The biggest night of the primary election season to date unfolded last night, and the marquee race featured the quintet of Republican candidates vying for the open Georgia Senate nomination. In the end, with all five individuals at least maintaining a slight chance to advance to the July 22 run-off as the voting day began, is now coming down to a two-way contest between businessman David Perdue (who registered 30 percent) and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), who nipped former Secretary of State Karen Handel, 26-22 percent. Representatives Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) and Paul Broun (R-GA-10) registered only 10 percent apiece. The secondary election winner will face the now-official Democratic nominee, Michelle Nunn, who captured her primary with 75 percent of the vote.
The plethora of pre-election political polls accurately forecast the final order, with the Kingston and Handel pulling away and Perdue finishing first. Rep. Kingston took advantage of his strong financial position and a unified southern Georgia base to clinch second place. The run-off promises to be a bruising affair. Both will be well funded, but the geographical focus will now shift to the Atlanta metro area, where more than 65 percent of the run-off votes will likely be cast.
Neither of the two major party Senate candidates had primary opposition. What is expected to be a brutal contest between Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) is now officially underway.
In the governor’s race, both ex-representatives Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3) and Mike Ross (D-AR-4) had little trouble securing their respective nominations. This campaign, too, will likely continue in the toss-up realm all the way to the Nov. 4 Election Day.
In the state’s two open House races, businessman French Hill captured the Republican nomination with 55 percent of the vote over state Rep. Ann Clemmer and retired Army officer Conrad Reynolds. Hill clinched the nomination outright and will begin as at least a slight favorite over the uncontested Democratic nominee, Patrick Henry Hays, the former North Little Rock mayor. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2), leaving the seat to run for lieutenant governor won the party nomination last night by securing an absolute majority. Griffin scored a solid 64 percent over two GOP opponents. He will face state Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter (D) in the general election.
Turning to Cotton’s open 4th Congressional District, consensus candidate James Lee Witt (D), President Clinton’s Federal Emergency Management Agency director, will face state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman (R) in the general election. Expect this race to be competitive. Westerman defeated energy executive Tommy Moll 54-46 percent, despite being significantly outspent (almost 2:1).
Aside from the Senate contest, major competition occurred in five of the state’s 14 congressional districts.
Beginning with Kingtson’s Savannah-anchored open 1st District, as predicted pharmacist and state Sen. Buddy Carter and Tea Party physician and ex-Army Ranger Bob Johnson will advance to the July 22 run-off election. Carter placed first with 36 percent; Johnson was second posting 23 percent, edging businessman John McCallum who had 20 percent. The winner will capture the seat in November because the Democratic field was weak. A Democratic run-off will occur on July 22, and the winner’s prize will be losing to the GOP nominee on Nov. 4.
In the Decatur-Stone Mountain-Conyers 4th District, incumbent Rep. Hank Johnson secured his Democratic renomination with a relatively close 54-46 percent win over DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown. Johnson is assured of re-election in the fall because he is unopposed in the general election.
Rep. Paul Broun’s open seat also yielded a GOP primary that will result in the top two finishers advancing to the July 22 run-off election. Baptist pastor and radio talk show host Jody Hice (R) led the pack with 33 percent, just 190 votes ahead of businessman Mike Collins, son of former Rep. Mac Collins (R-GA-3). The eventual Republican nominee faces attorney Ken Dious (D) in the general election, in a race that shouldn’t be any contest for the GOP standard bearer.
North of Atlanta, Rep. Phil Gingrey’s (R-GA-11) district will be filled either by state Sen. Barry Loudermilk or former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA-7). Both men qualified for the run-off by placing first and second in the field of six candidates. The Democrats did not even file a candidate here, so the July 22 run-off contest will select the next congressman. Loudermilk was first with 37 percent as compared to Barr’s 26 percent.
In the southeastern 12th District, businessman and former congressional candidate Rick Allen scored a major coup by impressively winning the Republican nomination outright with 54 percent of the vote against four opponents. Allen will now oppose veteran Rep. John Barrow (D) in what could become a close race.
