While most of the press attention focused on the Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday and whether embattled Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln would avoid a run-off (she didn’t), there were also critical primaries in three House districts in Arkansas where incumbents are stepping down.
In the 1st District (Jonesboro), where Democratic Rep. Marion Berry is retiring, agriculture broadcaster and U.S. Army veteran Rick Crawford handily won the GOP primary. Crawford is considered a strong contender against either of the two Democrats now in the June runoff: lobbyist Tim Wooldridge and former congressional staffer Chad Causey, who has Berry’s endorsement.
In the 2nd District (Little Rock), Democratic Rep. Vic Snyder announced he was retiring last year after several polls showed him locked in a close race with former U.S. Attorney and GOP hopeful Tim Griffin. Snyder’s departure was followed by a hard-fought Democratic primary and now the top vote-getters—former House Speaker Robbie Wills and state legislator Joyce Elliott—will meet in the run-off. Griffin is also a 13-year U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq.
The 3rd District vacated by Rep. John Boozman, who won the GOP nod for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, has been in Republican hands since 1966 and Democrats have came close to winning it only once in the last 44 years (in 1974, with a young law professor named Bill Clinton). This year, all signs point to the seat staying in Republican hands. Rogers Mayor Steve Womack topped the GOP field and will face a run-off with either State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe or former State GOP Chairman Gunnar DeLay (a distant cousin to former House GOP Leader Tom DeLay of Texas).
Arkansas Republicans also came up with a strong nominee for governor against liberal Democrat Mike Beebe in conservative Jim Keet, former state senator and businessman.
No Pattern in Pennsylvania House Primaries
There were no firm patterns in any of the Republican U.S. House primaries in Pennsylvania Tuesday night.
Perhaps the most unexpected result came in the 4th District (Beaver Falls-Aliquippa), where lawyer Keith Rothfus won the GOP nod to oppose Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire by a margin of 2-to-1. Self-styled "outsider" Rothfus, who had the backing of much of the "Tea Party" movement, beat former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, who had the solid backing of the Republican establishment.
But the results were just the opposite in the 10th District (Scranton), where former U.S. attorney and "establishment" favorite Tom Marino won the GOP nomination to face Democratic Rep. Chris Carney. By a margin of 41% to 31%, Marino defeated conservative and Tea Party favorite David Madeira.
In the 17th District (Harrisburg), it was another "establishment" win. State Sen. David Arnall edged out retired military officer Frank Ryan by a vote of 32% to 31%. Ryan had been a favorite of conservative activists. Arnall now faces veteran Democratic Rep. Tim Holden.
To the surprise of few, moderate former Rep. (2004-06) Mike Fitzpatrick defeated two opponents and will try to reclaim the 8th District (Bucks County) from Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy.
Businessman Mike Kelly, who ran as an unabashed pro-gun and pro-life candidate and signed the anti-tax pledge of Americans for Tax Reform, won the GOP nod in the 3rd District (Erie County) over Democrat-turned-Republican Paul Huber and four others. Kelly now faces freshman Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper.
The two House districts in Pennsylvania considered likeliest to switch from Democrat to Republican are the 7th (Delaware County) and 11th (Wilkes-Barre). With Rep. Joe Sestak winning the Democratic Senate nominee, the 7th is the sole open seat in the state and former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan is favored to put in GOP hands over Democratic State Rep. Bryan Lentz.
In the 11th District, Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, a nationally known foe of illegal immigration, is in a rematch with the Democrat who edged him out in ’08, 28-year Rep. Paul Kanjorski.
To no one’s surprise, the Republican nomination for governor was won handily by State Atty. Gen. Tom Corbett and the Democratic nomination by Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. Since governors of Pennsylvania were first permitted to run for second terms in 1970, the office has switched hands between the parties every eight years without exception. Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell is termed out after two terms.