Primary results: Mississippi, Colorado races highlight GOP split
Mississippi primary: With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Republican incumbent Thad Cochran leads with 51 percent to Chris McDaniel's 49 percent.
WASHINGTON — Voters cast ballots Tuesday in primary elections in six states, plus a runoff in Mississippi. Highlights:
TOP OF THE TICKET
The top race was Mississippi's often-bitter Republican contest between veteran Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a tea party-backed insurgent who channeled voters' anti-Washington mood and forced a runoff.
In a last-ditch effort, six-term Cochran reached out to traditionally Democratic voters — blacks and union members — who were eligible to participate in the runoff. People who cast ballots in the June 3 Democratic primary could not vote in the runoff.
The Mississippi contest threatened to cast aside the 76-year-old Cochran, who sent billions of federal dollars to his poor state over a long career. His 41-year-old challenger said taxpayers could not afford that federal largesse.
NEW LAWMAKER FOR NEW YORK?
Looking for a 23rd term, Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York worked to fend off a state senator who could become the first Dominican-American member of Congress.
The 84-year-old Rangel, the third-most-senior member of the House, faced a rematch against state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in Harlem and upper Manhattan. Two years ago, Rangel prevailed in the primary by fewer than 1,100 votes.
In this race, Rangel said Espaillat "wants to be the Jackie Robinson of the Dominicans in the Congress," adding that Espaillat should tell voters "just what the heck has he done besides saying he's a Dominican?"
DOUBLE DIPPING IN OKLAHOMA
Both of Oklahoma's Senate seats were on the ballot for the first time in recent history.
Sen. Jim Inhofe fended off minor challengers in the Republican primary in one of those contests.
In the other, two-term Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma won the GOP nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down with two years left in his term. In a blow to the tea party movement, Lankford, a member of the House GOP leadership, defeated T.W. Shannon, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the state's first black House speaker.
National tea party groups and the Senate Conservatives Fund had backed Shannon, who also had the support of Sarah Palin and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Shannon, 36, had questioned if Lankford was sufficiently conservative. Lankford, 46 and a former Southern Baptist camp leader, supported bipartisan budget agreements and voted to increase the nation's borrowing authority — favorite objections for tea party leaders.
Oklahoma has not elected a Democrat to an open Senate seat since David Boren in 1978, and Republicans were expected to hold it.
Utah technically had a primary, but there was little suspense and even fewer consequences.
The state is essentially a one-party operation where Republicans are guaranteed to occupy most major offices. The party selected its nominees for the state's four congressional districts, governor and attorney general at its party convention, and Tuesday's vote was largely unnecessary.
Democrats did the same, but they're unlikely to get anywhere in November.
COLORADO GOP DIVIDED
Primary day was an all-Republican affair in Colorado, a reflection of how the party remains divided in that key state.
In Colorado, former Rep. Bob Beauprez won the crowded primary that included 2008 presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, an immigration opponent. That was welcome news to national Republicans who feared that Tancredo would be a drag on the GOP ticket in November. Beauprez faces Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Four Republicans were also competing for the party's nomination to replace Rep. Cory Gardner, who is passing on re-election to challenge Democratic Sen Mark Udall. District Attorney Ken Buck, a former Senate candidate, was seen as the front-runner there.
Tuesday's primaries were unlikely to affect the partisan makeup of the Senate.
Udall and Gardner were assured of their parties' nominations. Their Nov. 4 contest will help determine whether Republicans can pick up the six seats they need to control the Senate next year.
Mississippi and Oklahoma are solidly Republican states, so winners of those GOP primaries will be strongly favored in November.
S.C. SCHOOLS CHIEF
In South Carolina, the widow of legendary Republican strategist Lee Atwater faced the leader of the state's principals' and superintendents' association, Molly Spearman.
Sally Atwater, a longtime fixture in GOP politics and a former educator, struggled as a first-time candidate. Debates did not favor her and, in one interview, she was unable to explain her position on whether sex education and evolution should be taught in public schools.
The late Lee Atwater was a top strategist for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. His hard-charging tactics are legendary in GOP circles, although his wife's campaign did not seem to harness them.
The next major date on the midterm calendar is July 22, when voters in Georgia will pick between Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue for the Republican nomination for Senate in a runoff.
Associated Press writers Charles Babington in Washington, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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