Hammond
47.70%
Ohio 1974 James A. Rhodes
48.60%
Kansas 1974 Robert F. Bennett
49.50%
New Mexico
1974 Jerry Apodaca
49.90%
Texas 1972 Dolph Briscoe
47.90%
New Hampshire
1970 Walter Peterson
46.00%
Nevada 1970 Mike O'Callaghan
48.10%
Oklahoma 1970 David Hall
48.40%
Georgia** 1966 Lester Maddox 47.40%
Maryland 1966 Spiro T. Agnew
49.50%
Alaska 1966 Walter J. Hickel 49.997%
Virginia 1965 Mills E. Godwin Jr. 47.90%
Minnesota 1962 Karl F. Rolvaag 49.70%
Massachusetts 1962 Endicott Peabody 49.90%
North Dakota 1960 William L. Guy 49.40%
Wyoming 1958 J. J. Hickey 48.90%
Connecticut 1954 Abraham A. Ribicoff 49.50%
New York 1954 Averell Harriman 49.60%
Massachusetts 1952 Christian A. Herter 49.90%
Michigan 1952 G. Mennen Williams 49.96%
Connecticut 1950 John D. Lodge 49.70%
Michigan 1950 G. Mennen Williams 49.80%
Connecticut 1948 Chester Bowles 49.30%

*Denotes an election where the candidate with a plurality was chosen by the state legislature, due to state laws that require a majority win.

**In 1966, Georgia's state legislature, given the power to choose the governor when no candidate won a majority, selected the gubernatorial candidate with the second most votes.

NOTE: Some states have used a blanket primary system for the governor's race, which is designed to ensure a majority win. Unless one candidate takes more than 50% of the vote in the first round, the top two candidates who receive the most votes advance to a runoff. Louisiana has used this system since 1977, though in 1987, gubernatorial candidate Edwin Edwards withdrew after winning the right to a runoff against Buddy Roemer. With only one candidate in the runoff, the state did not hold a second round of voting, and Roemer became governor without winning a majority of the vote.