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Former Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai won his first term as governor of Chiba Prefecture on Sunday, easily defeating seven other candidates.

This was the first Chiba gubernatorial election in 12 years that did not involve an incumbent. Current Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita, who is in his third four-year term, had announced a decision to retire. His current term is set to end in early April.

During his campaign, Kumagai, 43, pledged to enhance measures in response to the coronavirus crisis, such as increasing hospital beds and ramping up testing, and improve disaster management.

He obtained broad-based support, including from the Chiba prefectural chapters of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai, the Democratic Party for the People and the Social Democratic Party, all opposition parties in national politics, and some lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito.

Kumagai garnered 1,409,496 votes, or about 70% of all votes cast.

Kumagai quit as mayor of the city of Chiba earlier this month in order to run in the gubernatorial election. He was elected Chiba mayor for the first time in June 2009, after working for a company and as a member of the Chiba Municipal Assembly.

The other seven candidates were Masayuki Seki, 41, a former member of the Chiba prefectural assembly; 57-year-old former prep school teacher Rie Kanamitsu; Teruki Goto, 38, who runs his own business; 71-year-old doctor Kenichiro Kato; Shinichiro Minagawa, 66, former principal of a Chiba prefectural high school; Masayuki Hiratsuka, 39, who heads a political group; and 40-year-old corporate manager Yusuke Kawai.

Among them, Seki, who was supported by the LDP, vowed to take over Morita’s policies and introduce free school lunches, but he struggled due to his low name recognition.

Kanamitsu, backed by the Japanese Communist Party, called for the promotion of gender equality, but she ended up failing to attract broad support.

Seki finished second, with 384,723 votes, and Kanamitsu third, with 122,932 votes.

Voter turnout stood at 38.99%, up from 31.18% in the previous Chiba gubernatorial election.

In a Chiba mayoral election held the same day following the resignation of Kumagai, Shunichi Kamiya, former deputy mayor of the city, beat two other candidates to win his first term in the post.

Drawing support from Chiba city assembly members of the LDP, the CDP and Komeito, Kamiya, 47, played up his track record of aiding the city administration led by Kumagai.

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