Tuesday was a good night to be an incumbent. Survival was the theme of the evening, from Utah to Colorado. Here is a brief rundown of what happened in six red-hot primaries.
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah easily won his primary against Dan Liljenquist, a former state senator. Hatch’s victory was expected, especially after he nearly won the nomination outright at the state party’s March caucuses. No doubt the $10 million that Hatch spent also helped the cause.
Liljenquist did his best to cast Hatch as an out-of-touch dealmaker, but with little money, and many outside groups — such as the Club for Growth — deserting him, he never caught fire. For his part, Hatch didn’t stumble, and he only debated Liljenquist once — on the radio.
The real reason for Hatch’s win, however, is simple: He was ready. Following Utah senator Bob Bennett’s 2010 defeat, Hatch spent two years courting tea-party conservatives and voting with them. He won Sarah Palin’s endorsement and another six years on Capitol Hill.
Harlem Democrat Charlie Rangel has been in Congress since the Nixon years, and he’ll stay there after winning a competitive primary. Two years ago, under the cloud of an ethics investigation, Rangel beat a primary challenge, but this year he faced two heavyweights.
New York state senator Adriano Espaillat and Clyde Williams, a former Democratic National Committee official, both ran vigorous campaigns. Espaillat wooed the district’s Latino population, and Williams ran as an experienced politico. Neither of the pair could topple him.
Rangel pointed to his long tenure (as he does every cycle) and used the endorsement of Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop the coup. President Obama was mum about Rangel, as was former president Bill Clinton, but the major unions backed him and he won another term.
New York attorney Wendy Long won a crowded Senate primary, and she’ll face Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, in November. Long’s victory was hardly a cakewalk — she beat Queens congressman Bob Turner and Nassau County comptroller George Maragos.
Long, who began the race as a political unknown, played hardball with Turner, a former television executive, tying him to the infamous Jerry Springer Show, which he created. New York may be a blue state, but its GOP electorate is socially conservative. She hit a nerve.
Long also emphasized her conservative credentials, including her Supreme Court clerkship for Justice Clarence Thomas and the endorsement of New York’s Conservative party. Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist supported her and blasted Turner for not signing his anti-tax pledge.
In South Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District, Governor Nikki Haley used her popularity to edge out a political rival. Haley’s endorsement of Tom Rice, a local councilman, dealt a significant blow to the campaign of former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer, a Haley foe.
Bauer, who served with former governor Mark Sanford, tried to mount a political comeback, moving into the district for the run and spending heavy sums. In response, Rice wagged his finger at Bauer for “carpet bagging,” the State reports, and questioned his integrity.
Bauer enjoyed the support of a handful of tea-party groups, but Haley’s last-minute endorsement of Rice, and her energetic stumping, lifted the lesser-known candidate. Rice will now face Gloria Bromell Tinubu, a liberal Democrat and professor, in November.
Republican congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs defeated Robert Blaha, a wealthy, self-funded primary challenger. Blaha spent months (and $700,000) attacking Lamborn as a passive Beltway insider, but in this deep-red district, the charge didn’t stick.
A year ago, Lamborn emerged as a key player in the fight to defund National Public Radio, and worked alongside House leadership to usher related legislation. On the trail, Lamborn repeatedly reminded voters about his NPR battle and his support from conservative groups.
Blaha, an accomplished businessman, ran an effective campaign, and aired a series of polished advertisements. His serious financial investment made the race a must-watch primary. But Coloradans weren’t ready to oust Lamborn, who won 60 percent of the vote.
The retirement of Representative Dan Boren, a moderate Democrat, makes his Oklahoma seat a real pick-up opportunity for Republicans. Six Republicans ran in Tuesday’s primary and two of them, Markwayne Mullin and George Faught, will now compete in a run-off.
According to the Associated Press, Mullin — a novice politician who owns a plumbing business — finished first, edging Faught, a state legislator. The two Republicans will spend the rest of the summer on the trail preparing for the final vote, which will be held in late August.
Expect Faught and Mullin to have a heated contest. Faught has seen his fundraising numbers pick up in the past month and Mullin has been bogged down by a series of news stories about his association with a former employee who was arrested for gun-related felonies in 2009.