Statewide, 306,869 Democrats went to the polls as compared to 590,762 Republicans, of more than 4.933 million total registered voters. So, the combined turnout was low.
Gov. Butch Otter (R) found himself in a more difficult primary campaign than he may have expected, but still secured renomination with just a 53-42 percent win over Republican state Sen. Russ Fulcher. The governor will now face Boise School Board President A.J. Balukoff in the general election. Otter is a prohibitive favorite to win a third term.
In the House, in what to date has been the premier primary challenge to an establishment incumbent, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) easily defeated attorney Bryan Smith 62-38 percent. With some of Smith’s early national support, such as the Club for Growth, pulling out of the race with several weeks to go, the battle became Simpson’s to lose and he performed well. The congressman will now face former Rep. Richard Stallings (D), who is attempting a comeback hoping that he would have been paired with Smith.
Also as expected, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell racked up a strong primary victory (60-35 percent) over investor Matt Bevin, and secures his Republican senatorial nomination for the sixth time. But, with over a third of the GOP base supporting Bevin, Sen. McConnell will have to better secure his base before engaging the Democrats. The outside groups such as the Senate Majority Fund and the Madison Project, among others, already announced that they will unify behind McConnell for the general election, which should go a long way to helping the senator strengthen his base.
McConnell will now square off against Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who won her party’s nomination with 77 percent of the vote, in what is expected to be a hard-fought campaign. All polls project the pair to be within two points of one another. National trends will go a long way to deciding this race, considering McConnell’s position as the top Senate Republican.
The statewide races are attracting the most attention, since the congressional campaigns do not appear competitive in November. In the Senate race, which does have the potential of developing, first-term incumbent Jeff Merkley (D) will face surgeon Monica Wehby, who defeated state Rep. Jason Conger and three other Republicans, attracting a majority 53 percent of the vote. The incumbent registered an overwhelming 93 percent in his Democratic primary.
If the governor’s race between three-term incumbent John Kitzhaber (D) and state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R) becomes competitive (Richardson took 65 percent in last night’s primary against five GOP opponents), which is likely, then the Senate race could also come into play. Oregon’s Obamacare implementation has been the worst of any state, with literally no one being able to enroll in the health program. Kitzhaber will have to explain how a program spending over $300 million in federal and state tax dollars literally yielded no results.
The big Keystone State race nominated Democratic businessman Tom Wolf for governor, as expected. He defeated Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13), state Treasurer Rob McCord, and former state EPA Director Katie McGinty by an overwhelming 58-17-17-8 percent, respectively. Wolf now becomes the favorite to unseat Gov. Tom Corbett (R), who is the most vulnerable Republican governor in the country.
In the open 6th Congressional District, two consensus candidates in their respective parties, Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) and physician and two-time US House nominee Dr. Manan Trevedi (D) face each other in the politically marginal 6th Congressional District. Because Trevedi has already lost this district twice to retiring Rep. Jim Gerlach (R), Costello begins the general election in the favorite’s position.
In Bucks County, 8th District Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R) will be challenged by former CIA analyst Kevin Strouse, who edged businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton 51-49 percent in the Democratic primary. Rep. Fitzpatrick is favored to retain his seat, but PA-8 is a marginal district and national political trends will play a major role in the outcome.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R) faced two Republican opponents, but neither was able to mount a serious individual challenge. Together, however, they captured 47 percent of the vote. The congressman was re-nominated over retired Coast Guard Captain Art Halverson and businessman Travis Schooley. Shuster will easily secure re-election in November.
Turning to the Pittsburgh area, freshman Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) will defend his seat for the first time against psychologist Erin McClelland, who won the Democratic nomination last night. The congressman will be heavily favored for a second term.
In the hotly contested 13th District Democratic primary, for the right to succeed Rep. Allyson Schwartz who was defeated in the gubernatorial campaign, state Rep. Brendan Boyle was a huge winner, dashing any comeback hope that former Rep. Marjorie Margolies held. Boyle defeated Margolies, state Sen. Daylin Leach, and physician Val Arkoosh, 41-27-17-15 percent. Boyle will now have an easy run in November and come to Congress as a member of the freshman class in January.