Gizzi on Politics: June 9-13

The Other Primaries

(As has been the case on other major primary days, press attention on the contests June 3 for Senate and House nominations in several states was dwarfed by that given to the final Democratic presidential nomination battles.  But, for conservatives, there were many other significant contests. . .

Alabama: Republican Run-Offs

It wasn’t very long ago that Alabama Democrats had the heated primaries followed by tough run-offs while Republicans had few choices in picking their candidates. 

 But now, Alabama Democrats often settle on their nominees quickly and Republicans have the protracted races and run-offs.  This is what happened last week for  the two open U.S. House seats in the Yellowhammer State. 

In the 2nd District (Montgomery), where Republican Rep. Terry Everett is retiring after 16 years, the easy Democratic primary victor was Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright.  Two conservative Republican legislators topped the four GOP candidate field—State Rep. Jay Love (34%) an State Sen. Harri Anne Smith (22%)—and will meet in a run-off July 15 

In the 5thDistrict held by retiring Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer, Democrats settled on moderate State Sen. Parker Griffith as their nominee.  Six Republicans competed for nomination, and the top vote-getters who made the run-off are businessman Wayne Parker (49%) and businesswoman Cheryl Guthrie (18%).  Parker, son-in-law of former Rep. (1970-2000) and onetime House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R.-Tex.), waged two near-successful races against Cramer in 1994 and ’96. 

California:  The Right Way 

Conservatives rarely have much to cheer about in California these days.  But last week, Republicans in two open U.S. House districts showed there are still some bastions of conservatism on the Left Coast. 

In the 4th District (Sacramento), State Sen. Tom McClintock—easily the best-known conservative legislator—won a landslide victory over three opponents with 54% of the vote.  The 51-year-old McClintock, who has carried the conservative banner on issues from immigration to taxes, overcame a heavy-spending largely self-funded assault from his leading opponent, moderate former Rep. (1998-2004) Doug Ose. 

Ose had charged that McClintock, who represented a Southern California senate district and had a Sacramento residence outside the 4th District, was not really part of the district he sought to represent in Congress.  But McClintock countered that Ose was on weak ground since he had earlier represented the neighboring 3rdDistrict in Congress.  Ose ended up with about 38% of the vote. 

Democrat Charlie Brown, a retired U.S. Air Force officer, nearly unseated Rep. John Doolittle (R.-Calif.) in 2006 amid mounting ethical questions about the incumbent.  With Doolittle’s retirement, Brown is again the Democratic nominee in this historically Republican district. 

In the 52nd District (San Diego) held by retiring Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, the GOP nominee is Duncan Hunter.  Duncan D. Hunter, that is, son of the congressman.  U.S. Marine Corps officer Hunter, who has served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, rolled up 73% of the vote over three opponents. 

Iowa:  Boswell the “Bush Dog” 

The most intriguing Iowa primary took place in the 3rd District (Des Moines)., where former state legislator and far-left Democrat Ed Fallon challenged Democratic Rep Leonard Boswell (lifetime ACU rating: 32%) as an anti-war candidate.  Fallon branded the six-term incumbent a “Bush Dog” for his support of U.S. action in Iraq.  The 74-year-old Boswell, who charged that he was misled by the administration when he supported the war, won with 61% of the vote. 

He now faces a strong fall challenge from conservative stalwart Kim Schmett, attorney and past Polk County GOP chairman.  
New Jersey:  The Age of Lautenberg 

For all the talk about his age (84) and that it was time for a change, Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg was handily renominated.  Lautenberg (lifetime American Conservative Union rating:  5%) rolled up a margin of 2-to-1 over insurgent Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews (lifetime ACU rating: 18%).  Although he differed little with Lautenberg on issues, Andrews attempted to make the senator’s age an issue and was widely denounced by many party leaders and elected officials—notably fellow Representatives Steve Rothman and Frank Pallone, both of whom have Senate ambitions of their own. 

Lautenberg appears in strong shape for re-election against moderate former GOP Rep. (1990-96) and 1996 U.S. Senate nominee Dick Zimmer, who defeated two opponents to win the Republican nod. 

In Andrews’ heavily Democratic 1stDistrict, wife Camille Andrews filed for the House seat after her husband’s last-minute filing for the Senate.  Against token opposition, she won.  But Mrs. Andrews has made it clear she considers herself a placeholder and will gladly step aside if area Democratic leaders want another candidate.  Among those mentioned for the nomination are State Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, Assemblyman John Buzichelli, and, possibly, her husband (who has 18 years of seniority in Congress).

Two Republican-held districts where incumbents retired had heated GOP primaries and, in both districts , Democrats nominated well-funded state legislators who have better-than-even chances of picking up the districts. 
In the 3rdDistrict (Ocean-Burlington), where Republican Rep. James Saxton is stepping down after 24 years, Cherry Hill Township Mayor Chris Myers defeated Ocean County Freeholder John Kelly and one other Republican candidate with 49% of the total vote. 
Myers, a Gulf War veteran and vice president of Lockheed Marietta, ran hard on an anti-tax platform and reminded voters that taxes have gone up by 30% in Ocean County since Kelly has been in county office.  Myers now faces a stiff fall battle against Democrat John Adler of Camden, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. 
In the 7th District, State Senate Republican Leader Leonard Lance topped a three-candidate race with about half the votes.  The runner-up to Lance was fellow moderate and former Bush Administration official Kate Whitman, daughter of former liberal Republican Gov. (1993-2001) Christie Todd Whitman.  

In a district that has been in GOP hands for a half-century, Lance faces an unusually strong challenge from Democratic State Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who held four-term GOP Rep. Mike Ferguson to just more than 51% of the vote in ’06. 

New Mexico:  It’s All Open

Conservatives were cheered by the GOP primary victory of Rep. Steve Pearce (lifetime ACU rating:  94%) over the more moderate Rep. Heather Wilson (lifetime ACU rating: 80%), for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pete Domenici.  Pearce now faces an uphill battle this fall against Democratic Rep. Tom Udall. 

Domenici’s exit meant the Land of Enchantment has an open U.S. Senate seat for the first time since 1972, when Domenici was first elected.  Moreover, in a rare political occurrence, all three U.S. House districts in the state are also open. 

In the 1st (Albuquerque) held by Wilson for nearly a decade, Republicans lined up early behind Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who is considered more conservative than Wilson.  With Wilson’s barely clinging to the district in the last two elections, White is expected to have a close contest this fall against Democrat Martin Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilman who topped a three-candidate primary. 

In the 2nd District (Santa Fe), the loser of the primary to Pearce in his first House race in ’02 was the Republican winner this year.  Restaurateur Ed Tinsley defeated two opponents to win the GOP primary and will face Democrat Harry Teague, multimillionaire former Lea County commissioner who spent heavily from his own fortune.  Although the 2nd District is more Republican than the 1st, the conservative Teague may have a problem in that he actually lives outside the district lines. 

In the heavily Democratic 3rdDistrict, which Udall gave up for a Senate race, the all-important Democratic primary was won by State Public Service Commissioner Ben Ray Lujan, son of the speaker of the state House.  In defeating millionaire developer Don Vivot and four others, young Lujan had the endorsement of Gov. Bill Richardson and of Udall’s father, 88-year-old former Secretary of the Interior (1960-68) Stewart Udall.