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Republicans Win Key Victories in US Gubernatorial Races

Republican candidates have gained victories in two U.S. southern states, winning the races for state governor in Kentucky and Mississippi.

In Kentucky, three-term Republican Congressman Ernie Fletcher, easily defeated Democratic State Attorney General Ben Chandler. Both men were seeking to replace Democratic Governor Paul Patton who left office under a cloud of scandal, after admitting he committed adultery.

Mr. Fletcher, who is also a medical doctor and a pilot, received 55 percent of the vote to Mr. Chandler's 45 percent to become the first Republican governor of Kentucky in 32 years. He said he would work with all Kentuckians while in office.

"We will take the mandate tonight and move this state forward," he said. "It is going to take more than one person to do that. It is going to require all of your help and a great team that we bring together."

In Mississippi, former Republican Party National Chairman Haley Barbour defeated Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove. Before the balloting, the race had been termed too close to call, but Mr. Barbour received at least 53 percent of the vote to Mr. Musgrove's 45 percent. Mr. Barbour said he would move quickly to try and solve Mississippi's economic problems and lower a huge state budget deficit.

"Mississippi has some serious problems to address and solve, but we do not have any problems we cannot solve if we work together," he said.

Republicans called both victories a win for President Bush, who visited Kentucky and Mississippi to help the Republican candidates. Democrats say their losses are due to anti-incumbency sentiment in both states.

In another closely watched race, Philadelphia's African-American Mayor John Street easily won re-election.

Mr. Street's candidacy was given a boost after it was revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had bugged his office in a corruption probe, angering many of his supporters who turned out in larger-than-expected numbers to show their backing for the embattled mayor.

Only state and local offices were involved in this year's off-year elections which did not have any effect on the balance of power in Congress or the White House. Elections for Congress and the U.S. Senate are held on even years and presidential elections are scheduled for next year.