Election results varied from state to state, but the overall voice of the people that year -- the great Tea Party midterm -- was calling for a more limited and less intrusive government.
So which of those new governors have delivered in their first term? There are many different ways to measure, so this is just one:
Which of the newly elected 2010 governors have since taking office actually reduced the size of their state bureaucracy?
Despite hard economic times that have hit state budgets, only half of them have. And there are some surprising names among those who did.
The governors who downsized in hard times — some of whom are liberal Democrats — deserve credit for defying a political law of gravity.
Here are the five freshman governors elected in 2010 who cut state payrolls the most as a percentage of state workforce, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
He eliminated vacant positions, offered buyouts to state employees, and consolidated numerous agencies.
He also laid off some recently hired employees, criticizing his predecessor for making unsustainable new hires with one-time stimulus funds.
As of November 2013, his state government was about 5,100 bodies leaner. Kansas has shed its long-term budget deficits, while at the same time eliminating taxes on small business income.
Kansas now has about one state employee for every 55 residents, down from one for every 50 when Brownback took office.
2. Maine: Colorful Republican Gov. Paul LePage campaigned against a state government he called “bloated” in 2010.
And he's reduced its size in the years since, according to BLS figures. In a small state like Maine, a reduction of just 2,200 employees makes a big difference.
Maine now has one state employee for every 52 residents, which is not bad for a small state in which there are fewer economies of scale.
3. Alabama: Republican Gov. Bob Bentley promised to save $1 billion by the end of his first term with a plan that involved “right-sizing” Alabama’s government workforce through attrition.
He got it done a year early. So far, the BLS data shows that Bentley has shed about 8,100 state workers. Alabama is still well-staffed with one state employee for every 47 residents.
4. Florida: In 2010, Republican candidate Rick Scott promised to reduce the state government's workforce by 5 percent.
Florida now has one employee for every 94 residents — the lowest staffing level the state has seen in at least 16 years.
5. New York: Oh, yes, liberal Democrats can trim state government payrolls, too -- at least sometimes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also cut his own salary by 5 percent as he demanded pension concessions from state government workers.
Cuomo also reduced his state's payrolls by about 8,300 slots, according to BLS data, through a plan that mostly relied on attrition. New York now has one state employee for every 77 residents.
The next five governors with the most reductions in state workforces include: Georgia Republican Nathan Deal (2.83 percent), California Democrat Jerry Brown (2.77 percent), Tennessee Republican Bill Haslam (2.46 percent), Hawaii Democrat Neil Abercrombie (1.68 percent), and Ohio Republican John Kasich (0.31 percent).
Public employee unions opposed the reductions in all 10 states.
A version of this post first appeared at ConservativeIntel.com.
David Freddoso is editor of Conservative Intelligence Briefing.