Although there were primaries in four states last night, the results in Colorado and Georgia clearly had the biggest impact in terms of national politics. The survival of Colorado’s Obama-backed Sen. Michael Bennet and the too-close-to-call GOP runoff for governor of Georgia were the biggest stories. Moreover, GOPers in Colorado offered the latest evidence of the clout of grass-roots conservatism in 2010, as Tea Party favorites Ken Buck and Dan Maes were nominated for senator and governor respectively over more moderate (and better financed) opponents.
It’s Bennet vs. Buck
In the much-watched Colorado Senate race, appointed Sen. Bennet had strong campaign assistance from President Obama. Coupled with a superior funding edge, that was enough for Bennett to defeat former State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff with 53% of the vote.
Romanoff had campaigned assistance from Bill Clinton and, like Clinton, had initially been considered a centrist Democrat Leadership Council-style candidate. But he moved left in the primary, declaring he would have favored a “public option” in healthcare legislation and a tougher financial reform package than that which passed Congress this year.
The stage is now set for a classic showdown between leftist Bennet and the more conservative Republican hopeful, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. With his campaign fueled by traditional conservative activists, newer Tea Partiers and national conservative organizations, Buck won 55% against former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who was backed by John McCain.
Colorado Gov’s Race: It’s Complicated
Just as fascinating was the nomination by Centennial State GOPers of small businessman and political newcomer Dan Maes for governor. First-time candidate and conservative stalwart Maes came out of nowhere and edged the long-presumed front-runner, former Rep. Scott McInnis. The candidacy of McInnis came unglued a month ago amid his admission of plagiarized essays on water rights and a promise to return $300,000 he was paid for the writings.
Two weeks before the primary, former Rep. Tom Tancredo declared that neither Maes nor McInnis could win and that he would thus run for governor on the American Constitution Party ticket. State Party Chairman Dick Wadhams and other GOP leaders now will surely redouble efforts to talk nationally known illegal immigration foe Tancredo out of the race, fearing he will doom Maes and ensure the election of liberal Democrat and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter is retiring.
Republicans also nominated tough conservative contenders in State Rep. Cory Gardiner and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier (who is black) to oppose Democratic House members in the 3rd and 7th Districts respectively. The races are considered very competitive and key to the GOP taking a majority in the House this fall.
In Georgia, “To Be Continued”
Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who led in the Republican primary for governor of Georgia, had the backing of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. As of this morning, she trailed by a few thousand votes to former Rep. Nathan Deal, who was backed by Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. A statewide recount over the next two weeks was likely to determine who would face former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes in the fall.
Both Handel and Deal were considered strong conservatives with few issue differences.
In the much-watched 9th District GOP runoff for Congress, Tom Graves, the conservative stalwart won a special election to succeed Deal earlier this year, won his third match over “establishment” GOPer and former State Rep. Lee Hawkins.
Moderate Money Triumphs in Connecticut
Moderate GOPers who spent lavishly from their own wealth won primaries for U.S. senator and governor.
Wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who spent $30 million of her own money (the most spent by any Senate candidate in the nation), won nearly half the vote against former Rep. Rob Simmons and venture capitalist Peter Schiff. She faces an uphill battle against Democratic nominee StateAtty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd.
Multimillionaire businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley won the GOP nod to succeed retiring Republican Gov. Jodi Rell. Democrats, who last won the governorship of the Nutmeg State in 1986, nominated former Danbury Mayor Dan Malloy.
Minnesota May Move Right
In a state not known for electing conservatives, state legislator Tom Emmer, who is conservative on economic and social issues, is the Republican nominee for governor. Democrats last night nominated arch-liberal former Sen. Mark Dayton, thus setting the stage for a classic ideological showdown in November.