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Turning governor's mansions pink

With Sarah Palin behind her and with the latest Mason-Dixon poll showing her ahead, it’s a safe bet that former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) will qualify for the run-off after the state's seven-way GOP gubernatorial primary tomorrow.

And if she wins the run-off, and then wins the general election in November, Handel would become Georgia's first female governor. But it wouldn't be the only thing she might add to the history books.

Come 2011, Handel could very well be part of a group of female governors who could tie -- or even break -- the previous record of nine women residing in governor's mansions simultaneously (which was set in 2004 and again in 2007).

Next year, three female governors are certain. North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) aren’t up for re-election until 2012. Then one woman -- either Democratic nominee Diane Denish or Republican nominee Susana Martinez -- is guaranteed to be the next governor of New Mexico.

Nikki Haley (R) in South Carolina is the clear favorite, as is Mary Fallin (R) in Oklahoma. That gets us to five pink governor’s mansions. Analysts say re-election for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is probable as well -- that makes six.

Alex Sink (D) in Florida and Meg Whitman (R) in California, both competing in toss-up contests, are a possible Nos. 7 and 8. Handel could be nine. And several other candidates could make Nos. 10, 11, and beyond. There’s Libby Mitchell (D) in Maine; Deb Markowitz (D) and Susan Bartlett (D) in Vermont; and Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D) in Minnesota.

Other women running for governor -- though they're underdogs in their races -- include Joan Heffington (R) in Kansas; Karen Testerman (R) in New Hampshire; Rita Meyer (R) and Leslie Peterson (D) in Wyoming; and Jari Askins (D) in Oklahoma.