In the establishment versus outsiders frame of the 2010 primaries, Tuesday night produced a mixed outcome: establishment victories for the Democrats and “tea party” victories for the Republicans.
In Colorado, President Obama snapped his losing streak with endorsements as his favored candidate, appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D), won in a heated Senate primary race against a more experienced, and more liberal, politician – former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper ran unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
On the Republican side for the Colorado Senate seat, conservative tea-party favorite and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck defeated the establishment-backed candidate, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. And businessman Dan Maes, who also enjoyed tea-party support, defeated former Rep. Scott McInnis for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Both races were wild and woolly, with gender-related comments flying in the Senate race and revelations of misdeeds marring the gubernatorial race. Mr. McInnis was caught in a plagiarism scandal, seriously wounding his candidacy. Mr. Maes was caught in campaign-finance violations and paid a $17,500 fine. He also drew attention for saying that a Denver plan to promote bicycle riding was part of a larger strategy of United Nations control.
In November, the Senate race will be a marquee contest between Washington and the tea party. The gubernatorial campaign begins with Mayor Hickenlooper favored to hold onto the seat for the Democrats, a blow to the GOP’s hopes of reestablishing Colorado as an anchor in the Mountain West.
Adding to the Republicans’ woes in Colorado is former Rep. Tom Tancredo’s decision to quit the GOP and run for governor as an independent, arguing that both Maes and McInnis were unelectable. There had been speculation that the state GOP would urge Maes to drop out of the race in favor of a more mainstream candidate, but state party chair Dick Wadhams put that idea to rest after the vote.
“The voters spoke [Tuesday] night,” Mr. Wadhams said, according to The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper. “[Maes] is the nominee, but Tom Tancredo basically takes us off the table. If Tancredo stays in the race, the general election is basically handed to John Hickenlooper.”
In Minnesota, the gubernatorial race will also present a sharp ideological contrast. In a competitive primary, the Democrats nominated former Sen. Mark Dayton, who has promised to tax the rich; the Republicans chose state Rep. Tom Emmer, who stands for the tea-party ideals of low taxes and small government. One complicating factor could be Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, a former Republican. In 1998, Minnesotans elected third-party candidate – and former professional wrestler – Jesse Ventura as governor.
Connecticut is keeping the world of TV wrestling front and center, with the primary victory of former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon in the state’s GOP Senate primary. She defeated on-again, off-again candidate Rob Simmons, a former congressman. Ms. McMahon goes into the general election the underdog against state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D), but her willingness to dip into her personal fortune will keep the Democrats on their toes.
The Connecticut gubernatorial race saw competitive primaries in both parties. The Democrats nominated the former mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy, in an easy and surprise victory over businessman Ned Lamont. Mr. Lamont had gained national fame by defeating Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Democratic Senate primary four years ago, though Senator Lieberman won reelection as an independent. In the Republican primary, former US ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley defeated Lt. Gov Michael Fedele.
In Georgia, a Republican primary runoff for the governor’s race remained too close to call Wednesday morning. The battle featured former Rep. Nathan Deal, the establishment favorite, and former state Secretary of State Karen Handel.
Both candidates boasted multiple, major endorsements: Ms. Handel is backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Mr. Deal is backed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Georgia congressman and speaker of the US House Newt Gingrich. All but Governor Brewer are viewed as potential 2012 presidential candidates.