In most of the contested Republican primaries held in three states last night, the winners were conservatives. The GOP nominations for open U.S. Senate seats in Kansas and Missouri, for example, were won by conservative Representatives Jerry Moran and Roy Blunt respectively.
If there was any disappointment on the right, it was in the GOP primary for governor of Michigan, where the least conservative candidate emerged the victor. With two strong conservatives running mean-spirited attacks on one another, millionaire businessman Rick Snyder—who refused to answer questionnaires from conservative groups and openly appealed for Democratic and independent votes—won with 37% of the vote.
In Missouri, voters resoundingly passed (with 73% of the vote) an initiative that called for denying “the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance.” Although it did not mention the words “national healthcare reform,” Proposition C was widely billed by proponents and much of the Show Me State Press as a referendum on the healthcare bill passed by Congress earlier this year.
In other results, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D.-Mich.) became the latest House member to be denied renomination.
In the five House seats vacated by GOP incumbents—two in Michigan, two in Kansas, and one in Missouri—the new Republican nominees will all be strong conservatives. In the Western Michigan seat vacated by Hoekstra, the primary was too close to call as of 5:00 a.m. but the top two vote-getters were both strong conservatives. This is the latest evidence that the Republican Party has become a strongly conservative party in recent years.
There were also signs that Republicans were indeed putting enough seats in play to be in reach of the “magic 39”—the amount of seats they need to take control of the House in November. With 22 votes separating the top vote-getters in the Republican primary for the open seat of retiring Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.), the eventual winner is considered a cinch to move the seat from Democratic to GOP hands.
In addition, strong GOP candidates were nominated to challenge freshman Democratic Reps. Gary Peters and Mark Schauer, both of Michigan and to take on House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D.-Mo).
A breakdown of the key races last night:
It’s Moran in Kansas
Rep. Jerry Moran (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 91%) won a the GOP Senate primary with 52% of the vote over fellow conservative Rep. Todd Tiahrt (lifetime ACU rating: 95%) The two differed on next-to-nothing and both could count on different movement conservative leaders: Tiahrt was backed by Sarah Palin, Gun Owners of America, and Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson. Moran was supported by conservative GOP Senators Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.).
Sunflower State sources told Human Events that a larger turnout in Moran’s sprawling 1st District was responsible for putting him over the top. Moran is now an overwhelming favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Sam Brownback in a state that has not elected a Democratic senator since 1932. (Brownback relinquished his seat to run for governor and is also a strong favorite in the fall).
In Moran’s 1st District, conservative State Sen. Tim Huelskamp topped a six-candidate field that included moderate realtor Tracey Mann and Rob Wasinger, Brownback’s longtime top aide. Huelskamp has been the premier spear-carrier for conservatives in the state legislature for several years, having been the leading sponsor of pro-marriage and transparency legislation and organizing Kansas foes of former Democratic Gov. Kathleeen Sebelius’s nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services.
In Tiahrt’s Wichita-based 4th District, the winner was his fellow conservative, Republican National Committeeman Mike Pompeo. A West Point graduate and founder of an aerospace company, Pompeo rolled up 37% of the vote to defeat State Sen. Jan Schodorf and millionaire businessman Wink Hartman, who spent heavily from his own wallet.
Another district that national GOPers have high hopes of flipping from the Democratic to the GOP column is the 3rd District, vacated by seven-term Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore. 34-year-old state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder won the nomination over fellow conservative and former State Rep. Patricia Lightyer.
The Democratic nominee is more interesting but nonetheless an underdog in November: Stephene Moore, wife of the outgoing congressman. Not since 1926 has a wife followed her husband in the House while he was alive.
In a race that was little-noticed but whose returns no doubt cheered conservatives nationwide, law professor and former State GOP Chairman Kris Kobach handily won the Republican nomination for secretary of state. A nationally known expert on illegal immigration and Human Events contributor, Kobach ran on a platform of toughening ID requirements for voters and other measures to stem the tide of illegal immigration in his state.
Conservatives Divide, Moderate Conquers
Not only was the Republican contest to succeed termed out Democratic Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm the first contested GOP gubernatorial primary since 1986 but inarguably the nastiest in anyone’s memory.
As a result of angry salvos exchanged between State Attorney General Mike Cox and nine-term Rep. Pete Hoekstra in the twilight days of the campaign, the least conservative Republican in the five-candidate field won with a plurality (37% of the vote).
Ann Arbor businessman and first-time candidate Rick Snyder eschewed questionnaires from conservative groups, never fully said whether he would rule out raising taxes and promised to run Michigan as if it were a business. That—and $6 million of his own fortune—was enough for victory. In the days before the voting, Snyder’s TV spots appealed for votes from Democrats and independents (Michigan has no party registration).
