Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland defeated Democratic challenger Bill Curry Tuesday, becoming the first man in modern politics to serve three terms in the state’s highest office.

Rowland, who was heavily favored in the months leading up to the election, won by an estimated margin of 56 percent to 44 percent. His campaign rested on his past commitment to education — especially higher education — and creating jobs for the state.

In 1994, Rowland beat Curry by a mere 3 percentage points in an earlier battle for the statehouse.

This year again, Curry, who had called for property tax cuts as well as increased social services to Connecticut’s urban centers, could not succeed in swaying a largely Democratic state away from the stoic Republican.

“This is my last term and we’re going to make sure we maintain the momentum we’ve built up over the last eight years, and I’m really proud and honored to serve the people of this state,” said Rowland, who delivered his victory speech from the Hartford Hilton Hotel.

“Tomorrow we begin to lead, we begin to cooperate, and we begin to govern,” Rowland said.

Curry’s camp, who spent election night at the Polish National Home in Hartford, said the race brought key issues to the forefront of governmental and public attention.

“Obviously it’s disappointing,” said Annie Linsky, a Curry spokesman. “But we’ve been able to move some of our issues forward and bring them out into the light, and we’re proud of that.”

When asked what made the difference in this election, Letsky’s answer was quite simple.

“Money,” she said. “Connecticut was carpet-bombed by ads that were paid for by special interest groups. We were outspent 6-to-1.”

Curry’s future plans were not immediately apparent.

“He’s going to sleep in tomorrow morning. He’ll be working on his book,” Linsky said. “He’ll be measuring his many many options in the days and weeks to come.”

Students turned out in record numbers and seemed to vote for Curry for a variety of reasons: some valid, others indicative of widespread voter apathy.

“Rowland has been in control for eight years and I don’t think he’s done very much for the poor people and the environment,” Marina Spitkovskaya ’04 said. “Bill Curry seems very dedicated and enthusiastic.”

Christy Glass GRD ’05, a sociology student, claimed Curry was the lesser of two evils. When asked why she chose Curry, she responded, “Because there were no Green Party candidates.”

Concha Mendoza ’06, admitted she didn’t cast an informed vote.

“The only reason I voted for [Curry] was because he’s a Democrat,” Mendoza said with a tinge of hesitation in her voice.

One Silliman senior took a different approach, voting only for those elected offices where she felt sufficiently informed.

“I didn’t vote [for governor],” she said. “I just feel like I shouldn’t vote when I don’t know enough about the candidates for a position.”

Mark Parnell GRD ’04, a molecular biophysics and biochemistry graduate student, chose the winner.

“I’ve been here four years and I think he’s done a pretty good job,” he said, citing Rowland’s ambitious school construction campaign. “And I find Bill Curry somewhat annoying and a little bit sour.”

Campus “Get Out the Vote” organizers were pleased with the turnout, which they said was much greater than in years previous.

“The turnout today was incredible,” Shonu Gandhi ’03 said. “People are really thinking about the issues that are affecting New Haven. It’s fabulous.”

Gandhi is a staff columnist for the Yale Daily News.

Elsewhere, Georgia Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes fell to Republican Sonny Perdue in a close race, the first Republican elected governor in that state since Reconstruction.

Florida’s Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s older brother, held his seat by defeating Democrat Bill McBride, a Tampa lawyer who narrowly defeated former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in their primary.

In New York, Republican Gov. George Pataki ’67 won for a third time, defeating Democrat H. Carl McCall and Independent Andrew Cuomo, son of former governor Mario Cuomo.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was re-elected, defeating Democrat Tony Sanchez.

In Maryland, Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Ehrlich narrowly defeated longtime favorite Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend, shocking the Democratic establishment who supported Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter. Ehrlich is the first Republican governor in that state since Spiro Agnew, vice president under Richard Nixon.

Republican Tim Pawlenty will succeed Independent Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.