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Republican Governors Celebrate Wins by Minority and Woman Candidates

South Carolina Governor-elect Nikki Haley, (left), Oklahoma Governor-elect Mary Fallin, center, and New Mexico Governor-elect Susana Martinez pose for a photo after a news conference at the Republican Governors Association meetings, 17 Nov 2010.

Republican state governors and governors-elect are celebrating their recent election victories, at the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

Republicans won a majority of seats in the House of Representative in the November 2 election. They also won governorships in the majority of states.

Oklahoma Governor-elect Mary Fallin, like other successful Republican candidates, ran on promises of smaller government. She says the first order of business will be balancing her state budget and invigorating the economy through spending cuts. She notes that Oklahoma, like many U.S. states, faces a budget deficit.

"I think Republicans have to be about the business that the electorate gave us to do, and that is to balance our budgets without raising taxes, to focus on restoring our economy, right-sizing government itself, and bringing back out states' rights as we look forward," Fallin said. "I think we have a two-year time window, basically until the 2012 elections, to prove ourselves."

Fallin is one of three new Republican woman governors. South Carolina governor-elect Nikki Haley is another. The Republican Party has its major support among white male voters and Haley - who is the daughter in Indian immigrants - is being cited as an example of her party's widening appeal. She is the second Indian American to win a governor's race, after Republican Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and she is the first Indian American woman governor.

Haley says that women can be effective in office.

"Women understand what it means to take care of their parents. They understand what it take care of their families. They understand what it means to run a business," she said. "And, they understand how to balance that at the same time."

Still, Haley says she appealed to voters, not as a woman, but based on her ideas of smaller government.

Republican officials point to two successful minority candidates in governor's races: Hispanics Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico. The Democrats have a solid base of support among Hispanics, especially in the Southwestern United States. But Republican Martinez, who is the first Hispanic woman governor, says she persuaded many Hispanics to vote for her.

"If you're willing to get out in those communities and just have conversations, they're willing to cross over. You may not get them to change parties, but they're willing to cross over and start voting for individuals," Martinez said.

These new Republican state leaders say that voters will be watching their performance leading up to the 2012 presidential election.