The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, fended off a tea party challenger on Tuesday to set up an expensive November contest against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. Grimes and McConnell won their parties’ nominations as Kentucky and five other states held primary contests ahead of November’s mid-term elections.
Also picking Senate nominees Tuesday were voters in Oregon, Georgia and Arkansas. Oregon Republicans were choosing a challenger to first-term Sen. Jeff Merkley, who only recently emerged as a GOP target. Georgia had a crowded GOP race that is headed to a July runoff.
GOP SHOWDOWN: KENTUCKY
Tea party conservatives would love to have knocked off McConnell, who they view as too ready to compromise with Democrats. They once held high hopes for Matt Bevin, a businessman making his first run for office.
But Bevin struggled with everything from his official biography to an appearance at a cockfighting rally, for which he apologized. Mostly he suffered from withering attacks by McConnell’s well-funded political machine, and the veteran politician dispatched the rookie with ease, winning by a roughly 2-to-1 margin.
McConnell positioned himself as a solid conservative who makes tough decisions and gives Kentuckians a powerful voice in Washington. He and Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, have been sparring for months. She won just as easily, racking up three-quarters of the vote in a four-way race.
CONTROL OF THE SENATE
Dollar General CEO David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah advanced from a field of seven Republicans seeking the nomination to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss in Georgia. They’ll meet in a July 22 runoff, with the winner facing Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn. The daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, she made news on the final day of the campaign by refusing to say whether she would have voted for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby bested a five-person field to win the Republican Senate nomination in Oregon. Some of Wehby’s TV ads drew high praise. But the single mother of four faced reports that a wealthy ex-boyfriend called police last year and accused her of stalking him. The man now says he regrets the call, and he is backing Wehby’s campaign.
In Arkansas, the U.S. Senate race will be fiercely contested — this fall. GOP Rep. Tom Cotton and two-term Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor were unopposed in their primaries.
AT THE STATEHOUSE
In Arkansas, voters selected two former congressmen — Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson — to vie to replace the term-limited Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. Millionaire businessman Tom Wolf won the Democratic nomination to challenge Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, seen as one of the nation’s most vulnerable Republican governors.
In Georgia, incumbent GOP Gov. Nathan Deal was re-nominated, while state Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of the former president, was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Two-term incumbent Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter narrowly defeated state Sen. Russ Fulcher in the GOP primary.
ID NOW REQUIRED
It took a few extra minutes for Hutchinson to cast an early vote for himself in Arkansas on Monday, after he forgot to bring a photo ID to his polling place in Bentonville. Tuesday’s election was the first statewide test of Arkansas’ new law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.
A spokeswoman said later that Hutchinson thought the incident was a “little bit of an inconvenience,” but still believes the law is necessary.
Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt ran unopposed in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat in Arkansas. In Pennsylvania, Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law, former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies, lost her bid to return to the House representing a district northeast of Philadelphia in a four-way Democratic primary.
The next primaries are scheduled for June 3 in Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. Texas has its primary runoff next Tuesday.
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