Cox was slammed by charges that he had been to slow to pursue prosecution of now-disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and that he had been to Kipatrick’s parties at the mayoral mansion—charges the attorney general vigorously denied. Cox had the backing of the state right to life organization and the Chamber of Commerce. Hoekstra (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 90.84%) came under fire for his support from the Teamsters and for voting on the Brady Bill requiring handgun registration.
The other candidates in the field were two conservatives, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and State Sen. Tom George.
Snyder is now favored over Democratic nominee and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.
On the House in Michigan
Because of the corruption charges that sent her Detroit mayor son Kwame to prison, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick lost renomination in her Detroit-based 13th District to fellow Democrat and State Sen. Hansen Clarke.
In the 1st District vacated by Stupak, the top two vote-getters in the six-candidate race were separated by 22 votes. Thus, a recount was needed to determine whether the winner was conservative State Sen. Jason Allen, backed by party leaders and key state conservatives such as fellow State Sen. Al Cropsey, or physician Dan Benishek, who had the backing of the local Tea Partiers and “Joe the Plumber.” Whoever wins is a strong favorite to defeat Democratic State Rep. Gary McDowell and put the district back in GOP hands for the first time since 1992.
Similar uncertainty as to won the GOP primary in Hoekstra’s safely Republican 2nd District (Western Michigan). As of 5:00 a.m., there were 70 votes separating State Rep. Bill Huizenga (a former district aide to Hoekstra) and Jay Riemersma, onetime University of Michigan and Buffalo Bills quarterback. Riemersma, who was regional director for the Family Research Council.
In the 3rd District (Grand Rapids) once held by President Gerald Ford (1948-73) and now being relinquished by Republican Rep. Vern Ehlers, the winner was State Rep. Justin Amash. In a district which historically has elected older GOPers to Congress, the 28-year-old Amash rolled up 40% of the vote with support from the Club for Growth, Amway heir and ’06 GOP gubernatorial nominee Richard DeVos, and local followers of Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.). Amash, who ran on a strong anti-government platform and ask voters to “send Ron Paul help,” defeated State Sen. Bill Hardiman and Steve Heacock, former head of the Van Andel Institute. In the districts held by freshman Democratic Reps. Mark Schauer (7th District) and Gary Peters (9th District), Republicans came out of vigorously fought primaries with strong candidates and a determination to recapture both seats. In the 7th District (Battle Creek), stalwart conservative former Rep. Tim Walberg won a chance at a rematch with Schauer, who narrowly edged him out in ’08. Walberg won 57% of the vote against lawyer and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Brian Rooney, brother of Rep. Tim Rooney (R.-Fla.).
Former State Rep. and ’06 U.S. Senate nominee Rocky Raczkowski won the nomination to oppose Peters. By a margin of 42% to 26%, Raczkowski, who is also a decorated Iraq veteran, defeated Paul Welday, longtime top aide to former GOP Rep. Joe Knollenberg (who was ousted by Peters two years ago). Although there were almost no issue differences between the two Republicans, Raczkowski had a strong grass-roots base because of his past elections to the legislature and for taking on popular Democratic Sen. Carl Levin when no other Republican wanted to run.
Missouri on Mandates
Proposition C never used the words “national healthcare reform” or “mandates.” But in asking voters whether they wanted to “deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful health care services,” the proposition was clearly challenging the most controversial aspect of the healthcare bill passed by Congress earlier this year.
Similar measures will be on the ballots in Florida and Oklahoma this fall. As one of the key advisors in the “yes” forces for Proposition C, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder told Human Events shortly before the final returns came in, “This is ‘Ground Zero’ in the battle to overturn Obamacare. Missourians voted today to stand up for their rights.”
There’s no real contest in the race for nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond. Seven-term Rep. Roy Blunt won the GOP nod with 73% of the vote and will face Democratic nominee and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, daughter of the late Gov. (1992-2000) Mel Carnahan and former Sen. (2000-02) Jean Carnahan. The fall race is sure to be close. In Blunt’s 7th District, which has been Republican for 50 straight years, the primary was won by popular auctioneer and radio personality Billy Long. With the backing of revered former Rep. (1988-96) Mel Hancock and Mike Huckabee, Long defeated State Senators Gary Nodler (making his third race for Congress ) and Jack Goodman. Long also had strong backing from the area Tea Party movement. In the 4th District (Independence) held by the 78-year-old Skelton, former State Rep. Vickie Hartzler won the GOP nod State Sen. Bill Stouffer. Both are strong conservatives, but Hartzler had a strong following among social conservatives for her past role as spokeswoman for the forces behind the state marriage initiative.