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Voters in 11 states to pick governors in '08

Republicans and Democrats are raising record sums. Some firms give to both.

The major parties are raising record amounts of cash as they prepare for gubernatorial campaign showdowns in 11 states next year.

Republicans and Democrats both say 2007 was a lucrative start to the four-year fund-raising cycle that helps determine which party controls governors' mansions throughout the country.

Governors have enormous influence over how Americans live, particularly in areas such as health care and schools. Control of the governors' offices also plays a crucial role in presidential elections. Governors can rally support for a candidate and energize a party's get-out-the-vote machinery.

The Democratic Governors Association raised $5.3 million through June, according to its midyear IRS filing, and is on track to break $9.3 million, the previous record for the first year of the cycle.

The Republican Governors Association raised $12 million through June and expects easily to top its previous record of $15 million. Final tallies won't be available until the end of next month.

Democratic governors have a 28-22 edge nationally, having regained a majority last year after 12 years of GOP dominance. This year, they lost a seat in Louisiana but retook the governor's mansion in Kentucky.

The gubernatorial seats up for election in 2008 are in Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington state and West Virginia.

Republican governors still have the financial edge. They are quick to point out that's the opposite of what's happening in Washington.

For example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose candidates control the House, raised $61 million this year. The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $43 million during the same time.

Both governors' associations are pulling in contributions from some of the same deep-pocketed companies, a review of IRS reports shows.

"We're a bipartisan company. We partner with elected officials from both sides of the aisle," said David Tovar, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, which gave $100,000 to both groups this year.

Many of the issues important to governors, such as the cost of health care, also matter to Wal-Mart, he said.

Health care is also a top issue for the Service Employees International Union, the country's fastest-growing union, which also gave $100,000 to both governors' associations this year.

"Governors can often have the greatest impact on workers' ability to have a voice on the job," said SEIU spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller.

Other companies donating $100,000 to both governors' groups in 2007 include AT&T Inc., Union Pacific, American Electric Power Co., and Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Drug makers are also courting both parties, with companies such as Merck & Co. and AstraZeneca P.L.C. contributing $50,000 to each group.

Corporations understand that laws passed in states can have as much effect on a multinational company as those enacted in Washington. Giving to both groups is a way to hedge companies' political bets.

Said Rachel Weiss, spokeswoman for the National Institute on Money in State Politics: "If the end goal is having some voice in what comes out of the legislative process, certainly you don't want to slam the door shut completely."