Something to Cheer About

Both Parties Upbeat After Biggest Day of Primaries

Posted June 4, 2008 at 5:56pm

Both parties had something to crow about following Tuesday’s Congressional primaries, the busiest day on the calendar for House and Senate races so far this year.

Voters chose nominees for six Senate seats and 81 House seats — two Alabama House contests have Republican runoffs on July 15 — including nominees for what are sure to be some of the most competitive races of the general election.

House Republican strategists were happy that their strongest possible candidates emerged in several hard-fought primaries, including those in New Jersey’s 3rd and 7th districts (for more details, see story below) and

in New Mexico’s 1st and 2nd districts. (See story, p. 9.)

And they argued that with his big victory margin in a bitter primary win over former Rep. Doug Ose (R), California state Sen. Tom McClintock (R) should be in good shape as he battles Air Force veteran Charlie Brown (D) in the race to replace retiring Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.).

But Democrats could point to New Mexico as a place where the primaries helped them.

Their strongest possible nominees emerged in the 1st and 2nd district primaries, and in the Land of Enchantment Senate race, some pundits believe that Rep. Steve Pearce (R) will be a slightly weaker candidate in the general election against Rep. Tom Udall (D) than the woman he defeated in Tuesday’s primary, Rep. Heather Wilson (R).

In two competitive Alabama House districts, Democrats got the nominees they wanted while Republicans face runoffs. Here is a wrap-up of results in all seven states that held primaries Tuesday:

Alabama

State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures won the Democratic primary for the right to take on Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) in November, but he is the prohibitive favorite.

In the crowded 2nd district Republican primary, state Rep. Jay Love will head to a runoff with state Sen. Harri Anne Smith after no candidate was able to achieve the majority of votes necessary to secure the nomination.

The southwest Alabama district was not expected to be competitive at the beginning of this cycle, but Republican Rep. Terry Everett’s retirement, combined with the strong Democratic recruiting efforts that brought Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright into the race, have given Democrats an unexpected opportunity in what had been a safe Republican seat. With a 29 percent black population and Bright’s ties to both Montgomery and the rural southeast “wiregrass” area of the district, where he grew up, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has high hopes for flipping the 2nd district this cycle.

In the Huntsville-based 5th district, the Republican race is also headed to a runoff, though just barely.

With 18,512 votes (according to unofficial results), commercial insurance broker Wayne Parker was fewer than 500 votes shy of locking up the Republican nomination outright on Tuesday. Parker, who was the GOP nominee against retiring Rep. Bud Cramer (D) twice in the mid-1990s, will now compete in a July runoff against attorney Cheryl Baswell Guthrie (R), who earned 6,941 votes Tuesday.

The eventual Republican nominee will face state Sen. Parker Griffith (D) in November. Griffith, who was endorsed by Cramer in early April, earned 90 percent of the vote in his primary race. With 34,541 votes, Parker also earned the distinction of winning more raw votes than any Alabama Congressional candidate on the ballot Tuesday.

California

Although the Golden State had far and away the greatest number of Congressional primaries, only two were of consequence: McClintock’s victory over Ose in the 4th district and Marine Reservist Duncan D. Hunter’s resounding victory in the 52nd district Republican primary. Hunter is now the overwhelming favorite to replace his father, retiring Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), in the next Congress.

Iowa

As recently as three cycles ago, the Hawkeye State had some of the most competitive Congressional races in the nation. But this November should be very quiet.

Little-known businessman Christopher Reed narrowly won the Republican primary for the right to take on Sen. Tom Harkin (D), who will be heavily favored to win a fifth term. In the 3rd district Democratic primary, Rep. Leonard Boswell won an easier-than-expected victory over former state Rep. Ed Fallon.

Montana

Bob Kelleher, an 85-year-old lawyer who has run for political office more than 15 times, somehow emerged as the Republican nominee to take on entrenched Sen. Max Baucus (D) in the fall, defeating a rancher and a state legislator.

Another frequent candidate, former state Public Service Commissioner John Driscoll, who raised no money whatsoever, won an upset victory in the Democratic House primary and will run against Rep. Denny Rehberg (R).

New Jersey

Sen. Frank Lautenberg soundly defeated Rep. Robert Andrews in the bitter Senate Democratic primary.

Though his loss was larger than expected — 61 percent to 34 percent — Andrews said in his concession speech that he had no regrets about pursuing his longtime statewide ambitions.

In the highly charged Democratic nomination fight, most of the Democratic establishment in Washington, D.C., and New Jersey stuck by Lautenberg and railed against Andrews and the surprise challenge he launched eight weeks ago. Andrews had hoped to rally enough support in his southern base and pick up pockets of support in northern New Jersey to overcome Lautenberg.

Lautenberg will be heavily favored in November over former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R).

Meanwhile, in a lively Democratic primary battle, Dennis Shulman, a Harvard-educated psychologist and ordained rabbi who has been blind since he was a teenager, earned the right Tuesday to challenge Rep. Scott Garrett (R) in November.

Shulman, who proved to be a strong fundraiser during the primary, took 61 percent while attorney and community activist Camille Abate took 32 percent and businessman Roger Bacon took just 7 percent.

The northern New Jersey 5th district doesn’t offer the same opportunity that Democrats have in the two open-seat battles taking place in central and southern New Jersey, but the district does include several liberal communities and Democrats say that the district is tilting in their favor.

New Mexico

The Land of Enchantment will have a completely new Congressional delegation in 2009. In addition to the Pearce-Udall Senate contest, the 1st district House race between former Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich (D) and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White (R) is a pure tossup. In the 3rd district, Public Utility Commissioner Ben Ray Lujan (D) is the overwhelming favorite to replace Udall.

South Dakota

State Rep. Joel Dykstra won the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday and will face Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in the fall. Also in the Coyote State, businessman Chris Lien won the House at-large GOP primary and will face Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D).

Despite the Republican lean of the state, both Democratic incumbents are heavily favored.