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Arlen Specter out, Rand Paul advances, Blanche Lincoln fights on

Tuesday's primaries signal a restless electorate unwilling to follow the behest of either party establishment. Sen. Arlen Specter lost in Pennsylvania. 'Tea party' pick Rand Paul is GOP's Senate candidate in Kentucky. Sen. Blanche Lincoln faces a runoff in Arkansas.

By Staff writer / May 19, 2010

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) pauses as he gives his concession speech to supporters, Tuesday, in Philadelphia. Specter lost to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) for the Democratic Senate nomination.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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Washington

The defeat of Arlen SpecterPennsylvania’s longest-serving senator in history – and the victory of “tea party”-backed Rand Paul in his Kentucky Senate primary Tuesday signal a restless electorate disinclined to follow the wishes of the Washington establishment of both parties.

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In Pennsylvania, the storied political career of Senator Specter comes to an end despite the backing of the president and governor, the latest evidence that political coattails are a myth in this age of the independent political operator. Despite final polls showing a tight race, Specter lost to Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary 54 to 46 percent. Congressman Sestak will face former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania in November.

In Kentucky, novice politician Rand Paul – son of the libertarian former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas – decisively beat the GOP’s hand-picked candidate, state Secretary of State Trey Grayson, 59 to 35 percent. The Paul victory represents the largest win yet for the tea party movement, an antitax, small-government backlash that has energized conservatives across the country for more than a year. The Grayson defeat was also a defeat for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who had recruited Mr. Grayson to run. In November, Paul will face state Attorney General Jack Conway, who narrowly defeated the more conservative Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo in the Democratic primary.

In a way, the Democratic Party was the biggest winner Tuesday as Democrat Mark Critz won the special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District for the seat held 35 years by Rep. John Murtha. Mr. Critz had served as an aide to Congressman Murtha and parlayed that lingering affection for the late congressman – and his own local knowledge of a hard-scrabble district accustomed to federal largesse – into victory. The Critz victory against wealthy GOP businessman Tim Burns, 53 to 45 percent, dealt a major blow to Republican hopes of a House takeover in November and gave the Democrats a boost of confidence amid all the dire predictions.

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