Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s Republican governor, trailing by only a few thousand votes in one of the country’s most volatile and expensive races, said early Wednesday that he would not concede the contest until at least Nov. 18, after votes are scrutinized county by county.
“The democratic process is going to proceed in North Carolina for a while,” Mr. McCrory said, on the same night that his Democratic rival, Attorney General Roy Cooper, declared victory. The State Board of Elections reported early Wednesday that, with all of North Carolina’s precincts reporting, Mr. Cooper led Mr. McCrory by fewer than 5,000 votes out of more than 4.6 million that were cast.
The North Carolina contest had been one of only a few governor’s races where existing Republican control was considered to be in jeopardy. Mr. McCrory, battered by his support for a law that curbed transgender rights and the subsequent fallout, struggled, even as Donald J. Trump won the state handily.
Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said that all counties would begin reviewing thousands of provisional ballots between now and Nov. 18, the date that all counties must canvass, or certify, their vote counts. At that time, if the trailing candidate is within 10,000 votes, he may ask for a recount under North Carolina law.
In North Carolina and 11 other races for governor’s offices and in more than 5,900 for state legislative seats, Democrats had hoped on Tuesday to take back some of the vast ground they have lost to Republicans over the last half dozen years as they swept through state capitals. Yet, regardless of the eventual outcome in North Carolina, it appeared that Republicans actually made at least some additional gains, including two governor’s offices, in Missouri and Vermont, and in state Legislatures in Kentucky and Iowa.
In Missouri, Eric Greitens, a former member of the Navy SEALs, won the governor’s office, turning over control of the seat to Republicans and easing the way, Missouri Republicans say, for more conservative legislation to clear the state capital.
Mr. Greitens, who has portrayed himself as an outsider whose lack of political experience should be viewed as a benefit, beat Chris Koster, the state’s Democratic attorney general, who has decades of experience in Missouri politics. Mr. Koster’s current brand of politics — as a conservative Democrat — had proven successful in past statewide elections in Missouri.
The incumbent, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who was barred by term limits from running again, had been viewed as a check on the state’s Republican-held legislature and its efforts to pass measures such as legislation barring unions from collecting fees from all workers.
And in Vermont, the Democrats lost another governor’s office they had held, when Phil Scott, the Republican lieutenant governor, won. He beat Sue Minter, a Democrat and a former state transportation secretary, in a tight contest to succeed Peter Shumlin, a Democrat who did not seek re-election. “We’re going to make the economy and affordability Montpelier’s top priorities,” Mr. Scott said, declaring victory late on Tuesday.
While an unusually large portion of the governor’s seats were open, the result of term limits and candidates who chose to seek other offices, many of the seats did not change partisan hands.
In Indiana, where Eric Holcomb was the Republicans’ replacement to run for governor instead of Mike Pence, Mr. Holcomb was elected on Tuesday, overcoming his late arrival to the race, his relative obscurity statewide and a significant challenge from a Democrat.
A victory for Mr. Holcomb helps seal Republicans’ continued control of Indianapolis, where in recent years the state’s political leaders have approved a series of conservative measures, including provisions that restricted abortion and lessened union power.
Mr. Holcomb, a former state party chairman who had been appointed Indiana’s lieutenant governor only this year, defeated John Gregg, a Democrat who struck a conciliatory tone on Tuesday night. “So much is divided in our nation and divided in our state,” Mr. Gregg told a crowd of Democrats who gathered in downtown Indianapolis and saw one candidate after another lose. Mr. Gregg urged his supporters to make Tuesday’s defeat “a point where the healing begins, where we all move closer together, where we begin to move forward as one.”
Democrats held on to at least one governor’s seat that had been seen as up for grabs. West Virginia voters, looking past their state’s diminished economy and their gradual embrace of the Republican Party, elected a Democrat, Jim Justice, as governor on Tuesday. Democrats have remained in the governor’s mansion since 2001.
Mr. Justice, a mining executive and the owner of the Greenbrier resort, defeated Bill Cole, the president of the State Senate. He will inherit a state with a 5.8 percent unemployment rate, one of the country’s highest.
President Obama, who has seen 800 Democratic state lawmakers voted out during his time in office, stepped in this time with his largest effort yet to help local Democrats, directly assisting more than 150 state legislative candidates. Democratic leaders were hopeful that a strong showing at the presidential level might translate into gains all the way down the ballot, even in state congressional races. But Democrats had a steep climb given Republican successes in recent years.
From 2010 on, Republicans have swept into statehouses across the nation. By this year, Republicans effectively controlled 68 state legislative chambers — more than the party has ever held. By Election Day, the Republicans held 31 of 50 governorships, and full dominance over chambers as well as governor’s offices in at least 22 state capitals. Before 2010, they had full control of only nine state capitals and 36 legislative chambers.
The fate of the statehouses has huge stakes because so much has taken place in them in recent years. The dominance of Republicans has freed many states to take a significant turn to the right on several issues, even as a divided federal government in Washington finds itself gnarled in gridlock. Republican-led states passed hundreds of laws restricting abortion, while others worked to tighten voter identification laws. Republicans have also controlled the redrawing of political maps in some states, making it more difficult for Democrats to win elections.
In North Dakota, voters opted to continue the state’s streak of Republican governors, electing Doug Burgum to succeed Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who did not seek another term. Republicans have controlled the governor’s office in North Dakota since 1992.
In Utah, voters backed a second full term for Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican who became the state’s top elected official after the resignation of Jon Huntsman. Mr. Herbert’s victory was never in much doubt in Utah, a reliably conservative state where he won 68 percent of the vote four years ago.
In Democratic-leaning Delaware, John Carney, a Democratic member of the United States House, won the race for governor, as was widely expected there.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a Democrat, was elected to a second term, defeating Bill Bryant four years after he edged into power.
And in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown won a special election and will finish a term that will end in 2019. Ms. Brown, a Democrat, became governor last year after an ethics scandal prompted the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat. Ms. Brown easily defeated four other candidates, including Bud Pierce, the Republican nominee.
But the state legislative contests had potential to have a still wider effect on policy across the country. At least 20 chambers were seen as highly competitive in the election, and a majority of those are now controlled by Republicans.
Republicans hoped to hold control and extend their reach in places like Iowa, where they succeeded in taking over the state Senate on Tuesday. They also seized control of Kentucky’s House of Representatives, which Democrats have held since 1922. The chamber was the last in the South that Democrats led, and it had been a firewall for the party in Kentucky, where Republicans have won significant victories in recent years.