The final night of primaries before the November election ended with a political bang. With seven states and the District of Columbia nominating candidates for the fall elections, the big stories were the renomination of scandal-tinged Rep. Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.) and stunning the victory of conservative insurgent Christine O’Donnell over moderate-to-liberal Rep. Mike Castle in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware.
In what was probably the most-watched House primary anywhere, Rangel won about 50% of the vote against three opponents, despite the cloud of scandal that drove him from the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee and the pending ethics inquiry hanging over the Harlem lawmaker.
But as far as conservatives were concerned, the result that made September 14 a night to remember was Delaware. Despite a string of negative press dealing with her history of financial problems, two-time loser Christine O’Donnell demonstrated that the third time was the charm. The conservative activist rolled up winning margins in two of the First State’s three counties and won the Republican Senate nomination over Castle, a five-term House Member and former two-term governor.
Like fellow conservative mavericks Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky who have overcome the GOP establishment to win Senate nominations, O’Donnell was backed by “the usual suspects:” Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), and the Tea Party Express.
O’Donnell also hit hard at un-Republican votes cast by Castle (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 52%) such as his long pro-abortion record and vote for the Obama-backed DISCLOSE Act to undermine the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign finance (which, as O’Donnell told Human Events in May, resulted in $32,000 unsolicited donations to her on Twitter).
At this point, the liberal media is chortling and pointing to polls that show O’Donnell losing to Democrat Chris Coons, the popular New Castle county executive. However, one has to recall that only a few weeks ago, the idea of Christine O’Donnell winning the GOP primary was considered sheer fantasy.
Good Dose of Tea
Along with the O’Donnell bombshell, the Tea Party movement had a pretty good evening elsewhere. In the GOP primary for governor of New York, multimillionaire developer and first-time candidate Carl Paladino rolled up a landslide to beat former Rep. Rick Lazio, who had the backing of the state GOP organization. In Massachusett’s 10th District, where Democratic Rep. William Delahunt is stepping down after fourteen years, and conservative state Rep. Jeff Perry handily won the GOP nod over moderate former State Treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful Joe Malone.
And Christine O’Donnell was apparently not the only conservative to win in Delaware. In an extremely close race likely to be recounted, conservative and former Reagan Administration official Glen Urquhart clung to a lead in the GOP primary for Castle’s at-large House district. The organization choice was Michele Rollins, alarms system heiress and moderate GOPer.
The common denominator in all three contests was that the victors were conservative outsiders who had the fervent backing of the Tea Partiers.
Even in New Hampshire, the apparent defeat of the Tea Party favorite for the Senate nomination was not a case of a moderate defeating a conservative. The Republican backed by most of the Tea Party organizations was attorney and 1996 gubernatorial nominee Ovid LaMontagne, who was trailing former state Atty. Gen. and party regular-favored Kelly Ayotte. As of this morning, Ayotte led LaMontagne by 979 votes, with 86% of the vote counted.
However, Ayotte was also conservative and certainly not opposed by the Tea Party movement. She differed with LaMontagne on relatively little, both being pro-life, favoring repeal of Obamacare, and opposing the stimulus package.
Ayotte also had the backing of Sarah Palin, who dubbed her a “Momma Grizzly,” and of Steve Merrill, New Hampshire’s conservative former governor. Should her lead stand, Ayotte will go into the fall campaign as the favorite over Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Judd Gregg.
Maryland: Will It Be “Governor Bob” Again?
To no one’s surprise, moderate-to-conservative former Gov. Bob Ehrlich won nomination to the job he lost in ’06. Ehrlich won by a margin of 3-to-1 over businessman Brian Murphy, who ran to Ehrlich’s right and had the backing of Sarah Palin.
But even Republicans who are skeptical of Ehrlich’s conservatism nonetheless felt that the man universally called “Governor Bob” deserved a rematch with Democrat Martin O’Malley. Ehrlich sought re-election as a popular governor who had held the line on taxes but the national Democratic tide brought him down in a close race with then-Baltimore Mayor O’Malley.
New Hampshire: Comeback for GOP Ahead?
Along with their high hopes of keeping Sen. Gregg’s seat with Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republicans from State Party Chairman John Sununu on down were voicing optimism about regaining the governorship and putting both of the Granite State’s two U.S. House seats in the GOP camp.
Former State Commissioner of Human Resources and strong conservative John Stephan won the Republican nod to oppose Democratic Gov. John Lynch. In the First District, Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta won the Republican nomination against Democratic Rep. Carol Shea Porter. In the Second District, moderate former Rep. Charles Bass will face liberal Democrat Ann McLane Kuster for the Concord-area seat Hodes is leaving to run for the Senate.
New York: Some Surprises For GOP
Although Carl Paladino’s big capture of the Republican nomination for governor dominated Empire State headlines, there were a few other surprises in the state last night.
In the First District (Suffolk County), office supplies tycoon Randy Altschuler won an unexpectedly easy primary, capturing the Republican nomination against lawyers Chris Cox (grandson of Richard Nixon) and George Demos (endorsed by Rush Limbaugh). Altschuler, who also has the Conservative Party line, will make a formidable foe to Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop.
In the Fourth District (Nassau County), county legislator Fran Becker won a spirited race with fellow conservative and law professor Frank Scaturro. Becker, the namesake-son of a popular former congressman, now faces Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.
In the 23rd District, businessman Doug Hoffman—who nearly won a special election on the Conservative Party line last fall—lost the Republican primary to Matt Doheny, an official in the administration of former Republican Gov. George Pataki. Doheny won support from most local party organizations and will face Democratic Rep. Bill Owens. Hoffman still has the Conservative ballot line in November.
Marketing consultant Jay Townsend and former Rep. Joe DioGuardi won the Republican nominations to oppose Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (six-year term) and Kirsten Gillibrand (two year term) respectively.
Big Races in Little Rhody
With Republican Gov. Donald Carceri stepping down after two terms, the stage is set for a race sure to be watched nationally: Republican John Robitaille, who was Carceri’s communications director and his performance likened to that of the late White House press secretary Tony Snow, will square off against Democratic State Treasurer Frank Caprio.
But what makes the race especially intriguing is the presence of the third man: former liberal GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an independent.
In the 1st District that is being vacated by Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a classic contest is in the works between liberal Providence Mayor David Cicilline and State Rep. John Loughlin, a conservative Republican.
Badger State GOPers felt confident last night about unseating Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, picking up the governorship, and putting at least two Democrat-held House districts in GOP hands.
As expected, businessman Ron Johnson will carry the Republican standard against Feingold and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker will oppose Milwaukee Mayor and Democrat Tom Barrett for the governorship that Democrat Jim Doyle is leaving.
In the 7th District, where Rep. Dave Obey is retiring after 41 years, his fellow liberal, state Sen. Julie Lassa, will be the Democratic nominee. The Republican and favorite in the fall is former Ashland County District Atty. Sean Duffy, who had entered the race before Obey decided to call it quits.
In the 8th District, two-term Rep. and physician Steve Kagen will face a well-financed Republican foe in businessman Reid Ribble, who won the primary over two opponents.