Hill Incumbents Hold On in Tuesday’s Primaries

Posted May 7, 2008 at 6:17pm

Congressional incumbents won their respective primaries by comfortable margins in Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday night, though Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) had a much closer call than expected.

Burton staved off his primary opponent, former Marion County Coroner John McGoff, by 7 points, 52 percent to 45 percent. Recent polls had shown Burton with a much more substantial lead.

“We ran against a very, very tough opponent,” Burton told The Indianapolis Star. “It was a very tough race.”

The Indianapolis-area 5th district is one of the most Republican-leaning districts in the state, and Burton is now expected to cruise to a 14th term. But McGoff has clearly established himself as a rising star in the district and could be at the front of what is likely to be a very crowded Republican line whenever Burton decides to retire.

Meanwhile, newly minted Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), who recently won the special election to fill out the term of his grandmother, the late Rep. Julia Carson (D), defeated three primary challengers, including one Hoosier State Democrat who put $1.8 million of his own money into his short campaign. Carson took 41 percent while the self-funder, former state Health Commissioner Woody Myers, had 24 percent. State Rep. David Orentlicher was a close third with 21 percent.

As the incumbent, Carson had the backing of local and national party organizations. He will face state Rep. Jon Elrod (R), whom he defeated in the March special election, this November. Assuming he gets through that race, Carson should have a long tenure in Congress.

In North Carolina, Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (R) and Patrick McHenry (R) beat back primary challengers.

Jones, who has angered conservative Republicans with his vocal opposition to the Iraq War, defeated Onslow County Commissioner Joe McLaughlin (R), 60 percent to 40 percent. Political observers initially believed that McLaughlin could gain some traction in a GOP primary, but he never raised much money and did not attract the support of key conservative groups.

McHenry weathered an April surge by his primary challenger, retired Judge Advocate General Lance Sigmon (R), but still beat him by a 2-1 margin.

In another significant North Carolina House primary, Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower (R) defeated Henderson County Republican Party Chairman Spence Campbell for the right to take on freshman Rep. Heath Shuler (D) in November. Although the 11th district is quite conservative, Shuler is the heavy favorite for now.

State Sen. Kay Hagan (D) easily locked up her party’s nomination for a chance at Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) this fall. Dole is favored to win a second term, but some Democrats believe Hagan is a sleeper candidate who can make the race very close.